Loss comes in many forms: the death of a loved one, unemployment due to downsizing, a relationship ripped apart by conflict or divorce, even the loss of a dream. The list goes on and on. Although the specific circumstances of each grief are as unique as the person grieving, what remains the same is the inner pain being experienced and the need to apply God’s gracious promises to each one of them.
Grief may threaten to overtake us or destroy our joy. In A Small Book for the Hurting Heart: Meditations on Loss, Grief, and Healing
by Paul Tautges
, men and women will see Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, who is well-acquainted with grief and sadness. Tautges walks with readers through their grief to see the one who nourishes their faith and heals their soul.Q: Can you tell us about the format of A Small Book for the Hurting Heart and how it is intended to be used? Who will benefit most from your devotional?A Small Book for the Hurting Heart
is a collection of 50 brief meditations drawn from small portions of Scripture which apply God’s hope and healing to our hearts and minds in the midst of life’s losses. Second Corinthians 1:3–4 says that God comforts us, not only to meet our
deepest needs by applying his healing balm to our
hurts, but in order that we may be equipped to be a conduit of grace to others
. Ultimately, I wrote this book to come alongside hurting people and direct them heavenward.
The pain that accompanies loss does not subside quickly or easily. Therefore, the book is intended to be read slowly, one meditation a day, with thoughtfulness and a prayerful spirit. Each meditation ends with a suggested way to apply scriptural truth. Some readers may want to keep a journal for the purpose of interacting with these truths and responding to the applications. Most likely it will primarily be used personally, individually, but I would also love to see it read with a friend, or in a larger setting, perhaps a grief support group. This book is for anyone who is experiencing the grief that accompanies any kind of loss.Q: When we think about grief, we first think about the loss of a loved one? What other types of grief and loss do you speak to in the book?
Mankind’s original sin in the garden impacted every area of human life. Therefore, nothing and no one remains untouched by our fallenness. When Adam and Eve chose to go their own way—away from the goodness of God’s design and the peacefulness of walking in his presence—the door was opened to an untold number of traumatic experiences and griefs. As a result, our losses come in many, many forms.
Of course, there’s loss through the death of a spouse, child, or other loved one. But there’s also the loss of relationships through conflict, betrayal, estrangement, divorce, or a move across the country; loss of financial security due to business failure, foreclosure, or long-term unemployment; loss of innocence and dignity through abuse, loss of health or personal dreams because of disability or terminal illness. And the list goes on and on. Though the specific circumstances of our griefs are as unique as each of us, what remains the same is the inner pain we experience and the need to apply God’s gracious promises to each one of them.Q: You’ve served not only as a pastor and counselor, but as a hospice chaplain. Does the weight of the grief of those around you ever become overwhelming?
Yes, bringing God’s comfort to those who are hurting can become overwhelming. So, personally, I have to consciously remind myself that, though I am one of the means that God uses to spread comfort to others, I’m not the ultimate comforter. God is our tender and faithful Father, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and the Holy Spirit is the comforter whom Jesus sent. The Spirit is also the divine author of Scripture, which indicates one of the chief ways that the comfort of God is brought to our hearts; that is, through Scripture.
God’s Word has the power to heal. It applies grace to our deepest hurts, since it is the voice of the one who created us and redeems us through Christ. This is key to not becoming swallowed up by grief—my own or that of others. Our role as comforters is to faithfully come alongside others in order to walk through their valley of loss with them, but God is ultimately the healer of their hurts.Q: Grief has struck your own family in a deep way recently. Would you mind sharing about your own grief journey?
Only God knew that between the time that I first submitted the manuscript for this book and today, our family would experience significant loss. Two losses we felt most acutely were the deaths of a loving, godly father, and our infant granddaughter who lived for only 45 minutes outside of her mother’s womb. Both of those losses took the wind out of our sails for a time. But in the valley of sorrow, we anchored our faith to three stabilizing truths drawn from three portions of Scripture.
First, God ordains the length of each person’s life, even before they are born (Psalm 139:16). Second, death is a defeated enemy (1 Corinthians 15:54–55). Third, grief hurts, but God’s comfort is real. Indeed, he is the God of all comfort who comforts us in any affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3–4). Knowing and embracing these truths does not eliminate all of the pain but applies God’s healing grace while reminding us to look forward to the day when God will wipe away every tear and make all things new (Revelation 21:4–5).Q: Grief can tempt us to want immediate answers to our pain which may result in thinking that God has forgotten us or is far away. What biblical truths can we choose to focus on during the times we have unanswered questions?
It’s helpful for us to remember that God’s ways are impossible for our finite minds to fully comprehend, but he is always wise and good. In Deuteronomy, Moses writes, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV). We cannot know all that he is doing in and through our suffering. But we can know the truths revealed in his Word, one of which is that God is “good and [does] good” (Psalm 119:68). The hand of Providence is mysterious, but there is no reason to ever doubt his love for us (Romans 8:31–37). Loss gives us the opportunity to embrace this truth and rest in the Lord.
We can also choose to remember that, though God’s purposes may be unknown to us, he is the rock in whom we can always trust. Like King David, we can embrace this truth: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2). In addition to being our refuge and strength, the Lord is “a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). He is always present with us. We can always run to him in our time of need.Q: What are some things you can do to minister to someone who is hurting?
Move in closer. Be present. Listen much and speak little. And when you do speak, try to simply acknowledge their pain, and assure them of your love. Say something simple, but genuine, like, “I’m sorry. This must hurt really badly.” Give them the freedom to grieve in their own way and according to their own timetable. Grief is common to us all, yet it is unique. Whatever you do, avoid doing nothing! Don’t avoid the grieving person because of your own fears and insecurities. Acknowledge their loss. Try to feel their pain.
Sometimes, we as Christians think we always have to say something profound or super spiritual. We mean well, but that may not be what a grieving person needs the most. Instead, they just need to believe that you truly care. They need you to overcome your fear of not knowing what to say, which pushes you away from them and validates the sense of isolation they already feel. When the time is appropriate, then ask the Lord to help you graciously speak healing words of truth with care.Q: If you could share just one piece of encouragement about grief to those you counsel or to readers, what would it be?
Whatever your grief, whatever your pain, whatever your loss, there is comfort available. This comfort is rooted in the character and work of the Trinity. God the Father is attentive to your every loss, and he loves and cares for you. Jesus Christ the Son of God is the compassionate and understanding Savior who experienced grief in every way imaginable. And the Holy Spirit is the heaven-sent comforter who brings you into the body of Christ, and skillfully applies the words of Scripture to your heart for the sake of inner healing.
Don’t allow the enemy to take advantage of your grief and hurt, and push or pull you away. Lean into the Lord. He will meet your needs. He will fill your heart and mind with His enduring hope and peace. One of the primary ways the Holy Spirit will do this is through daily meditation on Scripture. As you regularly spend time in the Word of God, you will gradually experience its healing, hope-filled balm. Then, as you are comforted from the promises of Scripture, look for ways to pass on the help you receive to others who are hurting.