Graphics by Tamika Reed - B3 Creative LLC
November 12th, 2021
“Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God;
For he is gracious and a song of praise is fitting!
The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.”
Psalm 147:1-3

These days, I sometimes feel like the resident expert of heartbreak. Any of you who have experienced your own fair share would know, it is not exactly an envied position. 

Even as you read this -- I have been in the process of mourning the loss of the woman who gave me life, loved me fiercely, and will always be one of the strongest influences on the person I become.

We have a helpful saying among preachers: Preach from your scars, not your wounds.

It is meant to remind those of us who get an audience and a soapbox to stand on each week that our words have power and that it is our responsibility to be careful with them. It offers us a dose of humility -- a reminder that maybe the best time to offer advice to another person on how to weather, withstand, or make decisions about their storm isn’t when you are smack dab in the middle of your own. 

It is good advice.

But when you’ve weathered storm after storm as I have in the last two years…
When everyone you know is facing a storm of one kind or another…
When heartbreak after heartbreak leaves its message on your voicemail 
or comes crawling across your desk or finds its way into your inbox…
And when the sermon theme you planned and scheduled nearly four months ago about finding God in places of heartbreak just happens to fall on the week you are experiencing a really big one…

Maybe… just maybe… it’s a sign that perhaps you are exactly the person to say something about it.
So I’m going to go out on a limb.

There are moments and seasons in life that nothing can prepare us for:
The death of a loved one.
A break up.
A pet running away.

And whether we see it coming or not, the human feelings we are left with are the same: A crushing blow, followed up by a sharp ache that -- if we are lucky -- eventually goes away. More often though, it remains. It rears its ugly head at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. Sometimes, we take it out on an innocent bystander and then wonder what in the world is wrong with us. Sometimes we feel like we want to crawl into a hole and never come out. And we wonder if this is normal and if the pain will ever go away.

With experiences like these, it is hard to believe that we serve a God who is with us in heartbreak sometimes; a God who promises to “heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.” Because if we are honest, a lot of us are walking around with wounds gaping wide open and we’ve been impatiently wondering when God is going to finally show up and do something about it.

So, all I really know to do is to tell you where God showed up for me.

This summer, I went on my annual sermon planning retreat and I decided to start each day with a devotional. I didn’t really feel like it -- because I had just received another notice that my mom’s treatment wasn’t working and that we were coming to the end of our options. I was frustrated. But I knew I’d be entirely unproductive if I didn’t. 

I used Barbara Brown Taylor’s book of sermons Gospel Medicine. Truthfully, I picked it with very little intention -- it was the first book I could find. And when I plucked it off my shelf, it was out of a sense of guilt because I had started it prior to the pandemic and left it sitting unfinished.  I hate that.

On the first morning, I opened it up to a section entitled “Absence.” Thinking nothing of it, I wondered, “Hm. Well, this doesn’t seem like it’s going to get my creative sermon-planning juices firing on all cylinders. Kind of a bummer actually.”

And then I read the following:
“There is something that happens in an absence. If the relationship is strong and true, the absent one has a way of becoming present -- if not in body, then in mind and spirit.”

Then on day two, I read:
“Those who truly love us live inside us, and no one shall snatch us out of their hands. We may have to learn a new way of communicating with them since they are now inside us and not outside, where we can hang onto them in some old way. If we want to talk to them, we may have to sit down some place quiet and listen very carefully for the sound of the wind blowing inside of us; for the sound of the still small voice that speaks in silence more than it speaks in words, but henceforth there can be no doubt about where home is for them or us.”

By this time, I was beginning to wonder: Am I being prepared for something here? 

I was. 

Sometimes when we are smack dab in the middle of heartbreak, the presence of God does not come like a great warrior whose intent is 
to save us from the impending pain. As much as we might prefer that, God comes in another way -- as a still, small voice in a book, in a kind gesture, in a hug -- reminding us that we will never walk the painful journey alone. God reminds us that God is always present, especially when we feel our heart breaking into pieces. God reminds us that what breaks our heart breaks God’s too.

As we prepare to observe the Advent season in just a couple of weeks -- a time when we look for the light of God coming in the midst of darkness -- we are reminded in the life of Jesus that pain is an inevitable part of the human journey, one that none of us ever really escape. But we also know that the love of God willingly enters into it with us and gives us courage to move forward in hope. 

My friends -- in the places where you feel your heart break today -- I want you to remember that your pain is where the Spirit of God likes to draw close, promising to heal your brokenness and bind up your wounds little by little, one day at a time.

Pastor Kate