“When you can’t see past the tears, trust His heart” – C.H. Spurgeon
Usually when we hear the term “broken heart” we think of it in terms of a broken romantic relationship, but the truth is our heart can be broken when anything our heart has hoped in is disappointed. We hope for a job, promotion, or opportunity and we don’t get it; we hope for a certain direction in life and are dissuaded by sickness, finances, family problems, or who-knows what else; we hope for happiness but often trials and heartache find us instead. Proverbs says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” (Prov 13:12) and when hope is disappointed the heart is indeed as if “sick,” we just tend to use the term “broken”. Emotional pain is very real… and you can’t put a band-aid on it. If it is not dealt with it can lead to depression and even physical illness. And then you can lose hope altogether which is why it has led some to their death or to the taking of their own life. It is possible to die from a broken heart.
However, as a Christian who believes in both the complete sovereignty and perfect goodness of God, I have often sought to understand His purposes for my trials. The path of pain is often mysterious but we do know that in all things God has one ultimate purpose, to conform His children to the image of Christ (Rom 8:28-29). Each time as I have allowed the Lord to work in my heart He has revealed things in my heart that He wanted to correct. This is not to say that we always bring hardship or pain on ourselves because of our sin, although that is sometimes the case. Often the Lord simply allows us to go through hard circumstances in order to grow our faith. If we never struggled, we would never grow. “No pain, no gain” is a motto that the Apostle Paul exemplified.
While there have been many things that I’ve learned through seasons of brokenness, the correction (teaching) has often centered around one question the Spirit whispers to my heart, “Beloved, where is your hope?” Psalm 42:5 says, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” I chose to use the KJV here because I love the beautiful language of the command: “Hope thou in God”. In Psalm 27:13-14 it says this, “I would have lost heart unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait I say, on the LORD.” Without hope we lose heart, so we must believe. Believe in what? In the goodness of God! Hold on to your faith that God is good and that one day all will be made right. A.W. Tozer wrote, “Whether we are happy or unhappy at any given time is not important. That we be in the will of God is all that matters. We may safely leave with Him the incident of heartache or happiness. He will know how much we need of either or both.” Yes, feelings matter. And we shouldn’t just dismiss the hurt that someone feels. But feelings are not truth. We must look beyond how we feel to Christ who, by the way, suffered more than we ever could.
Jim and Elisabeth Elliot are two of my heroes. Despite their love and desire to marry they waited about 4 years before Jim finally sensed the Lord’s timing and leading them to be joined. Then, less than 2 ½ years later (when their daughter was only a year old) Jim was killed by the natives he was trying to reach with the Gospel. A few years later Elisabeth spent several years in the jungle with the very men who had murdered her husband teaching them the Scriptures. She remarried fourteen years later but then lost that husband to cancer after only 4 years. Having had her share of intense trials, loss, along with struggles with trusting God and forgiving those who had hurt her, she wrote this, “God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God's refusals are always merciful -- "severe mercies" at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better.”
I am awed by that truth, are you? It’s one of those truths that can be really hard to believe, but yet we must, for it IS true. And there is great comfort in that – that no matter what pain we go through, God has something bigger in mind. May God help us to embrace the hard lessons, for they are the way to growth.
I will close this by sharing my all-time favorite quote. This prayer by Elisabeth Elliot I have often found myself echoing, sometimes amidst tears and feelings of frustration:
Perhaps some future day Lord,
Thy strong hand will lead me to a place where I must stand
Alone, O gracious Love
But for Thee;
I shall be satisfied if I can see – Jesus only.
I do not know Thy plans for years to come
My spirit finds its perfect home sufficiency.
Lord, all my desire is before Thee now
Lead on, no matter where, no matter what – I trust in Thee.