Tag Archives: Grief and Loss

How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?

Back in the day the Bee Gees sang “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”  It’s a question we all have to answer at some point in our lives.  I’m in the middle of a season of the broken heart right now.   I certainly don’t have all the answers and my strength and resolve fluctuates as I go through a grieving process.  I’m quite sure that is normal.  We can grieve many kinds of losses in life.  Sometimes it is not a person who dies, but very often it is dreams that die, and we have to face that reality.

Some things that have helped me tremendously so far on this particular journey are:  the support of family, the loving care of friends and community, my church, cards in the mail, having lived fifty-five years and having survived other heartaches, the counsel of wise mentors, prayer (this is a big one), encouragement, practical assistance, kind words, hugs, reading the Bible, and feeling the peace of God which passes all understanding.

It’s a long journey, these seasons of the broken heart.  But we have tremendous promises in the Bible to hold on to and know that the storms of life come, and at some point they dissipate.  The intensity of pain will not always feel the same as it might feel today for you and for me.  Hold on to hope if this is a season of the broken heart for you as well.

Here are some encouraging words from Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman:

Poverty, hardship and misfortune have pressed many a life to moral heroism and spiritual greatness. Difficulty challenges energy and perseverance.  It calls into activity the strongest qualities of the soul…Many a headwind has been utilized to make port.  God has appointed opposition as an incentive to faith and holy activity….If for you He has appointed special trials, be assured that in His heart He has kept for you a special place.

And some comforting words from Christ:

I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”  (John 16:33,  The Message)

 

 

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Friends and Ministers

They had no idea how much their visit meant and that they “made my day.”  We talked about real things, not the weather.   They had suffered a significant loss this year and we all talked about how much we all missed her.  She asked kindly about my struggles.  I knew I could share, or not, and they would be ok with either way the conversation went.  We didn’t pray but we talked about prayer.  We talked about how God is working in our lives, today, yesterday and recently.  We all agreed that God was good.  He shared about how he asks God to be a blessing to someone each day and the marvelous “divine encounters” he has experienced.  She talked about a great message she had heard, but did so after she had evidenced how much she cared for me.  Listening to her was like drinking in cool water after being out in the hot sun all day without a drink.  Her words soothed my soul because she talked about Jesus and encouraged me.  It was real fellowship, the way it is supposed to be.  They had no idea how much they encouraged me.  They came as friends, but truly, they are ministers.

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The Class You Don’t Want to Take

As I paint in my artist studio I try to listen to uplifting music or messages from preachers and speakers I respect and from whom I am eager to learn.  Today, while I was working on a painting of a wedding portrait with a stained glass background, I took in a session of Beth Moore‘s Jesus the One and Only that was filmed in Israel.  Beth’s messages resonate with me because of her knowledge, the way she connects in a personal way with her audience, her humble nature and sense of humor.  She is a terrific communicator but does not water down the message to try to make it popular.  But popular, she is – and for good reason.

Today Beth talked about losing a following with an important person in her life because she wasn’t as funny as she used to be and did not shrink back from tough issues.  Life is difficult  and a lot of people are hurting.  I caught myself saying “amen” out loud several times as the video rolled on.

We live in a culture that loves to be entertained and we financially reward those who help us escape mentally for awhile be it through sports, films, or with popular music.  Nothing wrong with those things, but those who are hurting still need someone real with a sensitive ear to listen, some hope from the reality of faith in Christ and encouragement from the Scriptures.

Day 442: Precious

Day 442: Precious (Photo credit: amanky)

Jesus with little one

Jesus with little one (Photo credit: freestone)

God equips normal every day people for this task of listening, hope-giving and encouragement and His school for such ministry is called The Academy of Suffering and Sorrow.  Wouldn’t you know it, no one intentionally signs up for one of those classes.  But once they are in the academy something wonderful can happen.  The suffering and sorrow is not the wonderful part.  But those who have been trained by such are able to lend a hand, an ear and a heart to a hurting world and let others know that God is going to get them through this difficult time.  These academy graduates know because God was faithful to them in their time of need.  Their resolve was strengthened, their belief became more than intellectual and their faith made real.   Now their outlook is deeper and they can handle bigger punches from life, their attitude brighter and they are full of hope.  God can mould us by His “thundering velvet hand” and make us sweeter for the encounter.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.    II Corinthians 1:3-4

 

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What We Don’t Want to Talk About

The hearts of those who know of Pastor Rick Warren’s ministry in Southern California ache for him, his wife Kay, and the family as we learn today of the suicide of his twenty-seven year old son.  Suicide is not a comfortable subject for anyone, but it happens at an alarming rate, and our hearts break for those left to deal with the “whys, “if onlys,” and “what could I have done?”  Here are a few things I have learned in my time as a church counselor to minister to families that are hurting in this way.

