Only in the darkness can you see the stars

We are in the midst of the holiday season, and for a lot of Americans, things don’t seem so festive.

Millions of people have lost their jobs, their homes and, more importantly, they have lost hope. Many people blame the government, God and themselves. I have a sneaking suspicion that this time, God might get a pass.

I remember there was a time in my own life just like this. I had lost everything. Everyone had left me, and I didn’t know what to do. I just sat on a park bench and wept.

I would like to tell you that I found a winning lottery ticket and all was well. However, no such luck. Or, I would be happy to report that a friend saw me crying and said “Come with me.” But that didn’t happen either.

What I can tell you, even in the mist of the rain, with my heart filled with pain, is that God came and rescued me. He wiped away my tears because even in the darkness, I never gave up hope.

It was not easy. There were times when I told God that “If you do not help me, you are going to lose me.” I can just tell you that years later, I am still here. I couldn’t recount all the miracles that came my way because I don’t remember them. Nor could I tell you of the angels that God sent when he knew at that exact moment that my faith was slipping away. During those trying times, my prayers seemed much more earnest and certainly more heartfelt.

Yeah, I’ve always prayed before. But I would pray that I would win the lottery, pass a test, or that the cop who pulled me over would not give me a ticket for speeding. Well, I want to report that I didn’t win the lottery — yet. I flunked the test, and I still got a ticket.

I have come to understand that sometimes when you ask God for something, his answer is “Certainly, you must be kidding.”

I watch the news on bailouts and everyone is blaming Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae or even Donald Duck. It all seems like a bunch of hooey to me. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. What we are witnessing is a direct result of too much — too much of everything. Too much greed. Too much avarice. And way too much incompetence. I hope the people in government who created this mess are filled with shame. Not guilt, but shame — because shame works much better.

Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion that those people in government still don’t get it. I had a discussion with a friend who lost his house. He asked me what he should do. I said I didn’t have an answer, but what I did tell him was that he was going to be OK. I just couldn’t tell him when.

I assured him that if he didn’t quit, things have a way of working themselves out.

I don’t want to sound too sentimental because I can be as cynical as the next person. What I do believe about this country is that we have an opportunity to get it right this time. Most of the tragedies in my life have become triumphs because I am still here. And when I didn’t feel God’s grace, I certainly felt God’s mercy.

This country we call America continues to be a place of second or even third chances. Will we get out of this mess? Yes. Will it be easy? No. If there is a silver lining in all of this, it is that we can get back to the basics, which is family, God and country. If you have people who love you and believe in you, you are halfway there.

If you pray to a God who will not abandon you, you are rounding third. And if you live in a country that continues to be the last best hope for mankind, you are crossing the finish line.

At home on my refrigerator is a picture of Jesus with his back to me, walking away. My daughter asked, “Where is Jesus going?” I bent down, looked in her eyes and said, “He was just here, and now he is going to our neighbor’s house.”

No excuses.

Contact Federal Way resident Walter Backstrom at To send a letter to the editor in response to Backstrom’s column, e-mail Reporter Editor Laura Pierce at

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