For They Shall Be Comforted

As a former missionary and mother living in Oklahoma, my heart is very heavy this week. The news of the tragic death of Sister Alesa Renee Smith while serving as a missionary in my home state has deeply affected me.

While I didn’t know Sister Smith personally, I felt great empathy for her parents and family. I wanted to do something to help them, something to help ease the pain that I knew they were suffering. I felt helpless until my daughter asked me to write something that might comfort Sister Smith’s family and others who were feeling the same as I was.

I cannot begin to imagine the pain and sorrow that Sister Smith’s parents and loved ones are experiencing. I know that there are no words that I can express right now that will take that pain away, but I hope that my words can give some measure of comfort to them.

I want them to know that we in Oklahoma are mourning with them. We add our prayers to those of many unseen parents, missionaries and church members around the world. We are grateful to them for sharing their daughter with us and for the service that she gave to us so freely.

I hope that they will take comfort in knowing that their daughter lost her life in the service of her Heavenly Father and her fellow man. She spent the last ten months of her life in full time service to others. I know that Heavenly Father will bless them for her sacrifice.

I am grateful for my knowledge of the message that their daughter taught. I am grateful for my knowledge of the plan of salvation and for my testimony of Jesus Christ and of His resurrection.

Alesa knew that we will live again with our Heavenly Father. She knew that we can live together forever as families. She knew this and she gave her life trying to bring this knowledge to others.

We are sad now, but if we believe the message that she taught, we know that her loss is a temporary one. We know that she is serving the rest of her mission beyond the veil where she is waiting for her family to join her one day.



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5 Responses to For They Shall Be Comforted

  1. Rose Haynes says:

    I add my sympathy and prayers to Sandra’s. There is no greater sorrow than that experienced by parents who looses a child. But, as in all things, Heavenly Father will help you get through it.


  2. Cora says:

    I will pray for her family. Thank you for your kind words.


  3. Melissa says:

    The most beautiful part, she knows Heavenly Father’s plan. Prayers for the family and all involved are so important right now. Accidents happen but the Lord is always there to comfort us.


  4. Deborah says:

    Such sweet and comforting words Sandy.


  5. Palak says:

    Having been affected personally by the loss of a young life very close to my heart.. watching the parents “go through the motions”.. and finding my own way to cope with the loss of such a life..
    I learned a few things..

    I remember the day this happened.. this.. “area” of loss strikes pretty deep in my heart now.. I admit I cried.. I understand a little better than most the.. void.. that is brought with it.

    My empathy kicked into high gear and I mourned with them.. I wished I could have been there to even give the small gesture of a sincere hug and a understanding “It will get better”…

    In my years of suffering and depression that followed “my” loss.. I clung heavily to scripture..
    In the end.. one particular chapter stood out amongst the rest..

    Romans 5
    “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement….”

    As time passes, there will be days we wish to forget.. to repress the moments of sorrow and grief and pretend that life is not painful at times..

    But we can’t do this. We can’t ignore what has happened. We can rise above it though, we can live through it… yet we can’t ignore it. If we ignore the threat of death as too terrible to talk about, then death wins. Then we are overwhelmed by it, and our faith doesn’t apply to it. And if that happens, we lose hope.

    We want to worship God in this life, and for our worship to be real, it doesn’t have to be fun, and it doesn’t have to be guilt-ridden. But it does have to be honest, and it does have to hope in God. We have to be honest about a world of violence and pain and death, a world that scorns faith and smashes hope and rebukes love. We have to be honest about the world and honest about the difficulties of faith within it. And then we still have to hope in God.

    As a friend has kindly taught me over the last couple of years, the answer is that grace is a scandal. Grace is hard to believe. Grace goes against the grain. The gospel of grace says that there is nothing I can do to get right with God, but that God has made a path THROUGH Christ. And that is a scandalous thing to believe.

    God came to us before we went to him! My friend calls this a “God’s habit”. God came to Abraham when there was nothing to come to, just an old man at a dead end. But that’s God for you. That’s the way He prefers to work. He comes to old men and to infants, to sinners and to losers. That’s grace, and a religious writing without it is no writing at all.

    So I’ve tried to preach grace, to fill my writings with grace, to persuade others to believe in grace. And it’s wonderful work to have — that is, to stand here and preach grace to people. I got into this pulpit of mine and have talked about war and love and marriage. I talked about death before I knew what death really was. And I tried to bring the gospel of grace to these areas when I wrote. I said that Heavenly Father goes to people in trouble, that He receives people in trouble, that He is a God who gets into trouble because of His grace. I said what the Heidelberg Catechism says: that our only comfort in life and in death is that we are not our own but belong to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

    I said all those things, and I meant them! But that was before I faced death myself. So now I have a silly thing to admit. I don’t think I’d ever realized the shocking and radical nature of Heavenly Father’s love — even as I’d spoke about it. And the reason I didn’t get it where grace is concerned, I think, is that I’d assumed I still had about 50 years left. Fifty years to unlearn my bad habits. Fifty years to let my sins thin down and blow away. Fifty years to be good to animals and pick up my neighbors’ mail for them when they went on vacation.

