How God Comforts a Grieving Heart

by Andy Wood on February 9, 2011

in Five LV Laws, Insight, Life Currency, Principle of Legacy

It was a year ago today.  

In one sense, as my Dad said yesterday, it has flown by.  In another, it felt like a thousand years.

But if one thing has emerged from the past 365 days, it’s that when people or Bible writers talk about the “God of All Comfort,” I can say “Amen” and turn the pages with credibility.

But it didn’t start – or end – with the events surrounding my mother’s sudden death.  In fact, the biggest lesson of all was that healing of the heart is a journey through time.

Translation:  Don’t tell me how much comfort or encouragement you’re feeling in the funeral home.  You have no clue yet about comfort.  You’re still being buoyed and insulated by kind people and the truths of your faith.

Comfort – the real kind – comes later.

In the last year, I have been blessed to live what I have preached for years – that the words we use about a Heavenly Father who is who is able to empathize with our weaknesses and invites us to boldly approach a throne of grace are all true.  And believe me, other than the promise of eternal life, I can’t think of a promise that is more vital.

How does He do it?  If you’re the one just leaving the cemetery or the courthouse or the hospital, what can you expect?  How does the Lord put the pieces back together?  While every experience of loss – whether it is through death, rejection, forced job termination, or the death of a dream – is unique, I think I have found some common elements in the way our Heavenly Father brings about His healing.

He allows us to be honest.

It’s a truth that’s at least as old as Moses, but found throughout the Bible.  God is big enough to take our honest, passionate, even at times ugly expressions of pain or frustration.  Fact is, He invites it.  And when you’re hurting, you need a safe place to come clean.   You can find that in the heart of your God.

He brings laughter, even through the tears.

Laughter and tears are flip sides of the same coin, and it should come as no surprise that both are a part of the healing process.  But here’s a thought to put in your oven… What if the Holy Spirit is the prime jester in the healing process?  What if He’s the one who reminds you of the funny stuff?  I wonder if sometimes in our religious zeal we separate the holy from the hilarious and miss something in the process.

He reintroduces us to “new.”

Even while we were waiting for the funeral, we were blanketed by a wondrous, rare south Alabama blizzard.  Two weeks to the day later, our first grandson, second grandchild, was born. In the months since, we have experienced a series of other new experiences, made all the richer because of a God who specializes in making all things new.

He walks with us through the fire.

God never – ever – promised a painless life.  What He did  promise is constant companionship when we do walk through the testing seasons.  But it’s in the healing seasons that He actually teaches us to value His presence and to trust His heart… until we arrive at the point where we’d rather have Jesus with the fire than be without Him in ease.  And until you experience the God of all comfort, I question whether you can truly say that.

He removes us from shame.

Shame is an insensitive bully.  It’s like a black sheep family member who always seems to show up at the worst possible time.  In a grief situation, we’re often left exposed because there is now officially no way we can go back and change anything.  You can’t take back the last words, can’t redo the last phone call, can’t fix whatever messes you’ve made.  And shame is happy to point that out for you, thank you very much!  I found it interesting that almost immediately after hearing of her death, people randomly, but assertively began addressing the shame factor. That is no accident.  The Lord knew that I would need that, and He quickly moved to provide it.

He catches us when we’re sinking.

Life moves on, with us or without us.  And it’s only natural that we try to resume something that resembles normal routines.  But sometimes those routines and the appearance of normalcy conceal emotional quicksand.  And without warning, it’s easy to find ourselves sinking emotionally.  But in His wisdom and healing, our only-wise God meets us where we are.  He raises up people to pray.  He sings over us.  He redefines our past.  He refuels our hope.

He reminds us who our friends are

Grief on any level updates the group photo when it comes to who your friends are.  You find yourself surprised – pleasantly and unpleasantly – by the people who respond.  My mother’s passing reinvigorated some sleepy friendships, restored a few lost ones, and actually introduced me to a couple of people I wouldn’t have met any other way.  Probably the most dramatic of those was the text I received from a former employer/boss.  I hadn’t spoken to him in months.  Yet he texted me and said he had awakened in the middle of the night burdened to pray for me and wanted to know if I was OK.  Coincidence?  I think you know the answer to that.

He brings you back to a heart of worship.

I was pleasantly surprised when the Lord took me back to school when it comes to worship.  Specifically, how He wanted my life to render to Him an ovation of love, service, and yes, applause!  Could He have done that without having to heal a grieving heart?  Yes.  But the experience was richer in the context of loss and restoration.  When praise becomes a sacrifice and worship becomes a lifestyle, that is evidence that you have experienced the touch of the God of All Comfort.

He redefines endurance.

Guess what?  There’s more to endurance than doing your best under the circumstances.  Isn’t it interesting that in one of the most quoted verses on endurance in the New Testament, Paul associates being “steadfast” and “immovable” with “always abounding” (1 Corinthians 15:58).  In this season of comfort and healing, I have discovered that endurance is more than an emotional trip to the dentist.  I learned that I could have courageous faith and be wonderfully alive with imagination – even when I walked through the valley of the shadow. 

He exposes your longing.

The tension in grief is that it sometimes cruelly exposes who – and what – you most desire.  And sometimes that comes at just the moment you realize that someone or something is lost… at least for this lifetime.  In love and grace, however, the Lord also helps clarify who or what are most important to you.  Grief reminds you of the mirror through which we all see dimly; grace reminds you that what you believe (faith), what you expect (hope) and who you love can never be taken away… even if you are separated for a season.

He restores gratitude.

This doesn’t happen right away, except by faith.  But in the journey of healing, the God of All Comfort begins rehabilitating your thanks-muscles.  To be sure, at first all the thanks is pointed backwards.  You remember legacies, memories, influences, happier times, and give thanks to Him for those.   And there is healing in that.  But in His time, the Lord begins to point your gratitude from the past to the future, as…

He teaches you to dream again.

Some people become trapped in their sorrows.  Why?  Because they mistake moving forward with a loss of love or appreciation for those they mourn.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  My mom, if she could, would come back and kick my butt if she thought her being in heaven would obligate me to live in hell-on-earth.  That said, in His healing, the Lord has a way of helping us discern the dreams that matter most.  Suddenly the toys, trinkets, and power trips just don’t matter so much.  But dreams informed by the shortness and fleeting nature of this life, yet fired by a passion to make the most of every moment, breathe new life into once-sad hearts.

I start every day and live virtually every moment with a song on my mind.  Sometimes I have control over it; most times I don’t.  Lately, for whatever reason, I have started my musical day – not with Chris Tomlin or Hillsongs – but with that famous worship leader Britney Spears.  And the song?  “I’m stronger than yesterday…

I really think I am.  But most importantly, I know why I’m stronger, because I know whose I am.

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