How Do I Heal Hurting Hearts This Christmas?
The holidays are here! Joy and excitement are everywhere! Well, not everywhere. You and I both know that there are a lot of hurting people at Christmas time. A lot of people hurt during the holiday season. We all act like it’s a time of great joy; and, it is for many of us, until some pull back the curtain.
Behind the curtain we find children being tossed back and forth between parents. Some can’t afford to buy presents. There is just no money to spare. Some are jobless. Some are sick. Some families are tragically dysfunctional. Some parents can’t stand their children. Some children can’t stand their parents–or siblings. Some feel lonely. Others are rejected.
Fortunately, holidays can bring out times of great joy. Unfortunately, for others, holidays can bring out the pain. Could you give us some advice on how to heal some of the hurts we may encounter?
Alexander Maclaren, an old Scottish preacher, once said: “Please be kind to everyone you meet because everyone is fighting a battle.”
When I recite his quote, I ask the folks in the congregation to look up down their row. “Everyone sitting around you is fighting a battle,” I say. Everyone gets quiet.
We are imperfect and we live with imperfect people in an imperfect world. Therefore, we will all experience some hurt.
Unfortunately, it’s my experience that most of us have no model for how to heal hurts.
An Encounter with a Hurting Woman on My Flight
I was sitting on the flight from Dallas to Orlando next to a woman in her late 20s. I introduced myself as I took my seat, and she did the same. Shortly after takeoff, I noticed that she was reading the “Celestine Prophecy” which is a book targeted to next-gen readers who are on spiritual journeys.
“Reading that book, I would suppose that you are on a spiritual journey.” She smiled paused for me to continue. “I would guess that you grew up in some sort of church environment and you got hurt badly. In fact, you were hurt so badly that you left that church and headed out on your own spiritual journey.”
We sat quietly for several moments until she broke the silence, “You’re right. I did get hurt badly in church.”
After a while, I said quietly, “Would you like to tell me what happened?”
“Several weeks ago, my baby was born. The umbilical cord was twisted around her neck, and she died before they could get her breathing. I wanted my baby to go to heaven, so I begged my priest to baptize my baby. But he refused. He said that the Church didn’t baptize dead babies. I was devastated. I pleaded, but still he refused. I decided that I’d never go back to that church again, and so, I guess you’re right, I’m on a spiritual journey.”
With a broken heart, I looked over at her and spoke gently, “I’m so sorry. Did you have any idea that the baby was in trouble?”
“You must have felt so rejected. I suppose you’ve gone to that church since you were a child. I can’t imagine how much it hurt that in your greatest hour of need, they turned their backs on you. You must’ve felt so betrayed.”
“You must have been so angry at the priest. I can’t imagine what it was like when he looked at you and shook his head, ‘no.’
“You had dreams, didn’t you? You thought of playing with her on the playground, watching her grow up, college, and wedding; and in an instant, all of it was gone. I can’t imagine how much that hurt. I’m so sorry.
You thought that you needed the prayer of the priest to get your child into Heaven. You are afraid that she might not make it. I can’t imagine how much that hurts.
I tried to comfort her through some of the denial, shock, loss, grief, and depression. I tried not to be in a hurry. She certainly was not. One thing is true about comfort: it can’t feel really good.
Later, she turned to me and said quietly, “I guess one of the reasons this hurts so much is because I’ve had four miscarriages.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. That just breaks my heart. Did you name them?” Yes, she had. She had named each of them. I decided that I’d comfort her four miscarriages worth of babies.
About 15 minutes before landing, I said to her, “I know you’re wondering about whether or not your baby will go to heaven. I can tell you that she will. Jesus promised that the kingdom of heaven was open to children. King David lost a baby. God told him that his baby was in heaven and that he would see his baby again someday.”
So I said, “Your baby will be in heaven; we need to be certain that you’ll be there, too.”
The gospel is easy to share when the heart is broken and open. So, I talked with her about forgiveness of sin, and confession, and eternal life.
I led her to John 1:12 where John tells us that those who receive Christ will live forever with Christ in heaven. She would soon see her baby again, plus four others.
“Would you like to pray with me right now and receive Jesus into your life?”
You bet she would! And so, she did.
Then, I surprised her. I told her about our first-born child Jessie who died in our arms thirty-eight years ago. Not a week goes by that I don’t pray to Jesus and ask him to tell Jessie that I miss her and that I’m looking forward to having fellowship with her one day in heaven.
People are reminded of happier times at Christmas. Dysfunctional families cause pain. Losing a loved one can unearth unimaginable grief. More people commit suicide during the holidays than any other time of the year.
3 Passages Lay the Foundation for God’s Plan of Healing Hurts
Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Only mourning and comforting can heal hurts. We cannot do this alone.
In healing hurt, it’s important to realize that at least two people must be involved. The one who is mourning needs someone to do the comforting. Otherwise, they mourn alone— and then they really hurt.
In my story about the Orlando girl, I was showing you some of the tools that I use in comforting one who is hurting. Notice that both my heart and my attitude are filled with compassion. Notice that I ask rhetorical questions which are designed open them up to receive comfort. I was certain to use healing words as well as deeply emotional words to help them mourn and facilitate their healing.
Look around the dinner table at Christmas. See who needs comfort. Open up your heart and give them the best gift of all at Christmas: the love of Jesus.
Now we know what to do when we see hurt. Hurting people find healing and comfort.
Well, Jennifer, I hope you find this response helpful.