Treatment of the Heartbroken
by Pastor Jack Hyles
(Chapter 5 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How to Treat Different Types of Church members)
Ezekiel 34:3, "Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock."
Isaiah 61:1, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound."
One of the main purposes of a church is its ministry to the heartbroken. Someone has said, "He who preaches to broken hearts will never want for a congregation." I have often said that behind every face there is a broken heart, and behind every smile there is a reason to cry. As I look out over my congregation on a Sunday morning, I see those whose hearts are broken because of incurable illnesses in their own body or in the body of a loved one. I see those whose hearts are broken because they are under attack; they are suffering severe criticism or are objects of a malicious scandal. I see a couple whose daughter has just left her husband to run off with another man. I see a lady whose daughter is pregnant and not married. I see a lady whose husband has just left her to rear the children alone. I see a man whose business has just faced bankruptcy I see a family whose son has broken their hearts. I see children whose daddy has just forsaken them, and I see multitudes of others whose hearts are broken. God's people should take extra care in their treatment of these brokenhearted saints.
1. Act as near normal as possible. They want to know of your love, but they don't want to be singled out for special attention. Just let them know that nothing has changed. Assure them that your relationship is the same as always, but do not do this verbally Do it by treating them as you always have. Just let them know by your normal treatment that all is the same.
2. It is usually best not to mention their problem. To do so may open a wound that has been closing. It may cause a fresh hurt that is unnecessary. It is often best not to say such things as, "I heard about your burden," "I know about your problem," etc.
3. Do not try to figure out why. It is so easy for God's people to become an Eliphaz, a Zophar or a Bildad, who were the "friends" of Job. One of them came and said, "Job, I know why you are having your trouble; you are not spiritual enough!" Another came and said, "Job, I know why you are having your trouble; you have left the traditions of the fathers!" Another came and said, "Job, I know why are having your trouble; you have sinned and are being punished!" The truth is that none of us knows why God does what He does, and more often than not, God's people face troubles and heartache because of reasons other than punishment for sin. It is not our job to figure out why; it is our job to be loving, thoughtful and helpful when our brothers and sisters have broken hearts.
4. Don't tell them of any criticism that you have heard. Years ago we had a man in our church who walked with me from my office to the pulpit on a regular basis. Just before I would leave him to walk to the platform, he would put his arm around me or take my hand and with emotion say something like this: "I'm for you, Preacher . . . no matter what they say!" All during the service I kept wondering, "What did they say?" The truth is, that man loved me, but he did not comfort me.
One little girl wrote me a note and said, "Dear Brother Hyles. I love you in spite of the fact that nobody else does." Somehow or other that note was not as comforting to me as it was intended to be!
Recently a member of the church who is a very lovely Christian came to me and said, "Brother Hyles, I want you to know that my family is for you in this battle." Then I started to wonder, "What is the battle? What battle are they talking about?"
5. Use unsaid words to express sympathy. Perhaps a squeeze of the hand, a pat on the back, or a touch of the elbow is all that is necessary. With those little gestures one is saying, "Everything is the same. Nothing has changed. I still have confidence in you, and I still love you. I am still your friend, and I still think you are a good Christian."
6. Show confidence in them. Not long ago a preacher friend of mine had his heart broken by the actions of a married child. As soon as I heard of it, I talked with him and asked him if he would be a speaker on a program with me. This was simply an expression of my saying, "I still have confidence in you, and I'm your friend! Nothing has changed!"
Several years ago I had a man lined up to come to speak for one of the ministries of our church. Between the time that he was scheduled and the time for the speaking engagement, he had a broken heart that could have made him fearful that some of us had lost confidence in him. I did not write him and tell him what I had heard. I did not call him to assure him of my love in spite of his broken heart. I simply wrote him a little note confirming his speaking engagement with me and telling him that I was looking forward to having him. That was all that was necessary. His heart was broken. I did not want to remind him of the cause, but I simply wanted him to know that nothing had changed.
Express your love and friendship to the heartbroken. There are many ways that this could be done. Years ago when some slander had been spoken by wicked tongues concerning my good friend, Dr. John R. Rice, my heart was grieved! A few days later we were speaking together. As he walked on the platform and sat down beside me, I reached over and squeezed his knee and said simply, "I'm your friend." Years passed. Careless lips and malicious tongues chose to speak evil of me. The next time Dr. Rice and I were together, he reached over from his chair on the platform and squeezed my knee and whispered, "I'm your friend." He did not need to say any more. I knew what he meant. On one occasion Dr. Curtis Hutson did the same thing to me, and as I remember on another occasion, I did the same thing to him.
Many years ago Evangelist Charles Weigle suffered the heartbreak of his life. His wife decided she did not want to be a preacher's wife. She took their child and left him. The great heart of Dr. Lee Roberson simply contacted Dr. Weigle and asked if he would come and live at Tennessee Temple College and Highland Park Baptist Church. Dr. Weigle agreed to do so. Dr. Roberson was simply saying to Dr. Weigle and the whole world, "I have confidence in you still. I love you still. I'm your friend still, and nothing has changed."
This love and friendship could be expressed by a gift sent seemingly for no reason at all, or an attractive card or a tender embrace or the touch of the hand or an arm around the shoulder.
The one consoling the heartbroken should not do it too strongly. Just let the brokenhearted one know that all is the same; nothing has changed.
7. Try to decide for what the heartbroken person is reaching. Some people want and feel that they need different means of expression of confidence and love. If you know someone well enough to know that they need more than the aforementioned reminders, give it to them. If you feel someone reaching out for a certain kind of assurance, give it to them.
Leaders need this kind of assurance as well as followers. I am thinking now about one of the greatest preachers in America whose daughter broke his heart, and he has had to rear her son. I am thinking of another one of the greatest preachers in America who one day on a platform pointed to the balcony and said to me, "nose two little girls up there are my granddaughters." His son had divorced his wife; the lady in the balcony with the two children was his former daughter-in-law, and the children were his grandchildren.
One of the ten best known preachers in America had a daughter who went into the world, broke his heart and defied everything that her daddy preached. It is said that Billy Sunday stood to speak in a great tabernacle. Just as he began to speak, someone handed him a newspaper that told of his son committing an awful sin, and perhaps had been arrested. Supposedly Billy Sunday grabbed his chest and shouted, "Preach Christ," and slumped to the floor.
One of the greatest preachers in America had a son who became a liberal and destroyed the work of his dad after his dad passed away.
Heartbreak comes to everybody, in every walk of life and on every scale of spiritual growth and progress. Let us treat the heartbroken with a tender, subtle awareness that nothing has changed.
Before concluding this chapter, I must speak a word to the heartbroken. When something happens in your life that causes you to wonder if you will still be respected and accepted, don't withdraw from us! We still love you! You belong to us! We still have confidence in you! Let us have a chance to assure you of our love and confidence! Don't leave us! Don't leave your church and go to another! Stay with those who love you! You need them, and they need you! You need their love! They need to love you! You need their expression of confidence, and they need to give it!
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