Riding A town on wheels, moving across the state of Iowa and stopping in a different location every night for a week.

It’s called RAGBRAI (Register Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), sponsored by the Des Moines Register, and my husband is participating this year for the second time. An estimated 10,000 bike riders and another 10,000 or so support vehicles and vendors make this annual trek.

For the riders, there’s the challenge of completing the 400-plus-mile journey, west to east (although some people choose to ride just for a day or two).  There’s an opportunity to see villages and towns they might never visit otherwise, to get a taste (literally and figuratively) of small-town Iowa. And, of course, to see lots and lots of cornfields.

I suppose there’s also the freedom of the open road, the fresh air and sunshine, the challenge of sleeping on hard ground, and for some, the entertainment each night in the day’s host town. It becomes a community and a show. You never know who you might meet, or what oddities you’ll see along the way–like the rider who added an aluminum canoe to his bike so he appears to be pedaling a Viking ship.

That’s how many people live their lives–like a party on wheels, pedaling along and enjoying the ride. But what happens when the road gets rough, or a breakdown or crash brings you to a sudden stop? How do you go on when tragedy strikes? Every person, sooner or later, will endure grief in this life.

In our town last week, in an incident unrelated to RAGBRAI, a young boy riding a bicycle was struck and killed by a truck. We don’t know the family but we grieve with them and with the entire community. All indications are that the boy and his twin brother had professed faith in Jesus Christ. The faith of their parents is unknown.

I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child in such a tragedy. What I know is that there is only One who can understand and console at times like this–the One who knows the end from the beginning, the One who offers hope in spite of everything. I think of the circumstances under which great hymns like “All is Well” were written. After losing all four of his daughters to a storm at sea, Horatio Spafford penned these words:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

The Bible tells us:

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:24-26, ESV).

When bumps knock you off your ride or you crash on the rocks of failure or sorrow, what song will you sing? Will you be able to claim God’s promises and cling to His hope?