[Editor’s Note: We are forgetful and faithless people, so we need constant reminders of God’s faithfulness. This series of devotional articles will serve as stones of remembrance that God is faithful in every circumstance, even in our struggle with sin, loss, fear, and despair. Learn more about God’s faithfulness by studying his Word and walking in relationship with him through our new Faithful Collection featuring the Give Me Jesus Journal.]
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
God’s Faithfulness in My Loss
There’s nothing that makes your heart sink faster than getting that call.
The one that comes in the middle of the day or in the middle of the night. When the friend or family member whose name glows on your screen should be working or sleeping. Maybe you’ve been dreading it for months, or maybe you never expected it. It turns your world on its head in less than a minute, leaving you gasping for air and wondering if you will ever feel anything besides this crushing sorrow again.
I was sixteen years old when I received one of those calls. It came while I was on a short-term mission trip with my youth group. We’d spent the week volunteering at summer camps for urban youth and it was our last night there, so we were celebrating with sundaes. The spoon was halfway to my mouth when I heard one of my leaders say my mother’s name in a strange tone of voice.
My heart plummeted to the pit of my stomach much faster than the mint chocolate chip ice cream. A few minutes later I held the phone in my shaking hand, listening as my parents explained that there had been an accident while my extended family was on vacation.
Three of my cousins were in the hospital. And my grandmother was gone.
Grief, especially coupled with unexpected loss, is a strange and unpredictable emotion.
It can look like a fully grown adult crumpling into a ball and weeping like a child, then bursting into a belly laugh five minutes later. Sometimes it looks like sudden flares of anger over small inconveniences. It may take the form of eating or drinking too much, binging Netflix, or scrolling through social media until your eyes burn. Sometimes it just feels like complete and utter numbness.
Whatever shape our sorrow takes, we can rest in the fact that we have a God who will meet us there.
Psalm 34:18 promises that our Lord is “near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” In times of grief, I’ve learned to hold this verse like a lifeline, clinging especially hard to the word near. The Lord is near to the broken hearts of his children. Our Shepherd, who is always with us, draws even closer in our pain. He collects our tears in his bottle (Ps. 56:8) and cradles us like lambs to his chest (Ps. 27:10; Isa. 46:4). Even in the moments when it feels like we’re going to shatter under the weight of our sadness, we are being held and helped by the same God who carries the cosmos in his steady hands (Isa. 41:10).
I can truly say that the times when I’ve experienced the deepest loss have also been the times when I’ve felt the presence of God the most tangibly.
Even as I wondered why he’d take my grandmother in this way…
Why hadn’t he allowed her to live long enough to see her grandchildren get married and have babies of their own?
And why did he ordain for her last day on earth to come at a time that should have been one of joy and celebration for my family?
Even as I wondered these things, I also knew with an impossible sense of peace that as I fell asleep that night, clutching the hand of a friend whose air mattress I was sharing, my God was near.
Even though we know God is with us in our sorrow and may even have moments when we sense his closeness, it’s still incredibly difficult to move through day-to-day life after loss.
The people we love leave behind a space that will never quite be filled again, an ache that will throb intermittently until the day our Savior makes all things—including our broken hearts—new.
This is where the body of Christ comes into play. After losing my grandmother, my family and I experienced God’s love most palpably through his people.
I remember the friends and leaders on that mission trip wrapping me in their arms and speaking words of truth and comfort over my hurting heart. When the staff who ran the camp we’d been volunteering at heard what happened, they left in the middle of their Friday night roller skating outing to come hold an impromptu worship session in the hallway where we stayed. To this day, the memory of listening to people I’d known for less than a week singing “10,000 Reasons” outside my bedroom is still one of the sweetest pictures of Christian fellowship I’ve ever experienced. When I couldn’t muster up the strength to sing those lyrics—Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes—my brothers and sisters did it for me.
In the weeks following the accident, God continued to care for my family through the kindness of his church. I'll never forget the night my youth leader and two of my friends showed up unexpectedly on my front porch with hugs and homemade cards. I cherished every text, call, prayer, letter, meal, and kind word we received, even from people who didn’t know my grandmother personally but knew how much she meant to us. I loved it when people opened up about their own losses and shared the songs or verses that comforted them during that time.
Losses stay in our hearts, and there is always future loss to come.
It’s been more than a decade since I lost my grandmother. There are still days when I miss her warm embrace and long to hear her infectious laughter fill the room again. I lost my other grandmother less than a year ago, and her absence is still a fresh wound in all of our hearts. As long as we still wear earthly flesh, again and again our hearts will be broken and our spirits will be crushed by the burdens of a dying world.
But despite that harsh reality, we can anchor our hope in this glorious truth: Our God is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. He does this in a myriad of ways, but none more vivid than through the humans who bear his image.
The best part? After we’ve experienced this comfort for ourselves, we get to go and do the same for others (2 Cor. 1:4).
Even when nothing about our loss makes sense, we can rest in the assurance that the Lord will not waste our grief.
He walks with us through our lowest valleys. And then he equips us to go and tell the world about the God who loved us enough to send his only Son to the cross. To tell them about the Father who chose to endure the pain of losing his own child so he wouldn’t lose us, his wandering sheep, the ones who break our Shepherd’s heart every day.
He knows the agony of grief more than we can fathom, which means he can comfort us in our losses the way no one else can. He who shares in our sorrows today promises to one day wipe every tear from our eyes in a world where death is only a distant memory.
As much as I miss my grandmothers, I know that there’s nowhere they’d rather be than where they are right now. There’s no One they’d rather be with than the One they’re with now and for the rest of forever.
On the hardest days, we can rest in the hope that someday we’ll get to join them.
Meet the Author
Kati Lynn is a writer, doodler, and storyteller who is slowly but surely learning how to live loved by Jesus. She loves to explore the intersection of faith, mental health, and media in her writing. She also loves a good animated movie.