The Lord is Near to the Brokenhearted
I recently injured my knee. The treatment was to take ibuprofen and stay off my feet to let the MCL ligament heal. The good news—I got to sit and read for many days!
I read a blog by a courageous young woman who is battling the ravaging effects of Lyme disease, sometimes succeeding and sometimes–not so much.
I read a book by a man who has leukemia/lymphoma—his skin literally falls off his body creating excruciating pain and many other agonizing complications. There is no cure, just periods of remission. The pain is so intense that he often spends nights crying into his pillow to muffle his screams from his family. He lost his faith in God, and then recovered it. (When God Breaks Your Heart, Ed Underwood)
I read book by a Romanian Jew who converted to Christianity in 1938. As a pastor of the Romanian Underground Church he suffered severe persecution during WWII and even worse persecution, beatings, imprisonment and torture when Communist Russia took over his country and 1/3 of the world after WWII. (Tortured for Christ, Richard Wurmbrand)
Common threads in all three stories are: the determination to find meaning in suffering, to remain true to convictions and to realize hope through faith in Christ.
Unfortunately, the world we live in is rife with people and events like these that can (and do) shatter our lives and hearts—the death of loved ones, broken relationships, chronic debilitating diseases, accidents that break and maim bodies, loss of employment – it touches us all. And on a worldwide scale the brokenness reaches unimaginable heights with hideous persecutions and devastating natural disasters.
Fortunately, God is intimately acquainted with all our ways, especially the painful and cruel events that rock our souls. Here are two scriptures that God has given to comfort shattered hearts and restore lost hope.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
Knowing the meaning of these Hebrew words enriches and deepens my understanding of this exquisite promise of God!
Near (qarowb): near (in place, kinship or time), close enough to touch, kinsman or neighbor (used of relationship and affinity), also applied to intimate acquaintance.
Brokenhearted (shabar): thoroughly broken or torn into pieces, violently crushed, ruptured, maimed, crippled, wrecked, shattered. It also means to break open the womb and bring to birth. (I see in this a promise of something new and good to come from crushing).
Saves (yasha): implies to be open, to be in a wide, free place, to be safe, helped, rescued.
Crushed (dakka): crushed (to powder or dust), broken very small.
Spirit (ruwach): wind, breath, sensible (or even violent) exhalation. (Sounds like a big heart-wrenching sigh to me).
Can you grasp what this verse is saying? (It’s really good!)
God, like your closest relative or dearest friend, comes close enough to touch and hold you when you are absolutely shredded, torn to pieces and left crushed by life or by others. But God knows that the suffering holds a promise of hope and newness, like the womb that (in a sense) must be ruptured for the child to be born. God saves you, He sees and hears your gut-wrenching sighs when you feel crushed beyond words or hope and he brings you out into a broad place of safety with him (your Kinsman-Redeemer!)
Ed Underwood describes when he is in the throws of extreme physical agony and mental torment like this: “Pain is the sharpened tip of the spear of whatever torments you and me. Whether an emotional throbbing of a broken heart or the physical ache of a shattered body, there are times when the hurt peaks with an acidic intensity that takes our breath away and demands the attention of every nerve ending and conscious thought. There is desperation . . . (during these times I carry on) an ongoing conversation with the Lord Jesus, as if He is in the room with me, because His Word says that He is with us always, the ever-present Lord who comes near to the brokenhearted.”
“Broken hearts think God far away, when he is really most near to them; . . . Indeed, he is with them and in them.” (Spurgeon)
Richard Wurmbrand was a pastor of the Romanian Underground church during and after WWII. It was a time of severe persecution of many segments of society by Nazis and then communists. Pastor Wurmbrand experienced the nearness of the Lord in the midst of hideous persecution: “One great lesson arose from all the beatings, tortures and butchery of the communists: that the spirit is master of the body. We felt the torture, but it often seemed as something distant and far removed from the spirit which was lost in the glory of Christ and His presence with us.”
“How God will transform my troubles, I do not know. That He will transform them, I know for sure!” (Anonymous)
Come unto me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Come (deute): Come hither! Come here! Come now! (Imperative command), immediately.
Weary (kopiao): to grow weary, tired, exhausted (with toil or burdens or grief), to labor with wearisome effort, fatigued.
Heavy-laden (phortizo): to load up, to be overburdened by another.
Give rest (anapario): repose, be exempt, refresh, take ease, rest, keep quite, to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect strength.
To paraphrase this verse—Jesus is commanding, “Come here to me right this minute! I know you are completely exhausted; your work is too wearisome, your grief to hard to bear alone. I know that others have overloaded you with burdens too heavy for you to carry alone. Come to me now! I will refresh you, and cause you to rest and to stop working. I will quiet your soul and body so that you can recover and collect your strength.”
When I put these two verses together I see a path of recovery from brokenness in any form (physical, emotional, spiritual, relational).
- God’s promise is that he will never leave my side. He promises not only to be near me (like a father or intimate friend) but also to rescue me and keep me in a safe place with Him.
- My part is to trust that His promise to never leave me is true–and to immediately pick up my exhausted, shattered, overloaded self and come quickly into His presence.
- God’s provision is to lovingly and tenderly make a place for me to rest—no guilt, no shame—only His sovereign permission to rest and recover in His compassionate arms.