FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Alone in My Grief: Michael Card

with Michael Card | June 5, 2024
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Musician Michael Card has felt it, too: Utterly alone, as if the world is oblivious to you and your pain. The author and musician articulates how he was swept up by love and, ultimately, able to cope with grief.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Musician Michael Card has felt it, too: Utterly alone within deep pain. He shares how experiencing grief led to finding God’s love.

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Alone in My Grief: Michael Card

With Michael Card
June 05, 2024
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Dave: Okay, before we get started today, I’ve got a question for you—not you, Ann; our listener: [Laughter] “Where are you listening from?”

Ann: And you know that we’re from Detroit.

Dave: Motor City.

Ann: Shelby’s in the Philly area, and our FamilyLife Today headquarters are in Orlando.

Dave: So, we’re coming to you guys from all over the country, but what about you? We would love to know if you are in one of those areas or where else you consider home.

Ann: Text “FLT” plus where you’re listening from to 80542 to let us know. Again, you’re going to text “FLT” plus where you’re listening from to 80542.


Michael: [At] First Missionary Baptist here in Franklin, Tennessee; I had gotten to know the pastor, Denny Denson really well. I said, “Hey, I’d love to visit your church.” I go in there one Sunday morning. We had had a men’s fellowship, so I knew the—the woman I sat next to—I knew her husband, Bob, but I didn’t know that Dinah was his wife. About halfway through the service, she reached over and grabbed my hand. She wasn’t making a point; it was just this natural—I’d say that she had this gravitational love that she just drew people in.

Dave: Did you find it really strange?

Michael: Oh, it totally freaked me out. [Laughter] I thought, “Well, this is just”—this was the first time I had been to that church—“I guess this is what people do in this church.” [Laughter] I looked around, and nobody else is holding hands. [Laughter] So, Dinah held my hand through the whole service.

Dave: The whole service?

Michael: It still—

Ann: —it makes me cry!

Michael: Well, it felt like I had been adopted; I was one of her children. I didn’t know the word hesed then. She showed me. It was hesed. It was just natural; it was a very natural thing, and it changed my life.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Dave: This is FamilyLife Today.

Ann: “When the Person who owes me nothing gives me everything.” Doesn’t that sound just too good to be true?

Dave: I was just thinking, “I wish that could be said about me.” But that’s not said about any human being; it’s about what only God can do. It’s exactly what God wants us to experience.

Ann: Can you imagine what would happen if that’s what we were known for in our marriages, in our families, and in our neighborhoods?

Dave: That’s where we’re headed today. Today, we will be finishing a conversation we had with a dear man—and really, a spiritual mentor to me through his music and his writing, Mr. Michael Card.

Ann: We got to sit down with Michael in his home church in Franklin, Tennessee. Dave, you asked him something that was really tender; a question to begin the day. At first, I don’t think he realized you were talking about your own family growing up.

Dave: I could tell, as I was describing it, he had no idea this was my family. That’s where we start this conversation.


Dave: How do you turn back to that God when you felt like He’s the God of wrath in the Old Testament? Talk to the mom who’s caught her husband, yet again, with another woman; with her kids, taking them on vacations; they get divorced; her little youngest son dies right after the divorce. Her world was wonderful; it’s falling apart. She feels like, “The God that I thought was hesed, [Who] loved me”—

Ann: —“but He’s abandoned me.”

Dave: —“has abandoned me. I feel alone.” What would you say to her?

Michael: Well, I do believe God gets angry, but He doesn’t sin, obviously, in His anger. I think fearing God’s righteous anger is part of biblical faith; but the same God who would discipline us with that anger is the God who is going to forgive you. He’s already forgiven you; you’ve just got to accept it. When one person, on one side of the marriage, doesn’t get that, I think God loves you so much that He will let you suffer all kinds of things. He allows that kind of suffering.

Ann: Wait, wait, wait. Say that again: “God loves you so much that He’ll allow you to go through all kinds of suffering.”

Michael: Yes, He’ll sustain you through the suffering, too. But He also loved you so much—I mean, God could have wired us all that we would accept Him, but that’s not love; He gives us the choice. There are always going to be people who choose not to love Him. I think there are people who hate that God is that way. You talk about the spouse, who hates the fact that God is offering forgiveness to this husband that has failed at being a husband, and some people hate that God’s that way.

Ann: I’m thinking about your mom, Dave, she did cling to Jesus. She couldn’t have gotten through without—

Dave: —yes, it’s interesting. That mom was my mom; that was my dad. My little brother died; I was seven; and I could never understand how my mom still loved God, believed in God. I was the one who struggled, as a teenager, saying, “Come on, Mom!”

