Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow
In times of deep sorrow and disappointment,
everything we believe can be called into question.
In this paradigm-shifting book, Nancy Guthrie gently invites readers to lean in along with her to hear Jesus speak understanding and insight into the lingering questions we all have about the hurts of life—what was God’s involvement in this, and why did he let it happen? Why hasn’t God answered my prayers for a miracle? Can I expect God to protect me? Does God even care?
According to Nancy, this questioning is not a bad thing at all, but instead, an opportunity. It’s a chance to hear with fresh ears the truth in the promises of the gospel we may have misapplied, and in the purposes of God we may have misunderstood.
In Hearing Jesus Speak Into Your Sorrow, Nancy shines a light on eleven statements Jesus made, mining them for meaning for those who hurt. “Honestly, I’ve chosen many of these statements because they are the ones that have been most challenging for me to understand and apply to my own experiences,” Nancy writes. “They are the ones that have caused me to say, ‘I just don’t get it’ as I read them and tried to fit them into my established understanding of the nature and purpose of the ministry of Jesus. Over and over I find that the passages of Scripture that on the surface seem indiscernible to me hold some of the richest truths—life-changing, perspective-shaping, hope-giving truths.”
As you explore those truths with Nancy through the pages of this book, you’ll find that Jesus speaks life into death, hope into despair, truth into delusion, meaning into futility, peace into panic. And from his lips you’ll receive wisdom, compassion, companionship…and so much more.
Q&A with Nancy Guthrie
Q. You say that Hearing Jesus Speaking Into Your Sorrow is the culmination of your search for understanding that has come with the perspective of years, and further study of the Scriptures since writing your earlier book Holding on to Hope following your daughter, Hope’s death. How has your understanding deepened and developed?
A. Most of us who experience a significant loss have to struggle to reconcile our understanding of who God is and what we’ve believed we can and should expect from him with the harsh reality of our experience. For me, that has taken the form of seeking a clearer understanding of the role God has in our suffering, the purpose of prayer, whether or not we can expect God to heal here and now, and the spiritual realities beyond this life. I have found many of the answers to these questions in examining the ministry of Jesus and digging deeper into the implications of things he said.
Q. Each chapter in Hearing Jesus Speak Into Your Sorrow focuses on a statement Jesus made that you think the person who is hurting really needs to hear and understand. What are some examples?
A. When Jesus says, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death,” we are comforted in knowing that Jesus understands the intensity of our sorrow. When we hear him say, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine,” we realize that Jesus is showing us what to do when God doesn’t give us what we desperately want. When we hear him answer the questions about why a man was born blind saying, “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him,” we begin to believe that God might actually have a good purpose in our pain.
Q. You dedicate this book to “friends and family who live with the sorrow of infidelity, infertility, a spouse’s rejection, a child’s rebellion, paralysis, bipolar disorder, suicide, depression, dementia, a learning disability, death, fear over finances, loss of reputation, a difficult marriage, an unwanted singleness, an embarrassing failure, an ongoing conflict, a pervasive loneliness.” What difference does hearing Jesus speak make to people experiencing these kinds of difficulties?
A. Sometimes it seems so simplistic when we offer “Jesus” as the answer to life’s most painful realities, doesn’t it? And yet, the more we understand about who Jesus is and what he has done, and the more we welcome him and his work into the pain in our lives, we discover that hearing Jesus speak truth and challenge and comfort really does make a difference in these hard places. But it can’t be just a surface hearing. We can’t simply listen for a formula for how we can use him to get what we want. We have to seek to understand the deeper meanings of what Jesus said. We have to chew on his words, maybe even wrestle with them, and ultimately embrace them.
There are so many things Jesus said that we’ve misunderstood or misapplied. I hear these things so often in my conversations with hurting people who are disappointed with, and estranged from God because of the pain in their lives. God has not come through for them in the way they expected, in the way that a shallow reading of the scriptures might suggest he will. So to deal with the big questions loss leaves us with, we have to go deeper than a shallow reading. We have to listen to understand the bigger picture of the purpose of Jesus’ ministry and what following him really means.
