Hymn of Comfort

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“Hymn of Comfort,” Ensign, Sept. 1983, 63–64

Hymn of Comfort

I turned off the engine and just sat there in my pickup truck. I was trying to compose myself after another trying day at the plywood plant. Not that the work was hard, but I was going through an emotional crisis associated with a divorce that left me drained most of the time.

I was ill prepared for this sudden change in my life, and I was left in shock for some time. “How could this have happened to me? What will I do now? How can I go on?” These and other thoughts went through my mind over and over as I faced one grief-stricken day after another. The days at work were long, but not as bad as the nights, when sleep would not come and nothing would calm my nerves.

Now, as I slid out of the pickup and went toward the house, I could see my son and my mother at the kitchen table playing a game. Mom had come to stay awhile to help out and to keep my twelve-year-old son Dean company. I walked in and set my lunch pail on the counter and turned to respond to their hellos. I stood there for only a moment before heading out to the newspaper box. I did things mostly out of habit during those sad days, and so I read the paper before starting supper.

That evening I spent a lot of time on the telephone, looking for comfort from friends and relatives and, if nothing else, occupying my time so the hours wouldn’t seem so long. Later, my mother and I talked. She is a wise woman, so I mostly listened while she did the talking.

“You’ve got to pull yourself out of this slump,” she said. “This is something you can’t change. You must accept it and go on with life. I’m sorry it happened. But you have the welfare of your son to think about, and when you’re down it saddens him too.”

I knew she was right, but it was hard to focus my thoughts. Some of her words registered, but others seemed to pass me by like feathers in a wind.

Then I caught a sentence that triggered my attention again. She said, “When you came home, Dean looked at you as you got out of the pickup and said, ‘Well, Dad had another bad day.’ “I knew I had to compose myself around Dean more, but it was all so overwhelming that there were times when we would both end up crying together.

The next day at work was no better—worse, in fact. Tears came easily as I wrapped myself in self-pity. I couldn’t see any end to this relentless suffering. I couldn’t see a future, or any hope for better times. There seemed to be no one to turn to. All the people I talked to tried to offer me comfort, but it was no use. Their sympathy only brought out more emotion. The pressure seemed to build and intensify until I thought my sanity was going to vanish. At last I cried aloud in desperation, “God help me. Give me back my wife!”

I was not accustomed to praying, but I had come to a point where I knew of no other direction to turn. There was a time when I knew how to pray and was quite active in the Church, but somehow I had slipped away and was caught up in worldly ways.

Now something was happening, though. No sooner had I cried out than a wonderful feeling came over me. I can’t describe it. It was just a feeling of power encompassing me, protecting me. And then words came to me, words and vaguely familiar notes of music, words of a hymn I had heard before, but in a different time of my life. I began to sing, and as I sang, every word fell into place:

We thank thee, O God, for a prophet

To guide us in these latter days.

We thank thee for sending the gospel

To lighten our minds with its rays.

We thank thee for every blessing

Bestowed by thy bounteous hand.

We feel it a pleasure to serve thee,

And love to obey thy command.

The verse came to me as clearly as if I had sung this hymn every day of my life. Yet I know I had not sung or even thought of it for over fifteen years. I sang it over and over, louder; I didn’t care if anyone heard me. To me it was a healing force, and it gave me comfort.

When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us

And threaten our peace to destroy,

There is hope smiling brightly before us,

And we know that deliverance is nigh

We doubt not the Lord nor his goodness,

We’ve proved him in days that are past. …

We’ll sing of his goodness and mercy.

We’ll praise him by day and by night,

Rejoice in his glorious gospel,

And bask in its lifegiving light.

(Hymns, no. 196.)

It was my Heavenly Father’s answer to my plea, and I shall never forget the words and the spirit that permeated my soul as I sang the words and contemplated their meaning.

In the months that followed, I called upon my Heavenly Father many times to help me through the trials of that difficult time, and he was always there. I learned something from that experience. There is someone you can turn to in time of need. He didn’t chastise, ridicule, or upbraid me for ignoring him for so many years. He simply let me know that he was there all the time, and all I had to do was call.

It wasn’t long before I put my life back together. I returned to church and renewed my covenants with my Father in Heaven. I found new meaning to life and have set new goals. The divorce proceeded, and I made the best of the situation. I survived. I am now strong and happy again. For in time I was able to reach out for righteous, strengthening associations, and recently I went to the Seattle Temple where my new wife and I were married for time and all eternity.

Thank God for his goodness and mercy.

Illustrated by Dale Kilbourn