  • It is never a time to throw stones.  In the aftermath it is common to try to access blame.  The grief and loss are bad enough.  It is not a time to point fingers, it is a time to simply grieve and have compassion for one another.  Ultimately the act was something within that person and he or she, as hard as it is to accept, is responsible.
  • It is a time to be gentle.  The Bible’s admonition to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” is most applicable at this time.  Creating a climate where the person who is left can express their feelings is helpful.  It’s not a time to tell someone how to feel, it is a time to listen.  Or perhaps it is simply a time to quietly weep with that person.  Tears say a lot.
  • No one and no family is immune to some of the most difficult things life can throw our way.  People in ministry hurt and grieve and feel the same feelings as everyone else.  Make no judgments on the family.  If our family has not experienced something terrible, it is simply by the grace of God, and we should humbly be thankful and not think for one moment that tragedy could not happen to us.  We are all human, we all struggle.
  • Encourage the survivor to find avenues of support, and stay involved in their life.  Simple phone calls mean a lot.
  • Offer to pray with the individual.  Pray asking for God’s comfort and peace within this most difficult chapter of life.  Gently acknowledge that our compassionate God was also a suffering Savior and intimately knows what it is like to hurt, and experience intense pain and grief.  He cares in ways we cannot fathom.

Dr. Norman H. Wright shares a poem by Iris Bolton written in 1981.  It is from the book, Crisis & Trauma Counseling.

I don’t know why…
I’ll never know why…
I don’t have to know why…
I don’t like it…
I don’t have to like it…

What I do have to do is make a choice
about my living
What I do want to do is accept it and to
on living.
The choice is mine.

I can go on living, valuing every moment
in a way I never did before,
Or I can be destroyed by it and, in turn,
destroy others.
I thought I was immortal, that my
children and my family were also,
That tragedy happened only to others…
But I know now that life is tenuous and valuable.

And I choose to go on living, making
The most of the time I have,
And valuing my family and friends in a
way I never experienced before.

 

May Our God, Our Great Physician heal the broken hearts of those left behind who hurt and grieve.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Strength of a Broken Heart

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ – His power of life over death.  That is truly good news in a world where death is a part of life and people we know and love are hurting from great losses.  That is reality.  Ruth Graham, daughter of Billy and Ruth Bell Graham wrote a book called In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart.  We never know in our casual encounters with people how someone might be shouldering great hurt or loss underneath that smiling exterior.  Broken hearts abound.

As a former church counselor, I can look out over an Easter service of 1,000 and be very cognizant of the many broken hearts represented.  Many have been in my office as we have talked, listened, prayed, searched the Bible for direction and cried together.  How do we deal adequately with our broken hearts?

Tim Grissom, co-author of Seeking Him, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, shares how his wife Janiece was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Laternal Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).  When she died at age forty-one she left a grieving husband and four heart-broken children.  He describes the “earthly reality” of their circumstances as: painful, dreadful, overwhelming.   At the same time Grissom recognized a “heavenly reality” that gave them hope.  The awareness of God’s presence through this tumultuous time both “covered” and “carried” them.  He describes that during this time “He was escorting us through the grief and protecting us from being mortally wounded by it.”  Grief, with hope.

What gives hope to our broken hearts is that God is accomplishing something through our time of grief and loss if we will but allow Him to keep our hearts soft, and not becoming bitter, in the process.  A broken heart is a heart that swells with compassion.  A broken heart can attempt great things here on planet earth being driven by an inner push to help someone else so that they will not have to suffer in the same way.  A broken heart has the opportunity to be strong for others and giving hope in seemingly hopeless situations.  A broken heart can share the love of Christ like no other, for it by our suffering we enter in to an intimate communion with Christ.

