In A Small Book for the Hurting Heart: Meditations on Loss, Grief, and Healing, Paul Tautges offers fifty short devotions filled with messages of help, encouragement, and healing. By biblically and transparently addressing the heart and faith struggles in the midst of this grief, Tautges delves deeply, but gently, into the issues of the heart—presenting encouragement and comfort in the character of God.
This small but transformative devotional cultivates anchors of hope, redirecting men and women to the trustworthiness of God who is always for them in Christ. Tautges walks with readers through their grief to see the one who nourishes their faith and heals their soul.
Q: In your book you relentlessly connect God’s comfort to the gospel. Why is that?
In times of loss we desperately need to know that God is near. Nothing meets this need quite like the gospel; that is, the good news about how God drew near to us by sending his only Son to conquer sin, death, and the devil on our behalf. The gospel offers us an everlasting hope which enables us to face the reality of death and other forms of loss head-on. When we gently speak these hope-dispensing truths to ourselves and others, we make loss a servant to God’s purposes by redirecting our focus to matters of eternity.
The strength of God’s comfort does not come from his ability to change our present circumstances (which he can do if he chooses). Rather, God’s comfort comes from his promise to us in Christ, that the glory we will one day share with him far outweighs our present suffering (Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:18). Christ-centered comfort is the only true comfort.
Q: Psalm 56:8 tells us that God keeps track of our sorrows and collects our tears. Why are our tears that important to God?
Tears are a gift from God, a means to embracing your pain, releasing emotion, and revealing the depth of your love. Poetically, if God collects all the tears we cry during our life’s journey, if he keeps track of all our sorrows, then surely, he cares about them. He is aware of what causes them. Like it did for King David, this truth encourages us to turn toward God and plead for his sustaining grace.
When something bad happens, we may be tempted to think of God as being distant or even against us. But if we belong to him, through repentant faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, there is nothing that can ever separate us from his love: not heartbreak, not distress, not disability, not death, not loss of any kind, nothing (Romans 8:38–39)! He is intimately aware of all of our struggles, and longs to show us the depth of his fatherly love.
Q: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preaches that blessed are those who mourn. In what ways are we blessed in times of great grief?
Loss has a way of nudging us to look to the Lord, which is a hidden blessing. Typically, however, when grievous things happen, our first reaction is to turn inward instead of upward, to look inside for the strength we need to endure. But, if we’re honest, we are actually really weak people. And that’s ok. It’s actually by God’s design. I like to say that we are dependent by design—God’s design. If we try to endure suffering in our own strength, then surely, we will feel alone.
When we feel alone in our hurts, or even when others have abandoned us, we are easily tempted to think that God has also turned His face away. But he has not! He is present. He is near. Turning to the Lord while embracing the promise of his presence does not come naturally to us. Therefore, we need to renew our mind and let the Holy Spirit re-train our response, so to speak. So, loss can actually become an opportunity for significant spiritual growth in our lives.
Q: One of the titles that the Bible gives to Jesus is the Man of Sorrows. How is seeing Jesus in this way a comfort when we are grappling with grief?
Life can hurt badly. Sometimes we may even feel forsaken and alone. But it comforts us to know this: Jesus experienced those feelings and more. The Father turned away from Jesus when our guilt and sin were placed upon the Lamb of God, and he was punished in our place. Jesus was abandoned, so that you and I would never have to be turned away. Jesus understands our pain, no matter what is causing it. There is no sadness, hurt, or loss he does not know personally.
Jesus wept at his friend’s grave. He was misunderstood and falsely accused. He was betrayed by a so-called friend. He was spat upon by men and women whom he had created. Yet none of this matches the indescribable pain he endured while hanging upon the cross—in our place—becoming the only, fully acceptable sin offering we needed and God’s justice required. While he hung upon the cross, in our place, Jesus was separated from his Father for the first time in eternity. So, if we are tempted to think that no one understands what we’re going through, remember: Jesus understands the agony of loss. He not only says, “I love you,” he says, “I love you, and I know. I know your hurts and losses. And I’m here for you.”
Q: In addition to reading the devotional daily, what else should readers be doing alongside to face their loss and move toward healing?
Grief leaves us vulnerable in so many ways that it can be easy to get stuck; we can allow ourselves to be overtaken by loss in a crippling way. Knowing that this danger exists encourages us to maintain practical, soul-nourishing disciplines, even when our emotions don’t agree. Maintain continual communication with the Lord through listening to him in the Word, talking to him in prayer, and praising him through song. Personally, I find singing privately to the Lord extremely helpful for my times in the valley. You may want to create a worship song playlist to listen to when your heart hurts the most.
In the wake of grief, it’s also really important to stay public; that is, to be careful not to isolate yourself from others. Though it’s normal to need time alone with God, be careful to not isolate yourself. Stay connected to your church family through participation in the public worship service. Yes, you may need to back away, for a time, from some of your service responsibilities at church, but guard your heart from spending too much time alone. As you grieve, be sensitive to how the Lord may give you ways to serve others, even while your pain remains.
Q: What are some of your favorite Bible verses and passages that offer comfort?
Psalm 46:1 is very near the top of my list. It contains one of the most helpful images of God that we find in the Scriptures: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” The concept of refuge is this: God is a safe place. He is a shelter in times of trouble. He is a hiding place when the dark storm clouds of loss threaten to defeat our faith or overtake our joy. “God is our refuge” means he is the One to whom we can run when we feel unsettled about the discomforting changes in our present situation. He is the One to whom we can freely express our fears about all of the unknowns in our future.
The life of Joseph is also a part of the Bible that I often turn to, especially when suffering doesn’t make any sense. When I read Genesis 39-50, I am repeatedly reminded of how near God was to Joseph at all times. Though Joseph surely felt alone and forsaken at times, God was always with him, and working out his gracious providence. Additionally, I often turn to Romans 8:31–32. Here, the apostle Paul encourages believers with this stabilizing truth:“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
A Small Book for the Hurting Heart: Meditations on Loss, Grief, and Healing
By Paul Tautges
March 9, 2020 / Retail Price: $17.99
Print ISBN: 978-1-64507-060-3
RELIGION/Christian Life/Spiritual Growth
Link at Amazon
All Scripture links courtesy of Bible Gateway.
Paul Tautges, DMin, is pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. He is also a recognized leader in biblical counseling and has authored many books on topics related to pastoral ministry, counseling, and parenting.
Tautges has been married to Karen for thirty-two years. Together they cherish their ten children and growing tribe of grandchildren.