Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I think I’m fairly safe in saying that most people have had their share of heartbreak. I mean that somewhere, one day, you have probably had a broken and terrible moment. It may have been bad news or someone close to you has died. Life has its fair share of sad moments.
Think for a moment of the death of a close friend. We all react differently in a bereavement: sometimes it’ll depend on the circumstances, sometimes it’ll depend on our relationship with the person who’s died, sometimes it’ll depend on our own personality—but a lot of folk feel that sort of emptiness.
The Hole Is Still There
An American Christian writer called Ingrid Trobisch lost Walter, her husband of 27 years. In spite of being alert to the beauty of God’s world; in spite of having five children and grandchildren as well; in spite of the healing which she had found in certain kinds of music, she writes:
In spite of all these things, there is still that empty hole in my life. If I could only feel the rough tweed of Walter’s jacket again. Smell his aftershave lotion, his good clean body. Have his fine, sensitive hand hold my hand. Hear his jokes and merry laughter. See his wonderful profile and high forehead.
It’s easy to say, ‘Your husband is with Jesus now, Ingrid.’ But the hole is still there. Somehow my Lord is the One who enables me to live with that hole. He hasn’t filled it up yet, but he has made a bridge over it. I can live with it now, and I can stand on this bridge as I reach out to others.
A man who lost one of his sons described two different visitors who came to comfort him. He said:
I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealing, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly, he said things I knew were true. I was unmoved except to wish that he would go away. He finally did. Someone else came and sat beside me. He didn’t talk. He didn’t ask leading questions. He just sat beside me for an hour or more, listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, left. I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.
I think there’s a wonderful verse in Psalm 34:18 which says: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”.
When Expectations Are Shattered
In Luke’s gospel we read of Cleopas and his companion who are bowed down with grief at the loss of someone who meant a lot to them. They were walking one Sunday to the village of Emmaus seven miles from Jerusalem. It’s clear from the way that Cleopas and his friend act and speak that they have been deeply affected by the death of their Lord Jesus.
He had been crucified on Friday. Their faces are downcast—you can see their sorrow; they are deeply disappointed in that all their hopes have been dashed. They’d expected great things of Jesus; they’d thought he was unstoppable—but that’s all gone now and they’re totally bewildered.
It will have been a long, slow and depressing trudge back from Jerusalem to Emmaus, with that feeling of emptiness inside that some of us know only too well ourselves. The ‘map’ of their world—which they had built up over their lives and especially over the past two or three years that they had known Jesus—was suddenly lost. And over the coming weeks and months, if they were going to come to terms with this shock, they would need to remake that ‘map’, albeit differently.
The one they had lost meant an awful lot to them. They’d known him as a friend, someone they had spent a lot of time with, someone they’d shared meals with and journeys with; but they had also valued him for his teaching and his active ministry. He was bold and yet loving and compassionate in what he said; a man deeply used by God, and with wide popular appeal too.
The one they had lost meant an awful lot to them.
And then there were the hopes and expectations that had been laid upon him and which he had at least partially encouraged—that he might be the Messiah they had been looking forward to for so many generations. But now the rulers and authorities had had him taken out and crucified him. But after a while Jesus himself joins them and walks with them and speaks tenderly and lovingly with them. The risen Jesus had appeared to these two brokenhearted people on their road of despair.
Where these two walked you may be walking today, or have walked this road in the past year. It’s a lot wider than just bereavement—it’s heartbreak as well. There’s probably been disappointment, hurts, painful memories, fear or guilt.
What does Jesus do? Well, he certainly doesn’t bounce up and say: Cheer up, here I am, it’s me, I’m alive again! No: the first thing he does is that he is simply there, and he listens. He lets Cleopas and his companion talk.
Grief Turns into Joy
Knowing that Jesus is risen, knowing that he is with us in happy times and in sad times, and knowing that he speaks to us, gives us new hope—a hope that’s based on solid fact, and not simply on fantasy or on dreams. Jesus lives! So life is worth living and all things work together for those who love God.
In the space of just an hour or two, Cleopas and his companion have moved on from despair and grief to new hope and trust, excitement and joy. Their world had been totally shattered; now it was being turned topsy-turvy all over again, but in such a positive way, and life would never be the same again.
Those of us who come today with broken hearts know that our journey of healing and mending will take a long time, but they are God’s gifts to us; and what makes all the difference to us is recognising that our risen Lord, who knows death and grief and life from the inside, is alongside us.
He walks with us every step of the way; and listening to his voice: “…Do not be afraid…I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!” (Revelation 1:17-18).