Q. In one chapter you explore Jesus’ words to Paul when he asked repeatedly for the thorn in his flesh to be removed. What did Jesus say and why do we need to hear it?
A. Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” This is startling if we take in the scope of what he is saying. And it completely refutes the health-and-wealth gospel that has found its way into the way even orthodox believers respond to and pray about painful problems. Jesus is saying here that he wants to display his power in Paul’s life not by removing the thorn but by sustaining and satisfying Paul as he lives with the thorn. He is promising to be enough for Paul even as he agonizes over the pain of the thorn. We need to hear this, because the reality is that most of us don’t get the miracle we pray for either; we too have to live with the thorn.
Yesterday I was talking to a friend whose husband told her last week that he doesn’t want to be married to her anymore, and she said, “I guess my only hope is that God will do a miracle and change his mind.” And I told her, “Certainly we are hopeful God will do that, but that is not your only hope. Even if your husband does not come home, your sure and solid hope is that God will take care of you, be with you, and be enough for you.” In other words, the ground of our confidence is that God will give us the grace we need in the form, quantity and timing in which we need it.
Q. How does hearing Jesus help those of us who desperately want God to heal us?
A. A lot of us feel a little confused about what we should expect from God and what real faith looks like when we face a physical illness. We read the gospels, and over and over we see Jesus healing those who come to him. And since we believe he is, “the same yesterday, today and tomorrow,” we pour ourselves into prayer and pleading for miraculous healing.
But many believers have a profound misunderstanding of the purpose of the healing ministry of Jesus during his days on the earth. Jesus healed bodies that had been made sick by the effects of sin so that we will believe that he is who he said he is—the son of God—and believe that he can and will heal our sin-sick souls. We tend to brush past this because we don’t really see our sin as that big of a problem. We see our cancer or depression as our most pressing need. But Jesus knows our physical healing is not our primary need—our most significant need is forgiveness and healing from our sin-sick ways.
We think that physical life—the length of it and the quality of it—is of ultimate importance. It isn’t. Jesus did not die on the cross to give us a certain number of days of health on this earth. He came to fit us—body and soul—for eternity in a new heaven and a new earth.
Q. So are you saying we shouldn’t pray for physical healing?
A. Just like Jesus poured out his “wants” to his father in prayer, we are to pour out our needs and concerns and desires before our Father. And here again, hearing Jesus speak is helpful to us, specifically hearing how Jesus responded when what he wanted was not what God wanted. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus poured out his repeated request to his Father to accomplish the salvation of sinners in some other way than through the cross. But God, through his silence, said no to his son.
So when we hear Jesus say, “I want your will to be done, not mine,” we discover that it is possible for us to overcome our own wants, to push through them to surrender. Many in our current Christian culture suggest that strong faith is evidenced by throwing all of our energies into begging God for a miracle and believing without doubting he will do it. In reality, genuine faith is not measured by our ability to manipulate God to get what we want, but rather by our willingness to submit to what he wants.
Nancy writes with both conviction and compassion in Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow. She takes on the hard questions that arise from ongoing suffering and undesired outcomes; then she responds to them with Scripture--which she applies to the issues with laser-like clarity. Not only does Nancy lead us to the Word, she also helps us connect with the living Word--Jesus. Each of the ten chapters ends with a few paragraphs of Jesus speaking into our struggles.
I highly recommend this thoroughly biblical book to all those who are suffering and/or helping others in their struggles. I found it a source of strength and encouragement.
author of Jesus Calling
Postmodernity seeks to deny death by driving it into the closet, to trivialize it by treating it irreverently, or to circumvent it through the use of clever clichés. In sharp contrast, Nancy Guthrie writes with the realism and perspective of one who has been refined in the cauldron of life’s tragedies. She does not offer up a panacea but the peace that comes from hearing Jesus speak into our sorrows.”
president of the Christian Research Institute and host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast
A mutual friend introduced me to Nancy Guthrie as I was going through a personal crisis of my own. My friend felt certain I would draw strength and hope from hearing how Nancy and her husband, David, were coping with devastating loss. He was so right. She spoke to me where I was living, inspiring me to keep pressing on in spite of my pain. Nancy’s style is straightforward, raw and yet full of faith. Her latest book, Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, is for all those who find themselves unable to sleep in the middle of the night due to an ache in their soul. She takes us even further into the existential question most of us ask when we’re hurting: Does Jesus really know what it’s like to have a broken heart? This is a book I’ll refer to and recommend often to those struggling with unanswered questions about suffering.
