Finding comfort in the wings of our Father.
Joe and his wife, both native Americans, arrived early at the Oklahoma City Social Security office on the morning of April 19, 1995. While his wife sat in the front waiting room, he went back into one of the inner offices to obtain information on his retirement. As he was returning to the main seating area the horrific explosion occurred. Timothy McVeigh successfully transformed the front third of the Murrah Federal Building into rubble. Joe escaped with minor injury. His wife was missing.
Along with hundreds of others, Joe, his children, and other relatives were instructed to go to the First Christian Church, OKC on Northwest 36th St. In shock, yet with persistent hope, they sat quietly waiting from early morning to night each day for word of her whereabouts. Towards the end of the ninth day, the word had come that her body was recovered from the site. They were then escorted to what was known as the death notification floor. What a long, weary wait. I had sat in silence with the family frequently throughout that time. The wait was now over. They were taken to a room where they were informed by a representative of the medical examiners' office that a positive identification had been made. Their loved one was no longer missing. She had been found and she was dead. The wait didn't seem to have softened the news.
On their table, in the main waiting room of the Church, were left some large eagle feathers. I was told by a Native American who had been with this family for support that the feathers had a specific purpose. They were comfort feathers. Their tradition as Native Americans was that the feather, from the strong and mighty eagle, brings them comfort.
King David believed in feather comfort. Yes, but very different from what I observed in Oklahoma City. David cries out to the Lord as recorded in the Psalms, “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1).
These words reflect the occasion when David fled from Saul into a cave. It was a
a difficult time for the Son of Jesse. Today, some three thousand years later, we benefit from his experience and perspective regarding God’s presence in hard times.
As he says in the Psalm, David accepts God’s comfort--a significant difference from that which was represented on the church folding table back in 1995. The feathers, wings of God from which David received comfort, were effectual. Living under the shadow of God’s “wings” is a reality for us today, but in what manner? How does God bring to us his comfort?
We hurt in various ways: work or career disappointments, soul pain, dysfunctional friendships, seasons of failure, loneliness, anxiety, physical illness or suffering, and the list goes on. Our God is concerned and cares when we are wounded and provides us with his means as an expression of his grace.
First, he is present through the Spirit. Jesus informed his disciples that they would be given the third person of the Trinity as means of caring for them (John 15:26).
Second, the word is a primary source of his care for us in our time of need. The Psalms are especially helpful when our soul is sorrowful. When a friend learned that I had COVID recently, he emailed me a note that included Psalm 91: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty…He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings, you will find refuge.” The Psalms are rich with words that bring healing to our souls.
Third, the church is charged and equipped to bring comfort to her people when needed: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3).
Have you ever been comforted by others? Are you an agent of comfort? It is our privilege to be sensitive to the circumstances of others so that we can know how to pray for them and serve them with our presence and words of encouragement. The gospel both provides the pattern and ability to show such love.
Chuck Garriott is the founder and Executive Director of Ministry to State.