I’m Living Proof That The Lord Is Close To The Brokenhearted

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).

Prior to 2013, the idea of being brokenhearted was foreign to me, an abstract concept, like something I studied in a musty high school textbook.

I knew sadness, like when my grandmother died after having Alzheimer’s disease systematically disassemble her mind. I had shed my fair share of tears at the death of grandparents and friends.

And it wasn’t as though the idea of being brokenhearted was foreign to me. I saw my brother’s best friend spend months in a coma after he was in a catastrophic car accident. I saw the father of that same friend die from terminal brain cancer a few years later. I witnessed the depth of their grief and what it meant that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

But personally brokenhearted? Unraveled at the very core of my being? Shattered by waves of grief? Feeling like I was living in some sort of alternate, hellish world?

Never.

Then my life went to pieces.

In the span of six months, I found myself without the church I had grown up in, without my closest friends, and without the town I was born in and all my children were born in.

Suddenly, I found that I was only and always brokenhearted, and I had no idea how to handle the experience. It was always winter and never Christmas. Everything I thought I knew was called into question.

It was like I had woken up on a planet where the laws of physics had changed and I had to figure out how to walk all over again.

And yet here I am, five years later, still a Christian. Believing more than ever that Jesus truly is all that I have, all that I need, and all that I want. Believing that the local church is still important. Believing that the word of God is still inerrant and fully trustworthy.

I’m not trying to be overdramatic or hyper-spiritual. It’s just that I’ve seen a lot of people have their faith dashed upon the rocks of suffering. I’ve seen numerous friends go spiritually AWOL after walking through the Valley of Pain.

So why do I still want to follow Jesus? Is it because of my moxie and grit? Uhh, no. If you know me, you know that I’m the least “moxie and grit” person out there.

It’s pretty simple actually.

I still love Jesus because the Lord is near to the brokenhearted.

The Lord Is Close To The Brokenhearted…and Saves Them

Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

It’s not just that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted. He SAVES them. Preserves them. Keeps them from self-destructing.

When you’re crushed in spirit, you simply don’t know what to do. Up is down and down is up. Things don’t make sense and it’s easy to wander into a minefield of self-sabotage.

Honestly, there were times when my soul raged. Against people who had hurt me. Against the idea of church. I was angry and ragged and raging and brokenhearted. My spirit was crushed and depression became a close acquaintance.

The idea that grief progresses through five sequential, logical steps is absurd. Grief is an inverted rollercoaster, flinging you through disorienting emotional flips and heart-wrenching drops when you least expect it.

And yet…

Despite all my anger. Despite the raging and grieving and depression, God saved me.
He protected me…from myself.

Because God is close to brokenhearted and he saves the crushed in spirit.

One of the most common responses to being hurt by others is a total rejection of what those people believe. This is totally understandable, but extraordinarily dangerous in the context of following Jesus.

As I teetered through the darkness, there were times when I wanted to completely throw out the idea of church. There were periods when I wanted to say, “Screw it, I’ll just follow Jesus by myself. It’s too painful to try to live out my faith with others.”

But I knew that being connected to other believers was part and parcel of the Christian life. The only way I could reject church was if I rejected scripture itself (which, in my darkest moments, I was also tempted to do).

So here I am, part of another local church, inviting other Christians into my life. This is not due to my rugged theological convictions or bravery in the face of affliction. It’s due to the fact that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

The Lord Is Close To The Brokenhearted…and Heals Them

the lord is near to the brokenhearted

The idea that time heals all wounds is absolutely absurd. Time can’t heal wounds, only God can. Without the restoring balm of God’s grace, wounds fester over time. Parasitic bitterness invades the soul, consuming a person from the inside out. And once bitterness takes root, true healing is extraordinarily difficult to achieve.

But the good news is that, if you let him, God can, and does, bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted.

I recently told my pastor that I’ve grown more spiritually in the past five years than I did in the previous 30.

That growth is the result of God breaking my bones and then binding them up. There were so many areas of my life that were “deformed”, so many ways (emotionally, spiritually, etc.) where my growth was stunted. Just like a doctor has to break a bone that has not healed properly, God had to break me so that he could make me whole again.

