On my office wall hangs a picture that speaks profoundly to me about God’s desire to bind the brokenhearted to Himself. The picture—Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son—elicits many reminders for me about how God cares for those who feel alone and who hurt. He is our leader in times of trouble (Psalm 23), our help when the waters threaten to drown us (Isaiah 43:2), a compassionate caregiver when we feel broken (Matthew 12:20).
Sadly, none of us are immune to being brokenhearted today. We may call it something else—sorrow, grief, anxiety, loneliness, disappointment, despair—but the result is the same: we need somewhere to turn and someone to talk to.
We need to know that we are loved and that, in the end, all will be well.
One year before he died, Henri Nouwen penned these powerful words that I believe all of us need to hear today:
Long before your father and mother, your brothers and sisters, your teachers, your church, or any people touched you in a loving as well as in a wounding way—long before you were rejected by some person or praised by somebody else—that voice has been there always. “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” That love is there before you were born and will be there after you die.
What Nouwen is saying is this: when we know we are loved by God, we can trust He is with us through any difficulty that comes our way.
Shepherding in a Storm
This brings us to pastoring in 2021.
When a storm threatens the flock, a shepherd has one goal: get the sheep quickly through the gate to safety. The chaos of that moment before the storm may seem overwhelming as the sheepdog runs around herding the sheep to where they need to go. There is no organizational chart or checklist. The goal is simple: a storm is coming, and the sheep must all be safe.
This is the situation we are in as well. Shepherding so many people who are reeling over the continual loss from COVID-19 and the ongoing wrongs of our world, we have one goal: get our hurting people to safety—lead those brokenhearted to the foundation of God’s love and presence during the pain. Our goal isn’t simply to help them flee the storm; our goal is to nudge them into the arms of a God who calls them beloved.