Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

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Lafayette, CO 80026
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January 15 – Tending To The Heavy Heart

“Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.”  Proverbs 25:20

Devotional Thought For The Day

I have never had much of an interest in chemistry, so I had to do some reading this morning in regard to the various renderings of “soda.”  Some translate it “nitre,” which is a loose term that can denote potassium nitrate, sodium, sodium nitrate, potassium carbonate, or sodium carbonate. It can also denote carbonic acid, and even saltpeter which is used in making gunpowder.  The point made is that adding liquid to it completely ruins its usefulness – and is therefore extraordinarily foolish and irritating.  I’m certain that I still have little interest in chemistry.

So, one taking off a garment on a cold day is foolish – and perhaps even self-destructive.  Pouring vinegar on a valuable chemical, thus diluting it and ruining it for other purposes, is foolish and very irritating to those owning the valuable compound.  It is the same with those who “sing songs to a heavy heart.”  We’re not talking here about “cheering up” someone who is a bit down, or having a mild case of the blues.  What is being considered is how best to treat a truly “heavy heart,” one that is suffering great pain, one immersed in grief, sorrow, and tragedy.  Not only does the usual practice of diverting attention and making light humor not work, it intensifies the suffering and agony of the heavy heart.  Because we often don’t know what to do or say to help, and because we care deeply about the one suffering, people sometimes resort to such flippancy.  We can’t stand the empathetic pain or the sense of helplessness, so we feel that we have to do something – and at times it ends up exacerbating the sufferings of the heavy heart.

So the wisdom of the proverb draws attention to the fact that if we really care about another [and not just our own inability to cope with empathetic pain], we will certainly not just try to “cheer them up” – whether with music, humor, or diversion.  There are times when the only appropriate thing to do is to remain silent – when the only comfort is our “presence,” when words fail to offer any relief but only increase the grief.  For those of us who are impatient, who are oriented toward “problem solving,” this can be excruciating – for we see the path forward and don’t understand why the one sitting in the dark doesn’t just “move.”  But human emotions are not subject to logic and reason and there are times when there are no human cures – when only God can mend a broken heart.  At such times we must be very patient, and very careful, and willing to suffer along with another in silence.  Hopefully, the time for healing will come, and then perhaps our encouragement can be uplifting and helpful.

I’m not much of a “song singer,” or a glibly optimistic kind of person – but lethargy and inner paralysis of spirit is intolerable to me.  So I’m sure I’ve had my share of times when I’ve added vinegar to the nitre.  I’ve come to recognize that there are heart conditions that are immune to any “ministry” that I might administer – even that of God’s comforting and loving Word.  In such circumstances we must leave the person to God, in His hands, even though we know that His Word is the only cure – hoping that perhaps at some point there may be opportunity to comfort, counsel, and walk forward with the other person.  In the interim, we can be with the person, and suffer silently with them – as we have time and opportunity, and this may be all that we can contribute.  So we’re encouraged to give this some thought, and to be careful and thoughtful, truly loving and empathetic, when a friend has a truly heavy heart.

Prayer For The Day

Dear Lord Jesus, forgive us our weaknesses, our vulnerability to falling into heaviness of heart, and our impatience in helping others so afflicted.  Preserve us from intensifying struggles and grief by offering foolish and hurtful remedies.  Grant us wisdom, love, and true compassion – so that we do what we can for others in their suffering.  Amen.