Richard Sibbes, the great Puritan writer, puts it this way:

Physicians, though they put their patients to much pain, will not destroy their nature, but will raise it up by degrees. Surgeons will pierce and cut but not mutilate. A mother who has a sick and self-willed child will not cast it away for this reason. And shall there be more mercy in the stream than there is in the spring? Shall we think there is more mercy in ourselves than in God, who plants the feeling of mercy in us?

God pierced and cut me, but he did not destroy me. He did not cast me away. Rather, as the Great Physician, he attended to my every need.

I’m not going to lie and say that God fixed everything with a snap of the fingers. That’s not how he operates. The process was slow, and for the first few years, it didn’t look like I was making much progress. Anger still boiled in me and I truly couldn’t stop it. God had to intervene.

And he did.

About two years into the process, God broke through in a way that only he could break through. He accelerated the healing, restoring, rewiring process.

I didn’t make it happen. I couldn’t make it happen. But because God is close to the brokenhearted, he stepped in an began applying his healing balm to my soul. He began soaking up the poisonous anger that was eating me alive. He started to scrape away the muck that had clouded my vision for the past two years.

I’m certainly not past the past. I don’t think that ever happens. The past shapes us into who we are today.

But in God’s mercy, I’m not dominated by the past.

The Lord Is Close To The Brokenhearted…Because He Was Brokenhearted

How is it possible for the omnipotent, omniscient, star-making, world-shaping God to be near to those who are low and hurt and brokenhearted?

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted because he has been brokenhearted too.

When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

When Cain killed Abel.

When the people of Israel bowed before a golden calf.

When David seduced Bathsheba.

When Israel was exiled to Babylon.

And more than ever…when his Son hung in darkness upon a Roman cross.

If you are brokenhearted, draw near to God. Don’t let your pain drive you away from the only one who can heal you. Our Lord knows grief and suffering, and he longs to be close to you when you are in the depths of brokenness.


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Stephen Altrogge

I'm a husband, dad, writer. I drink too much coffee and know too much about Star Wars. I created The Blazing Center. I've also written some books which people seem to like. You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook

25 comments

  • Steven,

    Thank you so much for sharing this. First of all, I am so very sorry you had to go through this valley. It sucks. I’m so thankful to see these words:

    “About two years into the process, God broke through in a way that only he could break through. He accelerated the healing, restoring, rewiring process.”

    I’m thankful to see them for you and your own soul, but as hope for mine as well. Two years ago (to the day) I left the church we had spent 12 years at, the only church I knew, and the one I had been on staff at. The last 24 months have been incredibly hard for us. I’m still in the midst of dealing with anger and bitterness. We had everything dear to us stripped away…

    Yes, we know it was for our good…it’s just hard. It sucks.

    We are in a good place now, and haven’t walked away from church. We are part of a great body of believers and there has been major soul-work done on my entire family.

    But it’s hard.

    Thank you for sharing and encouraging us. God is indeed near to the brokenhearted.

    • Hey Matt, so sorry you guys are walking through that situation. You’re right, it’s for your good, but it really does suck. I pray that God continues to meet you in the midst of it.

  • Thank you for the spiritually inspired article. It was exactly what I needed to read today and God spoke to me! Blessings.

  • A reminder that I’m not the only one fighting wars, I’m not alone, your words took me to tears and prayer. After fighting demons, addictions, abuse, therapies, jails and extreme loss for so many years I came face to face with death and Jesus, it was literally a charge in on white horses to save me and he swooped me up so fast I was stunned in a trance of amazement. It’s been a wonderful experience I never knew existed complete and utter joy, then the shoe fell and I’m afraid because I’m extremely weak with some physical pains I’m dealing with and it weakens my resolve and there in that place is where the enemy attacks, “see you’re no good” you’re no good, I began to wonder “how can this be?
    I was freed from the debilitating chains of depression (on meds for years and years) yet here I sit, depressed. The reason all this is a good and positive thing is because I just got a cold hard slap in the face that brought me to my knees.. And a reminder that I can’t do it, he can, I didn’t do it, He did, it has nothing to do with my resolve, it has everything to do with my Faith in him, in his amazing mercy he is so near me right now, especially because of where I am, and now I see. Thank you for sharing your pain with me.