Michael: Yes.

Dave: “Look, He’s abandoned us.” “No, He’s good. He’s gotten me through this. Don’t you see He’s gotten us through this?”

Michael: Yes, yes.

Dave: I said, “No, I don’t believe that.” I do now, but she believed: “There’s a God I can trust.” We talked about that earlier—

Michael: —yes.

Dave: —"who loves me and is good.” His lovingkindness goes to her deathbed. She held onto that. That was what sustained her in the middle of all of that.

Michael: And so, who do you want to be in the scenario? Your mom or your dad?

Dave: Exactly!

Ann: Exactly.

Michael: Right. It’s a fallen world. My mentor used to say, “This is a death-impregnated world.” There’s nothing so obvious as the fact that this world is not the way it should be. We weren’t created to get cancer and die; we weren’t created to have marriages that break. That’s not what we were created for.

And one of the things [about] the good news of the gospel is that God is redeeming that; He’s paid the price for that. I know there are people listening, theologically, who disagree with this. There are people who believe that Jesus only died for the sins of people who will accept Him; but I think the fact that He died for the sins of the whole world—

Ann: —“for God so loved the world…” [John 3:16]

Michael: Right! In John—1John says that He died for the sins of the whole world. But I’ve heard very sophisticated theological arguments: “That’s wrong, and I can’t believe that.”

Again, I think you don’t go to hell for your sin, because your sin’s been paid for. You go to hell for not receiving the forgiveness that Jesus uniquely offers you. That translates into every aspect of our relationships with each other. “How can I not forgive my spouse when God’s forgiven me?” Oh, my goodness! It’s an insult. It’s kind of an indication that I haven’t really received His forgiveness if I haven’t been transformed yet.

Dave: I think what you said earlier, though—it is true that to express the hesed love of God to a spouse, or to a neighbor, or to an enemy, is impossible without the supernatural resurrection power of God,—

Michael: —right.

Dave: —living and working in and through us.

Michael: Absolutely.

Dave: I mean, you can do it to an extent, but no, when it gets tough, you’re out (in our human flesh).

Michael: Yes.

Dave: And when you fall on your face before God, and on the cross, and in the forgiveness we have, He empowers you to do what you cannot do. He has to do it in and through us.

Michael: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. That’s the gospel.

Ann: It is the gospel.

I’m sitting here, my mind is going all over the place. As believers, we’re on the planet to reveal God’s hesed love. I remember being with my dad, being in Chicago, when I was a young girl. He always wanted to go down these homeless roads, where the homeless people were. He was fascinated by that, and I was petrified. But he also was like, “Don’t look at anybody.” I think he was just scared. Then, I became a believer, and I remember thinking, “Man, nobody looks at these people. God’s hesed love would see them, and love them, and touch them, and hug them, and pray for them.”

Michael: He died for them.

Ann: He died for them.

Michael: Frederick Buechner says, “It’s not too good to be true; it’s too good not to be true.”


Dave: We are listening to a conversation with Michael Card on the topic of “God’s Hesed, Inexpressible Love for Us.”

Ann: And a love that we don’t deserve, but He offers it anyway.

Dave: I know we’ve said this before, but right now, is really a great time for anyone who has not yet experienced this kind of love in your marriage, or your childhood, or your relationships in the home, because FamilyLife® has created a tool to help you, and it’s called the Art of Marriage.

Ann: And hesed love is this key part of that teaching in the Art of Marriage. Listen, at the end of the program, and Shelby can help provide you with some more information about it.

Dave: Okay, let’s jump back into our conversation as Michael Card explains why hesed love is not just the answer for marriages; it’s also the key to reconciliation within our culture, that has become so hard for many of us.


Dave: Yes, I loved reading part of your book—and I’ve heard you say this in concerts, as well—when you were feeling this need, I’m guessing it’s hesed, to say: “I want to bridge between diversity with different cultures and different people: white, black, you name it. And again, I don’t know if I have the details right, but you’re sitting in a black church because you said, “I’m going to walk in there, and I’m going to build this bridge.” The woman reaches over and grabbed your hand.

Michael: Dinah.

Dave: Yes.

Michael: Well, she was showing me hesed. My experience in racial reconciliation was that everyone showed me hesed. I have no right to expect anything; I’m the bad guy. But what did I get? I got everything. That moment was almost a parable.

Ann: Take us back there; tell us what happened.

