None of us must look far to see heartbreak, devastation, pain, and loss. We live in a broken, hurting world. But what does a broken heart need?
My husband, children and I have truly experienced grace upon grace during our darkest moments in life. After three heart transplants, two aggressive cancers, severe life-threatening allergies/anaphylaxis, chronic health conditions from black mold exposure, and the death of our only son, we’re now able to declare as Job did, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.”(Job 42:5)
The lowest times have also been some of the most precious in my relationship with my Heavenly Father, and He has gently nurtured my hurting heart in ways I never imagined. Here are four things I’ve learned through personal experience that a hurting heart needs.
1. A hurting heart needs reassurance that you are not alone.
In Genesis, God addresses the very first human crisis. Aloneness. God never intended for you to be alone. He wants to reveal Himself to you both personally, and through His children.
During one of our children’s health crises, I was driving, tears streaming down my face as I begged God for His mercy and healing. I was exhausted, hurting, and feeling completely alone.
As I was praying, a warmth washed over me and filled our minivan. I felt the presence of Jesus in a way I’ve never felt before, and the words “Joel 2:25” were impressed on my mind. All I heard was this reference and the Holy Spirit’s comforting presence. I didn’t know what Joel 2:25 said, but I could hardly wait to open my Bible and find out.
“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten…”
It was a promise I clung to in the years ahead. There have been times since this event when it seemed the locusts have continued eating. But I keep coming back to the assurance that God will someday restore the pain and suffering our family has faced.
2. A hurting heart needs to know that someone cares.
When our son, Austin, was six years old and battling his second cancer, we traveled from our home in North Carolina to a clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We were hundreds of miles away from anyone we knew. After our first and rather difficult day for Austin at the clinic, we stopped at Walmart for some groceries while on our way back to the motel.
Austin had been talking about wanting a pocketknife for the past few weeks. When he heard about the plans of stopping at Walmart, he asked, “Daddy, can I buy a pocketknife?” My husband told him, “Austin, we don’t have the time or money to buy a knife tonight.”
I stayed in the van with our two younger girls as the two of them hurriedly walked in. Because of driving late, the night before, each of us were tired and eager to get back to our room. While they were inside, Austin asked if they could at least look at the pocketknives. Reluctantly, Duane took a few minutes to show Austin the knife display. Just as they turned to walk away, a gentleman tapped my husband on the shoulder and asked, “Would you mind if I buy the boy a knife?”
This man had no clue of what Austin was going through and the painful procedures he would endure those next few weeks. But each of us were reminded that God uses His children to show us He cares. We still call him our Tulsa “angel.”
3. A hurting heart needs practical help and assistance.
During years of living in the hospitals when our children were inpatients, people assisted us by mowing our lawn, bringing meals, and other practical things. Because of our daughter’s chronic allergies and chemical sensitivities, people from all over the country donated materials and their time in helping us build a safe house she could tolerate. However, before the new house could be built, we first had to sell our double-wide. The odds of selling on a dead-end street during this time period weren’t good.
We placed a “For Sale by Owner” sign in our yard, gathered as a family, and cried out to God to sell our house. Miraculously, it was only a few hours until we were at the courthouse, signing the official papers. God literally sold our house in a few hours! His practical answer to our prayer was a huge faith booster.
4. A hurting heart needs compassion rather than judgment.
As we can see in the example of Job’s friends in the Bible, a hurting person isn’t suffering from a broken head, but rather from a broken heart. They usually don’t need words of truth and facts, but words of compassion and understanding.
When our daughter was around five years old, she looked like a burn victim. This long battle was incredibly intense and extremely heartbreaking. Our son, Austin, had recently been diagnosed with alopecia universalis, and my husband and I were exhausted.
One morning, I reached a breaking point. I told my husband, Duane, that I simply couldn’t face another stressful day of therapy and helplessly watching our precious children face more painful tests and procedures.
We were living in our motorhome to be close to the clinic where the children were getting their treatments at the time, so I stayed in our motorhome while he took them into the clinic. I spent time weeping and crying out to God. I brokenly asked Him to somehow show me that He truly knows and cares about what we were going through.
It was only about an hour later when He intimately and compassionately answered my desperate cry through a produce delivery lady. Because of the intensity of our lives, we’d found a local produce stand the week before who offered delivery services. I briefly met the delivery lady the week prior and simply stated we were in the area receiving medical treatment for our children.
She delivered for us a second time this specific morning, and as she stepped into our motorhome, she began sharing what God laid on her heart the week before. She began by saying, “I don’t know if you’re a Christian or not, but God told me to reach out to your family. He said to tell you that He knows what You’re going through and that He cares. He will receive much glory through your circumstances.” She then began praying for us. She refused the money for our groceries, and instead, offered three gift bags stating, “I don’t know how many children you have, but here are three bags for your children and a bag for you and your husband.” I was speechless and deeply moved to tears. We had three children at the time.
I will never forget this experience as long as I live. It has carried me over all these years. Because of this wonderful display of compassion from my Father and this dear woman, God renewed my strength, and I felt like I was soaring on eagle’s wings above the storm clouds.
If you have a friend who is hurting, remember your presence, care, practical help, and compassion is what their heart needs. If you are hurting, and you’re struggling to cling to faith, I beg you to continue reaching toward God. He desires to show His intense love for you.
There is nothing extra special about our family. We are no different than you. God loves you the same way He loves our family. Dig into God’s word, surrender yourself to Him, and accept what He wants to give your hurting heart. He may not change your circumstance, but He is always faithful to walk with you.
Duane and Cindy Mullett and their singing family have been involved in full-time church and prison ministry, touring across the US and Canada for over thirty years. They have conducted seminars on grief recovery. Out of their own grief recovery, the Mullets have imparted a From Pain 2 Purpose life message to hundreds of churches and thousands of individuals, offering hope and healing to many. Duane and Cindy have four children. They reside in western North Carolina.