    • I just want to say thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m in the midst of one of the darkest times in my life right now. Been a Christian for 14 years and found myself abandoned by my church, I than got into sexual sin which led to adultery. Than I developed health issues which has totally devasted me. I just think How can a true Christian commit such a heinous sin and still be saved? I’m just so lost spiritually right now. Your story gave me some hope. Thank you again for sharing.

      • Hey Rebecca, so sorry that you’re enduring such suffering. Many Christians have sinned greatly, repented, and been completely forgiven by the Lord. Your sin is not too great for his grace. Take heart, run to Jesus. He hasn’t left you.

  • This was incredibly encouraging to me today! I just need to know how to get where you are.

  • Reading this today gave me wild goosebumps. God truly is near to the brokenhearted! The preservation the Lord surrounds His children in is truly astounding…

    My testimony is long and complicated and I still haven’t worked it into a short, brief telling but what I can say is that 3 years ago I was a drunk, deeply depressed and destructive person facing 5 years in prison. My children and I were victims of 2 awful tragedies that sent me into pure darkness. I was saved at the time but was so far from God that I believed God had taken the Holy Spirit from me…I would go to to church so desperate to hear from God yet would feel absolutely nothing during worship and the sermon. So many nights I would get down on my face, drunk and ready for death, begging God to save us from our circumstances and night after night all I would hear is silence in response. I would write scriptures about God’s saving power on pieces of paper and taped them all over my house…there was still that part of me that KNEW God was capable…but was He willing to help me? Wasn’t I too far gone?

    One night after being arrested I was laying in the jail cell, totally and completely defeated. I thought my life was over, that God had left me to rot like I deserved, and that I had lost my children forever. That night was a pivot point and I’ll never forget it. As I lay there with my eyes closed, dead inside, in my mind’s eye there was a small light, like a match flame, and clear as anything I heard God say to me, “Trust me.”

    A few hours later I was standing in front of the judge, and having been arrested while on probation meant certain prison time so I was prepared to be sentenced and sent to a local women’s prison. Against all reason, the judge let me go home with an ankle monitor and a later date to return to court. I. could. not. believe. it. I was going home to my kids, at least for the time being.

    Fast forward to the court date. After weeks of fervent prayer I went to court and was told I was not on the docket and in fact could not be found in the court’s computer system anywhere. Unbelievable, right?

    Wrong, God is not limited to this world’s systems. God can and does intervene for His children in the most impossible circumstances. All those nights of thinking God had abandoned me had not ruined me after all, and in fact had taught me so much about the Lord. He needed me to go through the pain and struggle so He could show me that His words are true. The strongest faith we can have is when we are face to face with death itself and still raise our eyes to the hills and say, “My help comes from the Lord.” God says what goes and what doesn’t. God never abandons His children, even when we have a knife to our throats and have messed up everything ourselves. I am covered in goosebumps as I write this…the lengths God goes to for us is absolutely astounding. That He even is aware of my pitiful existence is something I will never comprehend.

    3 years later, I still have my children. The Lord truly preserved them and we are a tight knit family, close and happy. I am in the best health and shape of my life, I have a great job and most importantly the bold certainty that God Almighty hears us. My deepest desire in life is to share my testimony adequately, to tell others that the Lord is in control and ALL of His words are true! Every circumstance and situation we face in life is only surface deep. It is the Lord’s will that prevails and no one can stand against Him.

    Thank you, Lord, for loving me so much, for taking all the dark and death I had surrounded myself in and restoring all the light I never thought was mine to have.