Michael: It’s First Missionary Baptist, here in Franklin, Tennessee, I had gotten to know the pastor, Denny Denson, really well. I said, “Hey, I’d love to visit your church.” So, I go in there one Sunday morning. A little old lady walks up to me, and said, “Why are you here?” [Laughter] She wasn’t being mean. She wasn’t—

Ann: —she was surprised.

Michael: Yes! It was a very valid question: “Why are you here?” right? Because I was the only white person there.

We had had a men’s fellowship, so I knew the—the woman I sat next to, I knew her husband, Bob; but I didn’t know that Dinah was his wife. Dinah was this big, kind of imposing woman. I sat down next to her. About halfway through the service, she reached over and grabbed my hand. She wasn’t making a point; it was just this natural—I’d say that she had this gravitational love that she just drew people in.

Dave: Did you find it really strange?

Michael: Oh, it totally freaked me out. [Laughter] I thought, “Well, this is just”—it was the first time I had been to that church—“I guess this is what people do in this church.” [Laughter] I looked around, and nobody else was holding hands. [Laughter] Dinah held my hand through the whole service.

Dave: The whole service?

Michael: It still—

Ann: —it makes me cry!

Michael: Well, it felt like I had been adopted; I was one of her children. I found out that’s who Dinah was. Bob, her husband—when I told him, he laughed. He said, “When I go home, I never know if there’s going to be another person at the table, because she’ll just bring people home with her.” She passed away a long time ago—Dinah Smith—so, I wrote this song called When Dinah Held My Hand.

[Michael playing and singing When Dinah Held My Hand]

It was a transforming moment in my life. I didn’t know the word hesed then. She showed me; it was hesed.

Dave: Yes.

Michael: When a person, from whom I have a right to expect nothing—I have no right to expect anything from this black woman. I’m the only white guy—I have the right to expect her to throw me out of her church; but certainly not her holding my hand. But again, it wasn’t affected; it was just natural. It was a very natural thing, and it changed my life.

Dave: That’s interesting, too, that sometimes hesed feels strange to a person. At first, when she grabbed your hand, you were like, “Huh?”

Michael: Yes.

Ann: It’s so unusual.

Dave: When you love people, and they don’t deserve it—or when we feel we don’t deserve it when we get loved, we sort of repel. It’s like, “I don’t believe this!”

Michael: Yes, but can’t you see where, to do an act like that—if that’s not done genuinely, it is weird; it doesn’t work. But if it’s done out of hesed

Ann: —it’s out of her overflow of Jesus.

Dave: You knew. You could sense, yes.

Ann: I’m sitting here thinking, “It’s hard to do that.”

Dave: Look at you crying again. You’re crying again! [Laughter]

Ann: It’s hard to do it—

Dave: —I mean, you’ve got tears running down your face! [Laughter]

Ann: It’s hard to do it to a stranger. Sometimes, it’s harder to do it to your husband and your kids!

Michael: Yes, when you’ve got history.

Ann: Exactly!

Michael: Yes.

Ann: “I know all of them,” and “Can I love him unconditionally now?” Yes.

Michel: Yes, yes. What you’re doing is you’re just responding to the love that Christ has shown you: “Christ loves me unconditionally. He loves me as I am and not as I should be, because nobody is as they should be.”

Once that lands in your heart, there’s something really wrong with you if you don’t respond. In Judaism, the tradition is, when people are shown hesed, if they don’t respond, that is a very serious insult; worse than an insult. To be shown hesed and not to respond means that you just don’t get it.

Dave: In someways, it means the pain and the hurt is so deep, and you can’t—hesed breaks through that—

Michael: only hesed can break through that.

Dave: —but it takes—it’s harder. That’s the only love, I think, that can get through that kind of [situation]. I think it has to be continuous. They have to see it and begin to trust it.

Ann: But we can’t muster it up.

Dave: No.

Michael: No, no, no; you can’t fake it. That’s what I was saying about Dinah holding my hand. You can’t fake that.

Ann: Yes, right.

Dave: No, it’s an overflow.

Michael: But there’s a power to it. Again, this is the power of the cross—

Ann: —yes.

Michael: —when the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything, there’s something really wrong with you if that doesn’t transform your life. If that just becomes something you conjure with or use to manipulate other people with, there’s something really wrong with you.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son”—in John, in the opening of John, he says that Jesus is “full of grace and truth.” John writes in Greek, but he thinks in Hebrew: that “grace and truth” is hesed ve emet. Grace, there, is hesed; emet is the Hebrew word for truth. So, “grace and truth,” that’s from the Hebrew Bible. He’s thinking in Hebrew, but he’s writing in Greek. Jesus is full of hesed and truth.

