Chaplain Shelby Smith served at a local church for 19 years before joining Arkansas Heart Hospital. Here, he has the opportunity to meet the spiritual needs of patients, their families and our staff. In addition to offering prayer and encouragement, Chaplain Shelby Smith shares a weekly devotional. This week, his devotional is titled, “Comfort Us O Lord.”
Lately, I have been so moved by the losses people are experiencing. From wildfires raging out West to another hurricane on the gulf coast. So many have lost everything. Their homes, vehicles, livestock, memorabilia (pictures, trinkets, etc.). Everything is gone. Even their way of life in some ways has been lost. And with the earthquake in Haiti and the war in Afghanistan, there has been immense suffering and tragic loss of lives.
Here again, we are feeling the sting of the pandemic, and with it, a sense of loss. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, a home or the comforts of our “normal” way of life, we are being pressed by life situations beyond our control, which can lead to tension and hopelessness.
What are we to do? How are we to respond? Well, there is an old hymn with the verse that reads, “Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge; Take it to the Lord in prayer!”
I have a book of liturgical prayers entitled “Every Moment Holy” that I enjoy reading. Now, I didn’t grow up attending a liturgical church, so there are times when the formality of the liturgy can seem a bit too impersonal. But then there are other times when the phraseology of the prayers penetrates and communicates exactly what I am feeling but could not express. Yesterday I read a liturgy entitled “For those who suffer loss.” In this prayer, the writer uses the loss of a home as symbolic of losses we experience in other areas of our lives. I thought I would share those words with you.
O Christ in Whom our lives are hidden, fix now our hope in that which alone might sustain it. O Christ in Whom our treasures are secure, fix now our hope in you. In light of all that was so suddenly lost, O Lord, in light of all we had gathered but could not keep, comfort us.
Our nerves are frayed, O God. Our sense of place and permanence is shaken, so be to us a foundation.
We were shaped by this place, and by the living of our lives in it, by conversations and labors and studies, by meals prepared and shared, by love incarnated in a thousand small actions that became as permanent a part of this structure as any nail or wire or plank of wood. Our home was to us like a handprint of heaven. It was our haven, and now we are displaced, and faced with the task of great labors—not to move forward in this life, but merely to rebuild and restore what has been lost.
Have Mercy Lord Christ.
What we have lost here are the artifacts of our journey in this world, the very things that reminded us of your grace expressed in love and friendship and in shared experience. It is for these reasons we grieve the loss of our home and its contents—we grieve them for what they had come to signify in our stories, for they were charged with such meaning and memory, and woven with so much that is eternal.
We thank you for the presence of friends who would share this burden of grief simply by showing up in the midst of it and grieving with us. We thank you for the small mercies and kindnesses extended. For the grace of thoughtfulness translated into the tiny details of life. For beauty, O Lord, let us not lose sight in our grief, of all that is yet bursting with beauty in this world.
Let us not lose site of the truth that we live in the midst of an unfolding story of redemption, and that even this loss of ours will have its counterpoint at the great restoration.
Let our rebuilding be a declaration that a day will come when all good things are permanent, when disaster and decay will have no place, when dwellings will stand forever, and when no more lives will be disrupted by death, tragedy, reversal, or loss.
So, by that eternal vision, shape our vision for what this temporary home might become in its repair, O Lord, that in that process of planning and rebuilding we might also streamline our lives for stewardship, for service, and for hospitality in the years ahead.
But those are all tasks for tomorrow, we do not even know yet today the full measure of what we have lost. Today is for mourning. So let us grieve together as those who know the world is broken, but who yet hold hope of its restoration.
Father you are with us in times of plenty and in times of want. You are with us in seasons of comfort and in seasons of discomfort. You are with us in ease and in hardship, in times of gain and in times of loss. You are as present with us in darkness as you are in light. So, make us a pilgrim people whose hearts are freed to face, with JOY intact, any deprivation along this journey, confident that even in losing all comforts we still have you.
Comfort us, O Lord in the wake of what has overtaken us. Sheild us, O Lord, from the hurts we cannot bear. Shelter us, O Lord, in the fortress of your Love.
Shepherd us, O Lord, as we wake each new morning, faced with the burdens of a hard pilgrimage we would not have chosen. But as this is now our path, let us walk it in faith, and let us walk it bravely, knowing that you go always before us and are always with us. Amen
Chaplain Smith / Douglas McKelvey