Brokenness, Healing, Life Lessons, Ministry, Pastors' Wives, Rest, Sabbaticals are Life Savers

7 Ways to Nurture Your Heart in a Season of Pain


Early last year our Small Son broke a couple of bones in his foot. He jumped off the couch- a mere 18 inches off the ground- and landed in a crying heap. We thought his foot was just sprained so we gave him the option of either going to the Wednesday evening service or staying home and going to bed. We figured that if he was really as hurt as he said he was, he’d choose bed. But he chose church, and proceeded to hop on one foot for the entire evening. But the next morning, his foot was swollen and angry looking. A trip to the emergency gave surprising news- two bones in the middle of his foot were broken- one of them severed completely. His foot and leg were put in a cast for 6 weeks. And life with a usually active seven year old became forcibly low key. It was {thankfully} in the middle of our Canadian winter, but I still had to get creative with his activities.

A sprained ankle and a broken foot need different types of care. One simply needs more rest. The other, a cast to force it to heal correctly, medication for the pain, and extended time spent resting. Sometimes after the cast comes off, therapy is necessary.

And I’m finding that it’s the same with our hearts. Some hurts fade quickly and heal easily, don’t they? Other times the heart is broken from devastating life events. In these times, a deeper and more intentional method of healing is required.

 Some of you are there right now, in the middle of a situation that threatens to take the very life out of you. Others of you, like myself, are in an interim period, where surprisingly, the pain is also intense as you navigate past hurts and receive God’s grace to reach out again, to embrace the risk of love again. In these times it is essential to pay attention to how our hearts are doing, and minister to ourselves. I wanted to share some practical {but not exhaustive} suggestions of things that have helped me to nurture my own heart during our sabbatical. I hope you find comfort here in knowing that a)you aren’t alone, that b)there are things you can do to nourish yourself, that c)healing is a process and can’t be escaped or shortcut, and that d)you will be ok.

1. Pour into yourself by reading a lot

Nothing settles my heart and lifts me outside my own perspective quite like a good book.  Ministry is all about pouring out, and who knows better than we pastors’ wives how hard it is to pour into ourselves enough to feed our own souls and be able to pour out to others? Reading is a fabulous way to pour into yourself. I have always loved to read {thanks to my parents for instilling that desire at a young age}, but have not always had or made time during busy ministry seasons. This year, while on sabbatical, I have made time to literally devour books, reading several per month. Before I started the homeschool year, I spent many a morning {and on a few occasions, whole days} absorbed in a good book while my children splashed in their pool nearby.  My soul is healing- I can finally see and feel it happening. I believe that healing is a work of God in our lives, and He uses in part the things we pour into our lives to heal us.

You may think that you are too busy to read. Would you be too busy to take your medicine if your life depended on it? Then don’t neglect reading. Don’t forget that God gave us His Word to READ- it is the very substance of our spiritual existence. Along with Scripture, good books are like the soul food that your hurting heart so desperately needs. So make reading a priority! You may be surprised at how it encourages you.

{If you want some ideas of good, healing books to read, click here for my recommended reading under the Ministry Resources tab in the menu bar. Scroll down to the “Books for Healing and Encouragement” section.}

2. Embrace quiet things that promote rest

 Funny how life changes your perspective and influences even your music and art preferences. As a music student in college, I used to prefer the loud, busy, raucous classical and sacred arrangements. I did well at them, too. Interestingly, one day my piano instructors in college told me that my music style and preferences would change after I’d been through some hard things. How true that became. I have gradually grown to prefer the minor classics (Chopin’s Nocturne in E Minor? Yes, please!) and soft, quiet hymn stylings that use chord colour instead of  tons of movement.

Most days during our sabbatical, you will find our home characterized by quiet things like soft music, quiet conversation, the calm enjoyment of nature {including our soft calico cat}, and candles burning…anything that promotes a calm and restful atmosphere.

3. Sow seeds of Scripture even when you feel numb

We all go through seasons in our spiritual walk when we can’t “feel” much. When I was a brand new pastor’s wife, I experienced a long dry season in my walk with the Lord after my extended pregnancy illness. My husband and I were both processing the medical trauma we had just walked through. I was hearing good preaching and music, as well as reading the Word and praying. But it felt like nothing was sinking below the surface of my being. One day I confessed my feelings to another pastor’s wife. “After what we just went through, I feel pain sometimes, and other times, nothing- just…like a flat line,” I told her. Her answer soothed my heart, put me at ease, and prepared me for future seasons to come. “Just stay faithful. The Word is doing more than you know.” And she was right. I think sometimes we forget that the precious words of our loving God are ALIVE. God is always using His Word to impact and change us when we submit to reading, meditating on it, and listening to it. I love to listen to Scripture being read aloud- it washes over me and brings peace. Anytime we are exposed to the Word, seeds are sown in our heart that will take root and bear fruit.