  • Dear Stephen, I appreciate so much your faithfulness to God and your integrity. Thanks for sharing your heart with us.
    Shaking,
    Joy

  • I have experienced God, in 2005 I had surgery and two days later went into cardiac distress, was completely dependent on a breathing machine and the Dr had given me less then 10 hours, my kidneys had already shut down completely, but God was by my side and two days later I opened my eyes, I do have a heart and lung disease but God has blessed me in this journey, without him I would not be doing as good as I am,

  • BROKEN
    I wouldn’t have missed this trial for the world
    March 6, 2017

    The benefit of disappointment or failure in life is an opportunity to learn.

    This is a writing about what I did with my broken heart. It had to do with a person I met again after many years…57 to be exact– he was my son. We were very different from each other and couldn’t find a common ground so we separated. He was my son, part of the family, and I loved him when he was born and I loved him now…my heart was broken.

    This is about how Jesus was the only one who could help me and how much closer we became through the process. My son was a stumbling block in my life, but when you have Jesus living with you, you might stumble, but you never fall.

    You know how ”friends” get tired of hearing about your sad story. I found Jesus couldn’t get enough of my story, and helped me along the way by letting me know He was here with me and He loved me. He reminded me that He had been broken and so He understood.

    I would cry out to Him ”not to pass me by, while on others he was calling.” I sang this song to Him daily along with ”I Surrender All.” I sobbed a lot every day…He heard my cry and answered. It took a while, but I began to realize what had happened was a part of a providential and bigger picture I knew nothing about. I learned that good things can come from bad situations when Jesus is in the mix. I pray daily that Jesus will intervene in my son’s life and deliver him…Jesus is so able.

    I sought God with all my heart and He put His heart in my heart and is teaching me to ”wait”… so I’m waiting and believing, and I am willing. I thank God for this opportunity as I am stronger now than I have ever been, and more loved than I thought possible.

    So if you’re enduring brokenness, look up, for your Savior draws near…He will redeem it all. To God be the glory.

    God is the only One, who has the power to turn trials into blessings. Don’t ever doubt that He is Able, nothing is impossible with Him. He’s always at work, even when we can’t see the whole story, even when things look uncertain. And that sets the stage, for great things to happen. “…for such a time as this” Esther 4:14. May God help us to follow His lead, know that His timing is perfect, and that He’s always faithful.

  • Thank you for your article and it really blessed me and as encouraged me to keep my eyes on the sovereign Lord. I’ve not given up on the church but I can’t find one that truly preaches the gospel so I listen to one online all the time. My life right now is crazy with so many things happening that only the Lord understands I would love to share but you would probably find it boring so I will leave it with the Lord. Thanks again for all your articles.

  • Stephen, thank you. Thank you again (and always) for your transparency. I’m a fellow sufferer, sinner, and sister in Christ who has benefited much from reading (now and the past many years) how Psalm 34:18 has been true and evident in your life. I can attest to the same. Keep persevering, brother. We are grateful for you.

  • The Lord is close to the brokenhearted because he has been brokenhearted too.

  • Thank you for this. The timing is wonderful as my wife an I are at the beginning of this journey and need to hear encouragement from those on the other side.

  • Thank you for this testimony. Not only can I relate, but it encourages me to keep my focus on the Lord. Blessings.

  • Stephen, I appreciate your post; the fact that you are able to write about this period of time shows the very fruit you say God is working in your life. When we see more of him than our circumstances or current state, we know he has already done a lot of healing in us. Thanks for giving others hope with your story.

  • I have almost lost hope, feeling that nobody cares. It has not been easy growing up as a kid without parents nor anyone to care for me. Many times I will cry all night, no sleep. I have thought of committing sucide, just to end it all. I am not a born again. I was feeling abandoned when something struck my mind to search for an encouraging word online before I saw myself here reading this whole lovely and inspiring mind blowing write-ups( the word of God). Thank you Sir.

  • Thank you for sharing your own story. I had experienced being broken in March 2016. I could identify what you went through and how God was near to you in brokenness. I agree that God is near to the brokenhearted. In April 2017 God spoke to me through the first words of Jesus on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” I said to God, “yes.” I released forgiveness to those pastors who hurt me to the bones. God healed my broken heart, though sometimes the pains still come when I remember what happened and how it happened. I agree that God heals the brokenhearted and binding up their wounds slowly but surely not suddenly or immediately.

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