So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude He had, and be ready to suffer, too.  For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin.  You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.  I Peter 4:1-2 (NLT)

Suffering can purify, can clarify our callings and cause us to run our race with endurance, giving us great confidence to perform the work for which He has called us.  Is your heart being broken?  Then know that God has great purpose and plans ahead.

 

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Accepting Changes in the Seasons of Life

What time is it?  How would you label this season of your life?

When I was on staff at a large church one of the many aspects to my work was to interview people who had taken a “Spiritual Gifts” class to see their best fit for service in ministry.  Spiritual gifts fascinate me and I was continually in awe of how the God of the universe would create such unique individuals each with a one-of-a kind mix of life experiences, gifts, talents and heart for serving others.

One of the questions I would ask had to do with how one approaches life in terms of either being spontaneous or rather structured – consistent and preferring routines.  I would be the latter being a ‘creature of routine’ and having some form of equilibrium in the consistency of how I approach life.  For those of you like me, change is probably especially against our grain.  But I am reminded of this amazing section of Scripture and the profound truth in each statement:

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under hearven.
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Are you feeling a bit unsettled by some recent changes?  There is a breath of fresh air in knowing that God designs our life with seasons and they are different – and that is o.k.  We would always prefer the seasons of laughter and dancing to the times of crying and grieving, but they are all components of a healthy life.  I believe that one can laugh with greater veracity and dance joyfully with all out abandonment having traveled through times of heart-rendering grief with tear-stained pillows.  Knowing the depths of sorrow gives release to the times of happiness.

Recently I shared this portion of Scripture as we buried a friend.  Hers was a long good life and she knew the Lord personally – there was peace about her eternal security.  Yet, with the release of everyone we love there is that grief, albeit with hope, until we reach heaven ourselves.  There the seasons will change.  When we reach heaven there is something new in store:

Look, God’s home in now among His people.  God Himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever.

Revelation 21:3b-4

This is a great hope to which we can look forward.  Until then we learn to accept the seasons of change.  Ultimately, as believers we can look forward to that eternal party, where the ebb and flow of seasons melt into rapturous times of joy.  There is hope ahead for the one who has placed his or her faith in Christ.

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Broken Dreams and Soft Hearts

When I was in Bible school studying Wisdom Literature, one of the assignments was to read the book of Job in three different versions of the Bible.  For my devotional times I am enjoying the New Living Translation which speaks pretty much like we do – with a certain casual cadence.

When we think of Job we think of broken dreams, and he had many.  The worst of course was the loss of his children.  It is said to be a parent is to forever have your heart walking around in someone else’s body.  We can’t control what happens to our children nor control what they do – but our hearts are so intertwined with their lives.  Job had a long list of things in his life to grieve.  Broken dreams can top most of our lists when it comes to grieving our losses.  It’s the “what could have been” in life that often sets us to plains of sadness.  What resolution is there for broken dreams?

Well, the last seven verses in the book of Job shed some light and give us hope.  After his time of great suffering Job found relief from his troubles.  It is important to remember our times of crisis have beginnings AND endings.  It won’t always feel so bad as it may feel today.  God directed Job to pray for his so-called friends.  They were the people who were great friends and grievers for seven days and then they started talking, which was their downfall.  All their advice was just salt in the wound of a hurting friend.  When Job was down his friends verbally beat him up.  But at the end, as part of His restoration of Job, God tells Job pray for his friends.  And as Job prays (it’s hard to be unforgiving when praying for someone) God restores Job’s fortunes.

The end of Job tells of the goodness that comes his way.  His life was blessed more than at the beginning.  There is an end to the story.  If Job had harbored any ill will against his friends, even though they were in the wrong, the happy ending could not have been accomplished.

As Job journeyed through his season of broken dreams he kept his heart soft, as difficult as it was, and lived to see great things.  In our season of broken dreams, keeping our hearts soft is sometimes the hardest thing.  It’s much easier to default to anger, depression or bitterness.  But this is not what God wants for us – He wants to “restore our fortunes” and heal our hearts.  The end can be better than the beginning, and the key to this is the condition of our hearts as we travel through some of life’s broken dreams.

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