Executive Director HIV/AIDS Initiative, Saddleback Church
When it comes to tragedy, despair, and discouragement, what better person to listen to than the Words of Jesus. My friend Nancy Guthrie has experienced two of the most profound losses that a human heart should ever have to bear, but out of her valley, she’s heard His Words. Really heard. And she wants to share what she’s heard with you. This is no theoretical treatise, but a compelling book hammered out on the anvil of a mom’s heart. You WILL benefit from hearing these Words too!
President, FamilyLife and
Host of FamilyLife Today
We live in a world of hurt…yet we are not alone. Jesus was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and those of us who have the divine joy of following Him, can expect nothing less from the One who has called us to a cross. But how do we ‘suffer well’? How do we manifest His power, His grace, His sufficiency in our sorrow? How are we kept from being overwhelmed? How are we able to ‘count it all joy’?
What a treasure of truth you have in your hands. The Word of God has the answers and that is exactly where Nancy Guthrie, a woman acquainted with sorrow, takes us. If you will let Nancy take you by the hand, lead you where she has been, share with you Truth which never changes, and cry “Heal me O’Lord” (Jeremiah 17:14), you will find yourself “hearing Jesus speak into your sorrow”…and there you will find healing.
Co-CEO, Precept Ministries International
From a crucible of personal tragedy, Nancy Guthrie confronts deep, disturbing questions with unflinching candor. Never content with the usual answers, she digs and digs, for her own soul and ours. Her authentic message of hope challenges and nourishes both mind and heart.
former executive chairman of
Christianity Today International and author of
One Extraordinary Day
Nancy Guthrie invites us to join her on her journey of grief and loss as she seeks a deeper understanding of Jesus through her pain. Those who read her story will be moved by the tenacity of a grieving mother’s faith as she clings to Jesus despite unanswered questions and a sorrow that won’t go away.
CAROLYN CUSTIS JAMES,
author of The Gospel of Ruth
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Hear Jesus Saying, I, Too, Have Known Overwhelming Sorrow (Matthew 26:38)
Jesus understands the crushing weight and agonizing loneliness of grief.
Chapter 2: Hear Jesus Saying, I, Too, Have Heard God Tell Me No (Matthew 26:39)
Jesus shows us what to do when God doesn’t give us what we want.
Chapter 3: Hear Jesus Saying, I Am Willing to Heal Your Deadliest Disease (Mark 1:41)
Jesus knows what we need most of all.
Chapter 4: Hear Jesus Saying, I Will Save You from Yourself
Jesus saves us from a wasted life of trying to get our own way.
Chapter 5: Hear Jesus Saying, I Will Keep You Safe (Matthew 10:28)
Jesus protects us from eternal harm.
Chapter 6: Hear Jesus Saying, I Have a Purpose in Your Pain
Jesus gives us insight when we wonder why.
Chapter 7: Hear Jesus Saying, I Will Give You a Heart for Forgiveness (Mark 11:25)
Jesus empowers us to forgive people who don’t deserve it.
Chapter 8: Hear Jesus Saying, I Am Enough for You
(2 Corinthians 12:9)
Jesus supplies what we need when we need it.
Chapter 9: Hear Jesus Saying, I Am Giving Life to Those Who Believe in Me (John 11:25-26)
Jesus asks us to believe that death is not the end of life.
Chapter 10: Hear Jesus Saying, I Am in Control of Your Life and Your Death (Revelation 1:17-18)
Jesus soothes our fear of death.
Conclusion: Hear Jesus Saying, I Will Give You Rest (Matthew 11:28)
Jesus opens his arms to us.