My Shattered Heart, My Certain Hope
At the crossroads of grief, God provides a pathway to healing.
by RON HUTCHCRAFT
IT WAS THE BEST DAY of my wife’s life.
And the worst day of mine.
It was the day after we watched our grandson graduate from high school as valedictorian.
As I left to speak in another state, we exchanged I love you’s. She teared up and said, “I’m really going to miss you.” I assured her it wouldn’t be long. I was wrong.
The next day she was gone — a sudden heart attack.
What a day for my Karen! She got to see heaven and Jesus! But for me, our children, and our grandchildren, we were now without this woman whose powerful love, joy, wisdom, and laugh lit up our lives.
The journey through that “valley of the shadow”1 had begun.
I knew how to do life with Karen. I had no clue how to do life without Karen. I felt like a lost little boy.
What has happened in the five years since that turbulent griefquake has taken me places I never could have imagined.
For example, my bottom line. Everything I’ve ever believed about my Jesus has passed the test of the darkest, most heart-ripping experience of my life.
Scripture says of Him, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb. 6:19).
I can say from the depths of my soul — “The Anchor holds!”
But make no mistake about it: grief is a monster. And whenever we experience a major life loss, grief darkens our heart. Whether the loss is our marriage, health, dream, hopes for our children, or that unhealed hurt from our past. Or the love of our life.
There’s a loss. Then the grieving. Then the choices.
You can’t experience a heartbreaking loss and stay the same. You will be different. The only question is: What kind of different will you be?
It’s like a hammer. It can build or destroy. But it’s not the hammer that decides. It’s what you do with the hammer!
It’s not the hammer of our loss that determines our future. It’s the choices we make — what we do with that hammer. More hope and healing. Or more hurt and loss.
It was a turning point for me the day I wrote six words in all caps in my journal …
“I WILL NOT WASTE THIS GRIEF.”
Scripture tells us that our “grief in all kinds of trials” can yield a “genuineness of faith — of greater worth than gold” (1 Pet. 1:6-7, NIV). That “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4, NIV).
After Job’s loss of almost everything he cared about, he emerged testifying to God that “my ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5, NIV).
My prayer was, “Lord, if it’s going to hurt this bad, please use it to make me more useful to You and more helpful to other people.”
These past five years have been His amazing answers to that prayer.
Here’s what I’ve learned about the choices that lead to healing rather than more hurt.
Grieve Your Grief.
Even when you just want to stuff it. Deny it. Run from it. Pretend you’re fine. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). When you bury grief, it doesn’t go away. It morphs and grows — into anger, depression, bitterness, a hard heart. Ungrieved grief will own you — and one day explode. There’s a better choice. As Shakespeare said, “Give sorrow words.” To deny your grief is to be, in some way, defined by your grief for years to come.
Ask the Right Question.
Not, “Why?” But, “How can God use this?” Since “all things work together for the good of those who love God” (Rom. 8:28), He can use the hammer of hurt to build you rather than destroy you. God used Karen’s life to make me more like Jesus. Now He’s using her absence to deepen my grip on Him and my sensitivity to others.
Cry Out to Jesus.
With all your pain, loneliness, doubts, anger, lostness. A broken heart is a wide-open heart. In places it’s never been open before. At that point of maximum vulnerability, what you dwell on will take root in the deepest corners of your soul. When I cried out to Him, holding nothing back, He moved in with a comfort, meaning, healing, and hope only He could give. I’ve never felt His closeness, His “realness” like I do now. He really is “close to the brokenhearted” (Ps. 34:18, NIV).
Share the Journey.
Spend time with people who have walked, or are walking, that same “valley of the shadow.” Like a church “grief-share” group. “Two are better than one … . If either of them falls down, one can help the other up” (Eccl. 4:9-10, NIV).
Reach Out; Don’t Retreat.
I feel like the Grinch who stole Christmas, and afterward his “heart grew three sizes.” That’s one way God answered my “please use this grief” prayer. One prayer that will lift you out of the pit of self-focus is, “Lord, please show me someone who needs me today.” Your prayer, hug, listening, or story. He “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4, NIV).
I’m still learning about hope when your heart is breaking. But I’ve done this journey long enough to know this. That worst day of my life has opened a new chapter. One where I feel my Jesus as never before. Where I feel — and respond to — the hurts of other people in a new way. Where I live with a new sense of urgency to recycle my hurt into hope for other people — by sharing the Jesus who is hope. Because He has conquered death and added “eternal” to “life.”
So I could stand at the open grave of my dear Karen, throw in the last handful of dirt, and say with full assurance, “See you soon, baby. See you soon.”
1Psalm 23:4 , KJV
RON HUTCHCRAFT is a veteran ministry leader, author, speaker, and founder and president of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries and On Eagles’ Wings Native American youth outreach. His popular radio feature, A Word With You, is carried on over 1,300 outlets globally.