Most people would rather suffer broken bones than a broken heart. The former is but physical pain; the latter, however, transcends the corporal in its capacity to crush. It wounds not only the body, but also the mind, the ego, the spirit, the soul.
I have suffered the blow of a broken heart and its unspeakable aftermath. I’d stare blankly at people when they talked to me, unable to respond. I’d go to the high school at which I taught English and deliver an impassioned lecture on Shakespeare or split infinitives, then crumple into a ball of nothingness as soon as the classroom emptied. I’d sit in the shower, head in hands, while scorching water that I could not feel washed over me and mingled with my tears. I’d go days without food before finally forcing myself to swallow something I couldn’t taste. I’d spend half my time frozen with fear and the other half desperately crying out to a God I wasn’t sure was there.
I knew Psalm 34:18. “The Lord,” it reads, “is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” I was also familiar with Psalm 147:3, which assures us that “he heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” But when I tried to read those verses and rest in the promises they provided, I might as well have been perusing a Calculus textbook. I felt nothing but confusion and fear.
No word adequately characterized the torture that afflicted me. “Nightmare” came perhaps closest. Things that used to provide comfort and joy felt impotent and unfamiliar. This, I knew, was the valley of the shadow of death. The proverbial pit. The closest I could get to hell without actually feeling the flames lick my feet. The age-old questions plagued me. Why is God letting me go through this? Why isn’t he rescuing me?
I hate to disappoint anyone looking for the answers to those queries, but I don’t have them. I’m not empty-handed, though; fear not. I have a few things to tell the brokenhearted.
God is not a promise-breaker. He never says we will not encounter the gruesomeness of grief. He does, however, promise to be with us while we endure it. In the middle of unspeakable agony, I felt his hand take mine. I felt his grace seep into every crevice of my shattered self. I felt him whisper wordlessly that my broken heart was not the end. Neither is yours. It might feel like the end, you might want it to be the end, but it is not the end. 1 Peter 5:10 asserts that “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace. . .will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” The valley is intense, but not infinite. The pit is devastating, but not so deep that he cannot pull you out.
The same God who crumbles mountains into ash, walks upon the surface of tempestuous waters, and commands wars to cease is the same God who carries you, gently comforts you as you weep, and heals you in his time and for his glory. For every hurt, there is hope. For every fear and every tear, there is hope. For every feeling of self-doubt and self-hatred, there is hope. For every wave of worthlessness, there is hope. That hope is God alone.