"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." ~ Psalm 23:1-4 (NKJV)
My first year as a chaplain at Simmons, I made the effort to be at every funeral I could possibly attend. I think I ended up being apart of 48 or so that first year. I spent a lot of time observing things: the messages being preached, the family dynamics, and words/phrases that I kept hearing. I quickly realized and understood the great amount of support that was given in the days following the death of a loved one and how meaningful that was to people. But I also noticed that once the funeral was over, and the meal was finished, most of the family and friends traveled back to their homes and returned to their lives. I recognized a need for that support to be there, not just at the funeral, but in the days and weeks to follow. This is such a critical and often dark time for people who have lost a loved one, because they are left now to figure out what life is going to look like now that their loved one was gone. The loss really begins to be felt when there is an empty chair in at the table, or you’re waiting for them to come home to only remember that they aren't going to walk through that door at 5:15 like they always have before. There are plans and dreams of the future that are now unknown and uncertain.
This experience often times leads one to ask, “Is there any hope?” For me, in my greatest times of grief, my hope is found in my faith in God. I believe that during our darkest days, in our deepest hurts – it is at these times when I am reminded of God’s faithfulness, His deep love for us, and His peace.
If you have lost someone close to you, I want to encourage you that there is hope. I am encouraged to have been able to walk through life with grieving people, and to watch God draw them ever closer to Himself through times like this. I have experienced this same thing in my own life as well.
This past week, June 19th was just another day in my (very busy) week. I made a few hospital visits and a trip to Van Buren Main Street. But 8 months ago, this date meant I was going to be a father again - it was our due date. I’ve written before about our miscarriages, and so I won’t go too far into it again. I mentioned in the last few posts that there are anniversaries and dates that will be a trigger for you, and I knew for my wife and I that this would be a tough day.
I took off Friday after work with my dog "Boone" and spent some time on the river fishing and thinking. I thought about this past year and just the roller coaster of events that has happened in our family. Despite all we have been through- there is still hope. This experience has changed my faith – it has made it stronger. It has also changed my relationships with my wife and son – it has made them stronger as well. There is hope, in that, the purposes that I can’t see, and the questions I can’t answer – they are safe and secure in the arms of a sovereign God.
If you are in a place today and you feel that you have no hope – let me encourage you that there is hope. My prayer for you today is that you would allow God to draw you ever closer to Himself today through prayer and through being in His Word. Maybe your grief stems not from a recent loss, but from one in the past. Now is a great time to begin to process and work through it in order to bring healing.
It is for these times that we have a chaplain team on staff here at Simmons. It is a recognition that life has its ups and downs. We hope to celebrate with you when you find yourself on the mountaintops of life. But we also want to recognize that there are seasons where you may find yourself in the valley. Those valley experiences are as much apart of life as are the mountaintops. If you are willing, I would love to be able to walk through these times with you. If you have hesitations about meeting with a chaplain, ask someone who has already. I think you will find that you will be met with a nonjudgmental, compassionate, and listening ear, who desires for you to experience God’s love and peace, and to be able to again look into your future days and find hope.
If you would like to speak with a chaplain, I would encourage you to follow this link and connect with one of us this week.