When she sat down, her posture spoke sadness. As I looked in her face, I saw it – her heart was broken. A little boy tried hard to conceal his emotions, but his quivering lip betrayed him. Yes, he was sad. I see a lot of sorrow because Pastors live around the raw edge of human experience. In many conversations it is not long before I hear about rejection, disappointment, sorrow, self-doubt, or loss. I understand, oh so personally, the pain of heartbreak. How would I have survived the depths of my sorrow without those who would listen, who would let my words tumble out with all the messy emotions that go along with it, without faith in the One who holds me in His hands?
When heartbreak comes we really do not want explanations, do we? We surely do not want platitudes. We need true compassion, which is more than just empathy. Compassion goes way beyond empathy to not only engage with the other person’s emotion but to enter into their experience and to offer to help appropriately. When Jesus arrived in Bethany after the death of his friend, Lazarus, he did not just empathize with his sisters who were crushed with sorrow. He moved to help – assuring them of the “Resurrection and the Life” that were found in Him. And, then he went to the grave where Lazarus was restored to life. It is a dramatic example but holds a real lesson for us in compassion. Go, stand with the heartbroken. Don’t just call or send a card. Be present, let your prayers be heard. Be wise and sensitive.
We need to call to mind, with real intention, the fact that God cares and He understands even that sorrow that defies definition with words! He does not ask us to ignore your pain, nor does He try to cheer us with jokes or slogans like “The sun will shine again tomorrow!” He is our Comforter, One who listens when we cry and holds us together with hope. And never forget – “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalm 34:18, NLT)
If you are gripped by sorrow – take care! A broken heart leaves us vulnerable to many temptations. In my grief after Bev died, I was tempted to try to forget my pain by eating too much, spending too much, watching television mindlessly. Know this, too. Heartbreak and bitterness are next door neighbors! When our heart is full of grief we may find the slightest irritation turning into anger, and then quickly becoming rage. Don’t let yourself go there! In times of disappointment with people and situations, the Word urges us to something other than licking our wounds. God tells us to be proactive. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32, NLT)
Heartbreak isn’t always visited upon us. Sometimes we bring it on ourselves, which deepens the pain as we feel both sorrow and guilt. David’s heart was broken by his own faithlessness. When his sins of adultery and murder were uncovered by Nathan, the prophet, the king’s heart was crushed. His prayer- of understanding, of confession, of heartbreak – is one of the most beautiful passages in all of the Bible. The 51st Psalm is raw, emotional, and full of hope.
Read these words from the Word and make them your prayer of renewal.
“God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! …
I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.”
(Psalm 51:9-12, 17, The Message)
(listen to this old song at this link)
He’s the healer of broken hearts
He’ll mend your shattered dreams
He’ll pick up the threads
Of your broken life
And weave them together again
To your soul He’ll bring peace and joy
A Friend in need He’ll He’ll be
The Healer of broken hearts\
Is Jesus of Galilee
Is your life full of heartaches and sadness
Are your dreams all shattered and torn
There is One who through mercy and suff’ring
For you ev’ry sorrow has borne
Do the threads of your life seem so tangled
That you wish you had never been born
There is One who is willing to help you
He knows ev’ry sorrow you’ve borne
Georgia Stiffler © 1945. Renewed 1972