encouragement,  Fellowship,  Katie Luther Posts

What the Grieving Heart Needs

The Grieving Heart Needs Most

by Vanessa Rasanen

Life is not easy.

The vast majority of us here have it pretty good, and most of our “trials” could likely be chalked up to your average #firstworldproblems, a basic annoyance or irritation, frustration or hurdle. Most of us don’t know and cannot fathom a life spent in constant fear, facing real persecution, or feeling true hunger.

Yet, we are not immune to pain and tribulation, and we get no pass from sin, death, suffering and loss. Satan attacks all, from the poorest beggar to the wealthiest of kings. He shows no discrimination or favoritism based on where we live or who we were born to. Our civil, financial or political status in this secular world gives us no pass from his torment or from the consequence of sin.

We will have suffering in this life. We will have days when we will simply want to throw ourselves on the floor, beat our chests and scream to our Lord in frustration and anger, torment and grief.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.

Psalm 22:1-2

These are the days when all may seem lost. The world may seem dark, desolate and lonely. It can be in those moments when we may be most tempted to turn in, to shut ourselves up and to block ourselves off from the world. We tell ourselves we need time, we need space, we need to be alone with our grief and our pain. We have no strength to deal with fellowship and small talk, when every fiber of our being simply wants to weep and scream.

But it is there, in the pits of our despair and troubles, when we must not give into this seemingly innocent temptation to stay home, close the shades and tune out the world and the church.

For it is there in the church where our grieving hearts receive what we need most — God, Himself, pouring out His own Blood, serving us His own broken Body, delivering us the sweet and healing forgiveness and comfort of His Word preached and declared for us all.

Yes, we can read His Word in the darkened corner of our home, tucked away from prying eyes and intrusive-but-well-meaning arms. And when this is all we have at our disposal — when getting to the divine service is impossible due to illness or injury or for whatever reason — by all means, sit in that corner and read God’s Word, call up your Pastor, request a visit, ask for communion in your home, and do what you need to do.

But know that that corner of solitude can be a tempting trap, becoming all too easy an escape from uncomfortable fellowship. It is masked in Satan’s clever trickery to convince us we don’t need our pastors, our churches and God’s own Divine Service each week. It is there in that corner we can so easily become complacent and comfortable, convincing ourselves we’re doing enough and we’re fine on our own, that us alone with our Bible is sufficient and good.

Our grieving hearts may need solitude and time. We may need quiet and peace, freedom from the pressure to engage, to socialize. And that’s okay. But let us not be conned. Our need for quiet healing does not need to keep us from God’s service to us each week. If you are suffering — as I have been lately — with grief and loss, pain and a confusing tangle of emotions with a deep desire to avoid everyone and only interact via tapped out keys and cold screens, know that what your grieving heart needs most now is to hear His Word and receive Him in the Sacrament.

There is no requirement to stay for coffee and cookies. There is no statute saying you must arrive 15 minutes early to chit-chat. There is not even a rule forcing you to sit in your usual seat amidst everyone else. So come at the last minute. Sit in the back, or in the cry room, or in the choir loft or in the narthex where you can still hear and pray, joining in when it’s time for the Lord’s supper (seriously, there’s nothing that says God’s Word fails to work if you’re on the “wrong” side of the doors). Leave quietly and quickly (maybe letting your pastor know beforehand why you might slip out during announcements or bypass his handshake as you exit). I promise, he will understand, and he will serve you as you need in your grief.

Let us just remember that it’s okay for our grief to keep us from the coffee and the small talk, but we cannot let that grief and that need for solitude keep us from receiving God’s gracious gift of forgiveness and the true healing and comfort we can only find in His Word, His Son, Christ crucified for us.

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Psalm 62:1-2

Photo credit: Alone by Transformer18 Creative Commons


  • Heather

    We had a sudden loss in our congregation recently, and I started thinking something like this. It’s often that you don’t see the grieving family for a few weeks after the loss. But what a healing balm the Divine Service is, as you pointed out. The only thing that would stop me from going is if I was sure that I wouldn’t be able to make it through without bawling my eyes out…and yet, it’s not so bad. Sure it’s embarrassing. But people cry in church. Some of us cry more often than others. :) Church often reminds people of a lot of things that they hold very dear. After my Grandma died, I cried through the next couple church services, but at least I was able to do it silently. I remembered that she would now be communing with me in heaven as one of the saints, and I was just a little bit envious of her. Thanks for your article!

  • Kelly

    After several years of suffering loss in a “different” way (learning how to accept and deal w/ our youngest son’s not-immediately-obvious neurological special needs), I can relate to the desire/urge/necessity to stay in that dark corner, trusting alone in God’s promises. Sometimes it’s by choice, but often it is not.

    My greatest desire is/has been to be an active recipient/participant in our church–as congregant, Bible Study participant, Sunday School teacher, etc. My husband is a pastor, and it seems the certainty of obtaining these “simple pleasures” would be easy.

    Silly, proud me– they are not. Our son’s special needs regularly prevent me (and him) from attending divine services, mid-week services, Bible Class, etc. I’d be lying if I said I never felt resentful, angry, etc. towards God. My Old Adam is a really good swimmer!

    However, thanks be to God, I am regularly reminded of Scriptural examples and truths that life in this fallen world is not meant to be easy; God uses the hardships of this life, whatever they may be, to focus our eyes on the cross.

    Because of this, I see that daily blessings abound. As a result of this cross/blessing, I have developed great empathy for our elderly shut-ins and those who suffer from chronic physical illness that keep them from regularly attending church services/activities. Too, our youngest son is acutely aware of the blessings of his Baptism, and he holds dear the Scriptural truths taught to him from infancy. Gifts of the church are not fully appreciated until they are hard to come by.

    “God is faithful and just,” and He continues to daily, hourly, minute-by-minute forgive me “all my iniquities with which I have ever offended Him.” Both our son and I (indeed, our whole family!) rejoice in what are affectionately known as the “days of normalcy.” It is on these days we are able to do many things I used to take for granted; go grocery shopping, attend midweek Bible class or Advent/Lenten services, etc. Sticking around church for chit-chat is definitely a plus, and I don’t take that for granted anymore, either ;).

    Thank you for this article; it’s helped me continue to keep my eyes fixed on the cross. Sometimes all I can do is slip in and out of church quietly. For that I am grateful.

  • Susan

    My brother died March 12, 2015. The following Sunday even though it was difficult to get myself ready and go to church I did. I cried through the entire service. I’m not ashamed of these tears for our good Lord decided to create us with the ability to cry. And I’m thankful for the release. The liturgy and hymns calmed my sad heart. I felt empowered by God’s Word.

    Afterward 3 women came to me and listened and prayed with me. Oh how I treasure their shared faith. They promised to pray for me and my family in this time of grief. Later at the funeral I cried again. But I knew I had prayers lifting me up.

    I am married to a pastor. Sometimes it’s difficult for our human needs to be taken care of. A dear friend encouraged us to own our grief. How precious that we entering Holy Week. Blessings.

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