“I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.” Psalm 73:23
“No-one was there to hold his hand.” The television news broadcast showed another grieving relative describing the death of her father in lockdown, beyond the reach of his family. Our hearts go out to such people.
Holding hands is something that follows us through life. What delight when a baby first reaches out to cling on to her parent’s finger! We remember, no doubt, hearing the strict instruction to “hold Daddy’s hand” when preparing to cross a busy road – or issuing it to our own children.
I remember a friend of mine saying that on one occasion going through town with his son and reaching for his hand as he had done for years, his son pulled away sharply. When asked why, he said “Someone cool might see us!” Ah, the embarrassment of parents in those teenage years! But it wears off in most cases.
How many childhood games – or country dances – began with the call “Form a circle and hold hands”? People of a certain generation will recall how “he’s holding hands with…” used to be code for beginning a romantic relationship. And as the years increase, once again we invite “give me your hand” as a frail relative begins to make his tentative way from one room to another, just to give that bit of security and assistance.
So it was that the author of Psalm 73, at a time when he was grappling with one of the big mysteries of life, one he just could not fathom, realised that even while he was searching in vain for the answer he was missing a fundamental truth. Whatever is going on around him, there is one constant: the presence of God, who continually holds his right hand. He goes on to say that his flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of his heart and his portion for ever.
It is of course a shocking thing, and deeply painful for those who go through it, not to be able to sit by a loved one at the time of their departure, however reasonable the restriction is. Let us pray for those who are having to undergo that pain at present, that both the dying and their families will be held in the unconquerable love of God and know that he holds their hands – and will never let go.
“As the rain hides the stars, as the autumn mist hides the hills, as the clouds veil the blue of the sky, so the dark happenings of my lot hide the shining of your face.
Yet, if I may hold your hand in the darkness, it is enough.
Since I know that, though I may stumble in my going, you do not fall.”