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Near the Brokenhearted

The LORD is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Ernest Hemingway, at the end of his novel Farewell to Arms, makes this keen insight: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.” With those words, we are faced with life’s profound mystery of brokenness. Why does suffering make some people bitter and some people better? How is it that the same shattering blow leaves some people victims and some people victors?

Surely a key to growing through our brokenness is revealed in today’s scripture. Here we see that God is actually drawn to our brokenness; He is beckoned by our failures. When I have something broken I want to discard it, but not God! God is a shepherd who seeks His lost sheep, a physician who rushes to the hurting. God is not put off by our neediness or our brokenness. The psalmist David testifies from life experience that God is “near” to us, and that He “saves”.

Quaker educator Parker Palmer recounts the Hassidic tale of a disciple who asks his rebbe (i.e. rabbi): “Why does the Torah tell us to ‘place the holy Word UPON your heart’? Why does it not tell us to place the holy Word IN our hearts?” The rebbe then explains: “It is because as we are, our hearts are closed, and we cannot place the holy Word IN our hearts. So we place them UPON our hearts. And there the Word stays until, one day, the heartbreaks and the words fall in.”

There was a day when my heart broke and today’s scripture fell INTO my heart. I knew the words were true! I felt it! “The LORD is near to the broken-hearted.” That means today I can give thanks for my heartaches and failures as God mysteriously works them for good.

I make that my prayer for you whose heart is breaking; that you will know God is “near” to you right now, and that He “saves” those who are crushed. Know that the Great Physician is at work in your brokenness to make you better, not bitter. Allow God’s Word to fall INTO your heart.

He will transform you through your brokenness, and make you a blessing to others!

A fellow traveler,
Tim

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