4. Listen when you can’t sing

This has been an area of distinct change in my life while on sabbatical. I’m used to being at the piano during every church service and singing often with my husband in church {we did the music together in both of our ministries. And just about every time we visited a church or my husband spoke somewhere, it was “Will you sing? Will you play a piano duet?”  We loved serving in that capacity, by the way.  But imagine the wonder we felt when we arrived at our new church and were able to sit down and listen for the first time in ten years. Actually, we both cried that first service. So many feelings of relief. One of them being that we could actually listen to the music instead of being the ones performing it. Every musician will tell you that the worship experience is totally different depending on whether they are playing or listening {both are good- just in different ways.}

Lately I’ve found myself doing a lot of listening. Sometimes when I open my mouth to sing, and tears come instead, a sob blocking my sound. So in those times I will close my eyes, and listen to the swell of song around me from others lifting their voices in song. It sounds amazing. It soothes my heart and while I listen, others echo what I cannot sing and carry it upward to our listening God. And it’s ok. I’ve navigated these waters before, and I know that, in time, my song will return. And it will be a song of pure joy, a testament to the healing hand of God.

5. Give yourself permission to cry

Tears  are healing. But many times we are too busy to cry, or we are too private to cry, or we are not safe enough to cry. Lots of reasons why we hold tears in for long periods of time. But God designed our tears to be a release of emotion that aids in healing. Our tears are precious to God, and He is collecting them as they fall. What precious imagery! I’ve had a lot of situations to be strong through- you have too- and I have known myself in the past as one who doesn’t cry much. But lately, tears have been a close companion, like the Psalmist described.

I realized something early on in our sabbatical. When I felt the rising of tears in my throat, I was swallowing hard and fighting with all my might to hold them back. Not letting the waterfall come past the dam I had so carefully built. I fear that I’ve been doing that for years. But God has a way of breaking us so tenderly, and through those cracks come the tears that will heal us. This might sound a little odd, but I’ve been praying specifically about my tears. “God, let my tears fall as long as they need to. Then, when it’s time to move on, dry them up.” I believe that He will answer that prayer. Friend, do you need to give yourself permission to cry? I invite to you to allow yourself to feel the sad, embrace the grief. The flow won’t last forever. God knows every corner of your heart. You can trust Him with even your tears!

6. Simplify your life

I may be somewhat OCD about clutter {ahem} so I’m always getting rid of stuff. But there are a billion ways to simplify our lives, such as the following categories {not exhaustive}:





-use of time



-self imposed guilt or expectations

How do you simplify? Step 1- Identify an area of stress or excess. Step 2- Reduce, eliminate, or add, depending on what the area is.  Then breathe. It will be much easier! You may be surprised at how a simplified life reduces your stress and makes life feel more manageable in a season of pain.

7. Enjoy little things

It sounds cliche, doesn’t it? Yet there is an element of healing here. Sometimes the heaviness of life settles in like a head cold that won’t go away. It leaves us feeling fuzzy and focusing on big stuff, sometimes to the point that we no longer know how to enjoy and smile at little things. We forget how to laugh and smiling feels fake- almost like a betrayal of our pain.

It takes a slower pace of life and a quiet heart to notice and appreciate the little things of life, and to allow the pleasure of them to linger in spite of a pressing burden. Somehow I think it may take a lifetime to hone this art. I believe it has its root in thankfulness- also a lifetime sacrificial work of giving thanks to His name. When we start looking for the little things, we suddenly start to see them, hear them, smell and taste them. We begin to realize that they are real and good gifts from our Father. This in itself is a gift of His presence with us always. And that is actually no small thing…it is just often evidenced by small things.


Dear friend, are you in a season of pain? Lean into your Healer; gaze at Him through eyes of faith.  Do whatever it takes to pay attention to your heart and embrace the healing process, no matter how long it takes. You are going to be okay.


A Kindred Spirit

11 thoughts on “7 Ways to Nurture Your Heart in a Season of Pain

  1. What wonderful encouragement Leah! I especially loved this word “Just stay faithful. The Word is doing more than you know.” – What an important reminder for me. Thank you. Can’t wait to see you soon. Hugs!

  2. I am in a very painful flare of my Lupus. I am often in pain and overcome with fatigue. As I was reading these ways to nurture my heart, I felt a warmth come over my soul. Hope! Before I was laid low with the flare, I knew I was sick, but kept on trying. Kept pushing myself. As a result I was really sick when I was diagnosed.

    I will print these tips out and paste them on the inside of my journal cover. (As an aside, during this time of illness, my youngest left home to finish college, and I turned 60.!)

    1. I’m sorry you are suffering, Sandra! I will pray for you tonight- for grace to suffer well and for healing if God wills. Meanwhile, take time to nurture yourself. It will do a world of good in so many ways.

      By the way, I’ve been trying to get a hold of you because you are one of the WINNERS from my giveaway! Check your email (maybe it went to spam?) and send me your mailing address so we can send out your book!

  3. Wonderful post, Leah. Many of these I’ve done myself….especially reading and the music. Sometimes I’m not necessarily going through a time of pain as I am just worn out and/or burdened about so many things. I just play the music and let it fill my heart and mind…listening…just listening. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. Thank you,
    My journey is amazingly similar musical/worship Pastors currently on Sabatical – these words, your journey is honest and helpful thank you.

    1. You’re welcome, Dani. I pray that my honesty about my experiences will encourage others to know they aren’t alone, and to look to Christ for hope. Even ministry can feel hopeless at times, so we have to look to Him! Blessings to you today!

Comments are closed.