God’s Valentine for a Broken Heart
Every day we see evidence of God’s providential hand at work in our lives. Once in a while, however, God just goes overboard and specifically lavishes us with His tender mercy and love.
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”
I have a sweet friend named Brenda. One day at a ladies’ Bible study, she shared the story of her experiences on the first Valentine’s Day that she was alone after the death of her husband and friend, Larry. I was struck with awe at how intricately and uniquely God provided comfort to her. I want to capture the beauty of God’s grace and mercy to those who are mourning a deep loss.
It was Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2022. Brenda was in Mount Airy, North Carolina, after a relative’s funeral. She’d stayed in a hotel that night because she wanted to drive home to Georgia during the day.
As soon as she woke up on Monday morning, she thought, “It’s Valentine’s Day and I don’t have my Valentine anymore.” She was in a hotel room by herself. She described it this way: “I started a huge pity party. I felt more lost and alone than I had ever felt in my life. I cried for about 20-30 minutes. Then I realized that I had a six-hour drive ahead of me. I literally said the words out loud, ‘Brenda, get up, get busy, get out of here!’”
She headed down Highway 177 towards Charlotte, North Carolina. Soon after getting in the car, she turned on her XM radio. The song that she immediately heard was “Scars in Heaven” by Casting Crowns. It was the song played at Larry’s funeral. She began to cry. The lyric that grabbed her heart and soul was the line, “the only scars in heaven are the hands holding you now.” She said out loud, “Thank you, Jesus!” She started thinking about the song and how when we open up our hearts, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and that God gives us what we need. He continued to love on Brenda all day long.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)
She drove for a few hours and then decided to take a break. She stopped at an exit with a Bojangles restaurant to grab a bite to eat. She walked to the counter to place her order. “I walked up, and the cutest, petite black girl asked in the sweetest voice, ‘Good morning! How can I help you today?’ My immediate thought was ‘I feel like I’m at Chik-fil-A!’”
Brenda placed her customary order for a country ham biscuit and sweet tea. She handed her money to the friendly girl who gave her change. The girl asked, ”Have you ever had one of our Bo-Berry Biscuits?” “Oh yes, darlin’,” Brenda told her. “My husband and I used to stop at Bojangles and get a Bo-Berry Biscuit and share one whenever we were travelling.” “Well,” said the girl, “I’m going to give you one.”
“I’m telling you, you could’ve knocked me over with a feather. I looked at her and the tears just started pouring. I wasn’t boohooing but tears were just dripping down my face and there’s a line of customers behind me and I just couldn’t control the crying.”
The sweet girl said, “Oh, honey, please don’t cry. Please don’t cry.” Brenda replied, “But sweetie, you don’t understand, this is my first Valentine’s Day without my husband.” And then the girl looked at Brenda, and said, “I don’t know you, but I sure do love you.” Brenda couldn’t even respond to her because of all of the tears. She recalls:
I didn’t even know this girl. I don’t even know her name. It was amazing. I sat down and a few minutes later she brought my food to me and gave me the biggest hug and it was a real hug. And all I could think again was ‘Thank you, Jesus,’ because at that moment her attention was exactly what I needed. God put that girl there just for me that day. It blew me away.
Here was a perfect stranger pouring out love to Brenda during her time of grief. Only in God’s loving providence could this comfort have come from someone Brenda had never met before.
Psalm 119: 76 “May Your Unfailing Love be My Comfort.”
For four more hours, Brenda drove towards her home in Georgia. She was headed to the home of her friends, Bob and Cathy, who had been taking care of her puppy, Buddy. “Usually, my friends eat a late dinner, but that night they fixed a special early meal so I could eat dinner with them. It was an awesome visit, but I left to get home before dark.” These friends had gone out of their way to support Brenda’s needs.
After getting home, Brenda’s phone dinged and she had a text message from her friend Madeline, who lives in Dallas, Texas. The message said, “Do you have a package on your front porch?” So, Brenda texted back. ”Not sure, but I’ll look.” So, she went and checked and there was a FedEx box on her front porch. She brought the box inside and opened it.
In December, Brenda had mailed Madeline a bunch of her husband’s t-shirts that he had worn in his final months at the nursing home. Madeline was a seamstress, and she’d made the most beautiful quilt from Larry’s t-shirts.
When Brenda saw the quilt, she couldn’t believe it.
The quilt is a treasure. When I looked at it, I just cried and cried with both joy and grief. And that’s how my Valentine’s Day ended with getting this special homemade quilt. God was very much in the middle of this. Madeline had never made a quilt from t-shirts before, but it was amazing, far beyond anything I could imagine. It is just so beautiful. I cried out when I opened it, ‘God you are awesome!’
Isaiah 49:13 “For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on the afflicted ones.”
As Brenda and I reflected on this day, we cried together, over the magnitude of God’s love and his perfect will. We believe God designed this day as a gift of comfort for Brenda. One thing that solidifies this belief is what Brenda revealed about the impact of this day.
After Larry’s death, up until this day, every day at some point, I would have a boohoo session. Every day I was doing this. And not just teary-eyed and crying a little bit. I mean it was a flood of tears. Even my dog, Buddy, would look at me wondering what was wrong. I had huge boohoos. But you know, since that Valentine’s Day, I haven’t had a huge crying fit. I get a little teary-eyed but not where I lose control.
Brenda continued. “I told my daughter, ‘I’m 75 and it’s the first time in my life that I truly understand the peace that passes all understanding.’ And I can’t explain it. There’s not any words. Not in my vocabulary. There’s just not. I have experienced true peace. I believe it is my relationship with Christ and my relationship with people. We need each other.”
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Brenda’s story pulled so deeply at my heartstrings. The ways that God used to comfort her at just the right moment in time is stunning. Think about it: God used the symbolic day of love, Valentine’s Day, to show Brenda that even though her husband was gone from this earth, he was with Jesus in heaven, and she would join him someday. God created a Valentine for her broken heart. The fact that the Lord had woven all these pieces of comfort and symbolism into one day left me awestruck.
I fear sometimes that we don’t stop enough to honor and record these precious moments of pure grace. What a comfort they can be when we have a time of trial to reflect back on the beautiful times of mercy and peace. We know both joy and pain are part of the tapestry of life that God weaves into our earthly journey.
What an awesome God we serve. Brenda mourned. Brenda was comforted. Brenda was blessed. God saw every tear and every smile. We stand amazed in His presence, knowing that the creator of the universe is both our majestic mighty rock and our gracious loving redeemer.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God.”
Sherah Betts Carr is an educator at heart. She served as a Professor Emerita of Teacher Education at Mercer University in Atlanta, GA. Since retirement, she has become involved in numerous charity organizations and enjoys writing and teaching about the importance of faith and family.