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?
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.
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 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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