Ann: If you were giving a listener—they’re listening; they’re working out; they’re doing their dishes; they’re on their way to work—if you had to give them one application of what we’ve talked about.

Michael: One of the things that makes it so powerful is so simple. It’s this: “God loves you so much, He’d rather die than live without you. That’s hesed.”

Ann: [With tears] See!

Michael: Sorry. [responding to Ann’s tears]

Ann: It’s good!

Michael: Yes, yes. That’s the gospel: “He loves you so much; He would rather die than live without you.” That’s hesed.


Ann: I’m still overwhelmed with emotion, thinking about that conversation with Michael.

Dave: Yes, both you and Michael got emotional.

Ann: I know that I did, and I saw him do that, too.

Dave: Okay. Tell us why. [Laughter]

Ann: Because it’s just so unimaginable that God would rather die than live without us. Think about that: “God would rather die than live without you.” I just hope our listeners can feel that today.

Dave: Yes. Me, too. Guess what? Even if you’re not, for whatever reason, we have one more surprise from Michael Card today.


Dave: You know, I could pull out my guitar and play Joy in the Journey for you, Michael.

Michael: I would be impressed!

Dave: But it might be better if you actually played it on the piano—like maybe, you wrote it, and you could actually sing it.

Michael: Can you play it in F-sharp? [Laughter]

Dave: On an acoustic, if I tune down [Laughter] or Capo way up.

Michael: No, no. That’s not what I’m asking.

Ann: This is kind of fun, too, because—

Dave: —I play it in G, you know? I don’t know who wrote it, but—

Michael: —I don’t even know how to play F-sharp on a guitar. I guess you do an F, and you scoot it up or something. No, it’s—on the piano, it’s all black notes.

Ann: It’s fun because we’re in Nashville at Michael Card’s church.

Dave: I know.

Michael: It’s impressive, isn’t it? The church.

Dave: It’s impressive.

Ann: It’s beautiful! It’s this small, quaint—when was it built?

Michael: 1849.

Ann: Beautiful.

Michael: Yes.

[Michael playing and singing Joy in the Journey]


Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott; and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Michael Card on FamilyLife Today. Michael’s been with us for the last three days. It has been such a treat to have him talk about and unpack hesed love with us.

If you want to go deeper into that subject—if it’s confusing to you or, maybe, you missed the last couple of days—I encourage you to pick up Michael Card’s book called Inexpressible; the subtitle is called Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness. It really does a good job of unpacking the meaning of what that word is, and then, helping you apply it in your life, not only to your relationship with God and you, but also in the relationships you have with other people.

You can get your copy right now by going online to, or you can find it in our show notes. Or just give us a call at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

It's Day 3 of diving into hesed love. That word, actually, doesn’t have a direct translation; but it can best be described as a covenantal love or unwavering steadfast love, which even still, is only just one of the six aspects of how God loves us. It’s interesting, because FamilyLife’s Art of Marriage has sessions that go through these aspects of love. Session 1 is our latest marriage study about unpacking this incredible love and discovering how we can mirror Christ’s unconditional love to our spouse, even when it seems impossible to do; which, many marriages are in that situation—it feels impossible to show unconditional love to your spouse.

Whether you’re seeking something specific just for you and your spouse, or you’re looking for small group material, or you’re making decisions for your church’s next event, or you’re someone who is curious about learning more about going deeper in your relationship with your spouse, Art of Marriage is designed to inspire and transform marriages. You can preview Session 1, which is talking about hesed love, and experience the power of love, at Or you can find more details in the show notes. Trust me, it’s worth the journey

If you know of anyone who needs to hear conversations like today’s, would you share it from wherever you get your podcasts? And while you’re there, you can really help others learn about FamilyLife Today by leaving us a review.

Now, coming up tomorrow, Kia Stephens will be here with Dave and Ann Wilson to explore the emotional journey of recognizing and overcoming father wounds. That’s coming up tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a donor-supported production of FamilyLife, a Cru® Ministry.

Helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.

©Song: When Dinah Held My Hand / Jesus Is on the Mainline

Artist:   Michael Card performing live for broadcast

Album: To the Kindness of God (p) 2019 Covenant Artists

©Song: Joy in the Journey

Artist:   Michael Card performing live for broadcast

Album: The Final Word(p) 1987 Sparrow Records


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