    But that’s not how it seemed like it was going to go then. I watched a life vanish at 20. And I had thought mine would follow suit shortly,… now I’d have to meet my creator who is also my judge — I’d have to meet God not later, but sooner. I’d haven’t enough time to undo my wrongs, not enough time to straighten out what’s crooked, not enough time to clean up my life.

    So now, I’d have to write of grace and know what I’m talking about. I’d have to preach grace and not only believe it, but rest on it, depend on it, stake my life on it. And as I faced the need to do this I remembered one of the simplest, most powerful statements in the entire Bible.

    You may have thought that the reason for my choice of Romans 5 lay in the wonderful words about how tribulation produces patience, and patience produces experience , and experience produces hope. Those are beautiful words, true words, but I’m not so sure they apply to me. I’m not sure I’ve suffered so much or so faithfully to claim that my hope has arisen through the medium of good character. No, many of you know far more about good character than I do, and more about tribulation, too. I still stand and walk and live, how bad could my tribulations have truly been.

    It wasn’t that beautiful chain with experience as the main link that drew my attention to Romans 5; instead, it was just one little word in verses 6 and 8. It’s the Greek word “eti”, and it has brought comfort to me. The word means “yet”, and it makes all the difference between sin and grace. Paul writes that “for when we were YET without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” He wants us to marvel at the Christ of the gospel who comes to us in our weakness and in our need.

    I’m physically weak, but that’s not my main weakness, my most debilitating weakness. What the last few years have proved to me is that my weakness is more of the soul than the body. This is what I’ve come to understand as I have dwelled on one question: How will I explain myself to God? How can I ever claim to have been what he called me to be?

    And, of course, the scary truth is… I CAN’T! That’s the kind of weakness Paul is talking about. And that’s where “eti” comes in — “when were YET without strength, …while we were YET sinners, …when we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” I find it unfathomable that God’s love propelled him to reach into our world with such scandalous grace. such a way out, such hope. No doubt our Heavenly Father has done it, there’s NO hope anywhere else! I know, I’ve been looking. And I have come to see that the hope of the world lies only inside the cradle of Heavenly Father’s grace.

    This truth came home to me as I’d been thinking what it would mean to die. The same friends I enjoy now would get together twenty years from now, and I would not be there, not even in the conversation. Life would go on, in this life you would make a new friend with new gifts and a new future, and eventually I’d fade from your mind and memory. I understand. The same thing has started happening to my own memories of others (not all though). When I was saying something like this awhile ago to a friend, he reminded me of those poignant words of Psalm 103:15-16: “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” For the first time I felt those words in my gut. I understood that my place would know me no more…

    In a poem, “Adjusting to the Light”, Miller Williams explores this sense of awkwardness among Lazarus’s friends and neighbors just after Jesus has resuscitated him. Four days after his death, Lazarus returns to the land of the living and finds that people have moved on from him. Now they have to scramble to fit him back in:

    “Lazarus, listen, we have things to tell you.
    We killed the sheep you meant to take to market.
    We couldn’t keep the old dog, either.
    He minded you. The rest of us he barked at.
    Rebecca, who cried two days, has given her hand
    to the sandal maker’s son. Please understand
    we didn’t know that Jesus could do this.
    We’re glad you’re back. But give us time to think.
    Imagine our surprise . . .
    We want to say
    we’re sorry for all of that. And one thing more.
    We threw away the lyre. But listen, we’ll pay
    whatever the sheep was worth. The dog, too.
    And put your room the way it was before.”

    Miller has it just right. After only a few days, Lazarus’s place knew him no more. 10 years ago, I loved Williams’ poem, but 6 years ago, I was living it. Believe me, hope doesn’t lie in our legacy, it doesn’t lie in our longevity, it doesn’t lie in our personality or our career or our politics or our children or heavens know, our goodness. Hope lies in “eti”!

    I’ve told a part of my story today because it seemed right to do it. But what we must talk about here is not me. I cannot be our focus, because the center of my story — our story — is that the grace of Jesus Christ carries us beyond every death, every sin, every trouble that comes to us. The Christian gospel is the story of Christ, and that’s the story I’m called to tell.

    I’m dying. Maybe it will take longer instead of shorter; maybe I’ll write for several months, and maybe several decades. But I am dying none the less. I don’t know when or how the final day will come. Yet, it is coming. I know it, and I hate it some days, and look forward to it others, yet I’m never worried by it. But there is hope, unwavering hope. I have hope not in something I’ve done, some purity I’ve maintained, or some blog I’ve written. I hope in God — the Father who reaches out for an enemy… saves a sinner… dies for the weak…

    That’s the gospel, and I can stake my life on it. I must. And so must you.


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