By: Ellen Nimmo
What do you do with a broken heart?
The question isn’t ironic or hypothetical or even rhetorical – it’s genuine. When your heart is breaking what do you do? What would you tell your friend to do? What would you tell me?
Maybe a better question to start with is: What does it feel like to have a broken heart?
It feels like weight. And sorrow.
And thoughts you can’t escape
Minutes and hours
Hissing winds and stormy quakes
It sounds like tears in quiet night
And screams at hot-high-noon
Seeing shades of grey
Hearing hues of blue
Holy, heavy, lamenting prayers
Faithless, silent, spooky stares
Sleep and wake and bleary cares
Valley and pitfall and muddy snares
Hunger, thirst and shrouding veils
Tight throat; piercing nails
A disturbing dream
Pain of a world unheavenly
Have you ever had a broken heart? Chances are you have, at some level. Maybe what was described above didn’t capture your version of heartbreak, but perhaps parts of it did. My heart has been and is breaking. Broken. Broke. For so many reasons.
Broken because of injustice. Broken because of hate. Broken in the knowledge, part I played much too little and too late.
Broken because of impatience. Broken because of fear. Broken in a way I hadn’t considered any other year.
Broken for the distance. Broken in want of change. Broken for transgression, in my heart and in my rage.
Broken in my silence. Broken in my speech. Broken in my prayer, oh, Teacher, come and teach!
Perhaps it feels too vulnerable to list all the ways my heart has been breaking, but it is breaking. Isn’t yours? So this brings us back to: What do you do with a broken heart?
I decided that I don’t really know. Actually I don’t know much about a lot of things, and certainly my heartache and sense of frustration, loss, longing and pain is probably a fraction of what people of color are feeling today and throughout their lives – feelings I won’t ever fully understand either, but I drilled down and came up with some things I believe in, some things I want to pursue in the midst of this heartache, this trouble.
Since I becoming a follower of Christ in my mid-30’s I’ve had a whole new world view to consider. I think I would have felt a lot of heartache in 2020 as the atheist I was a handful of years ago, but perhaps not with the same intensity or the same hope. Here’s what I mean: Jesus was so compelling to me I couldn’t look away, I couldn’t’ ignore him, he says things that both comfort and cost me.
Seek to Understand. –James 1:19
Seek Humility. – Luke 14: 11
Seek Forgiveness. – Luke 17:3-4
Seek to Serve. – Mark 9:35
Seek Unity. – John 17:20-23
Seek Justice. – Deuteronomy 16:20, Proverbs 21:3, Jeremiah 22:3
Now I get it, no one likes to be served a plate of platitudes or verses when their heart is breaking, but friend, this is where I go to remember. To be reminded of what God, in Christ, is calling me to do with my life, with my broken heart. I have little knowledge, little control, little voice, little influence, little power, and lots of ways I probably hurt rather than help and yet God invites me to live out the heavenly. These days, my heart breaks more and more often because I see now how unheavenly our world is and how I’ve been part of that problem. Still, I long for more peace, more understanding, more unity. More heaven.
When I feel the symptoms of a breaking, broken heart I know I must run to that which encourages and brings me comfort, God’s Word:
Psalm 71:20 Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again, from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.
Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Isaiah 66:2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the Lord.“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.
Matthew 28:20 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
John 14:27 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 16:33 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-10 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
Phillipians 4:6-7 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Revelation 21:4 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[a] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
If you made it through those verses, if your broken-heart led you over the path of each word, know you’ve found me here too. God is near to the broken-hearted, but he also unites the broken-hearted. The old saying goes that misery loves company. Misery also needs company. And hope. Though we are broken we can be broken together— as we work to listen more, love better and lift one another up as we strive towards a world more heavenly.