It happens a lot. And heartbreak hurts. It hurts a lot.
Maybe your first heartbreak happened when your dog or cat or other pet died. That may have been your first heartbreak, but not the last——and not the worst.
A child cries, “But Mom, why do you have to get divorced? Why can’t you and Dad stay together?“ As the marriage breaks, the child’s heart breaks, and the thought comes, “If only I had been a better kid, maybe Mom and Dad would have stayed together.“
A girl falls in love with a boy and is thrilled when he asks her out on a date. They really seem to hit it off. After a few dates, he tells her how special she is and even says that he loves her. She says that she loves him too. Then he says that if they really love each other, they should prove it by going all the way. They do. Their dating and sexual involvement lasts a few months, and then one day he tells her that it would be best if they break up. A week later she sees him with another girl, and it breaks her heart.
A mother and father stand in a waiting room, gasping, “No, doctor, not leukemia! It can’t be. Not our child! There must be some mistake. Leukemia! There must be something you can do.“ Or the telephone rings, and the voice on the other end tells you that someone dear to you has been suddenly killed.
Isn’t heartbreak awful? The lump in your throat, the sick feeling in your stomach, the way your mind spins around and around and keeps going back to the same thoughts, the numbness and the horrible feeling that nothing matters and that things will never be the same again, the feeling of being alone with nobody else who quite understands where your at or how you feel.
Heartbreak happens in different ways. Your heart may break under blows being suffered right now, or your heart may break under the weight of the past, memories that go way back and that you’ve never been able to deal with. Memories of being mistreated or molested by someone you trusted can leave you feeling rotten and unwilling to trust anyone. Memories of evil things you yourself have done can crush you with guilt and regret.
Where can we find healing for broken hearts? Who can make our shattered spirits whole again? Many different things can break our hearts, but only one thing can restore them again: the touch of the living God. The Bible says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds“ (Psalm 147:3). “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit“ (Psalm 34:18).
Those are wonderful words, but maybe they ring hollow for you. Maybe you have a hard time believing anybody can pick you up and put you back together, even God. But please, keep listening. You may have your doubts about it, but once you know what God is really like and grasp the way he works, the healing can begin, and you’ll find that the Lord is all you need.
Who is God? The Lord is a God of mind—boggling power, and at the same time, he’s a God of tender love and compassion. Psalm 147 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power.“ The Lord is God of galaxies and broken hearts. He controls outer space and yet concerns himself with the inner space of heartbroken people.
But maybe you’re thinking, “That sounds good, but I don’t know… I still feel like God is far away, like he’s forgotten all about me.“ Sometimes a few verses from the Bible just don’t seem like enough. They ring hollow and don’t ease your pain. Maybe you’ve heard great—sounding statements from the Bible before, but they have left you unmoved. If so, you’re not the only one to feel that way.
In Isaiah 49 the Bible records a message in which God promises to rescue and restore his people. God starts the message by saying, “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you“ (v. 8). He goes on to speak of the great things he will do for them. After that rousing message, there’s a call to sing a hymn: “Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones“ (v. 13).
But how do the people react? Do they shout for joy? Do they feel God’s comfort and compassion? Far from it! They say, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me“ (v. 14). The people have been through so much, their lives are so shattered, their hearts are so broken, that they keep thinking that God is far away, that he’s not really going to help them. Maybe you know the feeling.
Why is it that we have such a hard time trusting that God will do what he says he’ll do? Well, part of the reason is that we experience many bad things, and when those experiences seem like the dominating reality in our lives, we don’t believe things can ever be different. We don’t believe God is greater than our circumstances. At that point, we need to realize again that the God of the galaxies is strong——far stronger than any bad thing in our lives.
But there’s another reason we often have a hard time trusting God: we have a hard time trusting anybody. If you’ve been deeply hurt by people close to you, you learn not to trust others or let them get too close. If your mom is hooked on alcohol or drugs, if she makes all sorts of promises and then breaks them just when you need her most, you learn not to believe her promises. So why should you believe God’s promises? If you grow up counting on your dad and then he divorces your mom and you hardly ever see him anymore, it breaks your heart. If you can’t count on your father here on earth, how can you count on a Father in heaven?
Being able to trust our parents is so important that when they fail, it’s hard to trust anybody, even God. No matter what God says, no matter how good it sounds, we just say, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.“ At that point, we need to hear what God says in Isaiah 49. He says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?“ Not likely, is it? But sometimes it happens. However, says God, “Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands“ (v. 15—16).
If you are one of God’s people, he loves you so much that he tattoos you on the palms of his hands. He can’t possibly forget you. If you don’t think you can trust God, think again! Just look at the imprint on the palms of Jesus’ hands, the nail wounds that have your name written on them.
If you want to get beyond your hurts and your broken heart, then don’t picture God merely in terms of the people you know. If you think God is somehow like the people who abuse and betray you, then of course you won’t trust him. But the Lord says in the Bible, “I am God and not man——the Holy One among you“ (Hosea 11:9). “God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?“ (Numbers 23:19) People are infected with evil, but God is holy. People break promises, but God keeps his promises. So don’t get your picture of God from looking at the people around you.
There’s only one person you can look at to get a perfectly clear picture of what God is like, and that person is Jesus. In Jesus God became a man. In Jesus we see just how far God will go to heal broken hearts. God keeps his promises, even it if costs him everything. Jesus would rather die than abandon his people. Who is God? He’s the one who says, “I live in a high and holy place but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite“ (Isaiah 57:15).
Who is God? He’s the One who is infinitely beyond you and yet closer than your own skin, the Lord of galaxies and of broken hearts, the One who is both strong and loving, the One who is unlike anybody you know and yet who became like you in Jesus and felt the sorrows you feel. This Lord Jesus comes to you now, with nail prints in his hands and resurrection glory in his face, and he promises to bind up the brokenhearted.
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Lord, You are the promise-keeping God who has said He will make all things new. Today we give You our ashes in exchange for Your beauty, our mourning for the joy of finding comfort in You. Thank You!