Tuesday, 10 October 2017

God of the Heartbroken

"The Spirit of the LORD GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me 

to bring good news to the poor, 
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of prison to those who are bound, 

to proclaim the year of the LORD's favour, 
and the day of vengeance of our God; 
to comfort all who mourn, 
to grant those who mourn in Zion- 
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning, 
the garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair; 
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified." 

Isaiah 61: 1-3

Recently I have been reflecting on the words of this psalm that describe the Spirit as having sent Jesus to “bind up the broken-hearted.”

I am so grateful that the Bible acknowledges being heartbroken as a state of being that is possible for humans; it does not speak glibly about a world that is free from grief and devastation and brokenness. 

Instead, Jesus is sent to “provide comfort to all who mourn; to provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61)

Despair. Mourning. Ashes. Grief. Weeping.

These are words that often describe our life experiences and more broadly the state of the world.

And the Bible acknowledges it.

Jesus is sent to the heartbroken because His Father knows that our world is grief-ridden and that there are those whose spirits cannot be described as anything less than “crushed.”

Scripture does not deny that experience that so many suffer. 

Heartbreak feels in its very nature permanent and irredeemable. Heartbreak is there because hope is not; it feels like a life of ashes and mourning and despair. Heartbreak describes irreparable damage and overwhelming anguish.

I think I’ve felt heartbroken once or twice in my life- and I know that the griefs I have had to endure are nothing compared to some of the agonies other hearts have been blasted by.

And that’s why it is radical that this promise is made- because it’s made acknowledging the reality of heartbreak.

To those who are the most crushed in spirit, to those whose despair is bleakest, whose nights are longest, whose burdens are most unbearable- to them, Jesus is sent to bind.

And either this promise is true for any kind of brokenness or it is no comfort at all. The weight of glory in Isaiah’s words of prophecy comes from the fact that the Messiah is sent to the very ones who have no hope without him!  If there are some hearts that are too broken to be bound up by the King of Heaven’s hands, then what good is there in his being sent?  Are there any corners of darkness that can escape the dawning of his light?

No, Jesus comes as hope to those who are in the depths.  It is those who are walking in darkness who have seen a great light.

Spurgeon once wrote: “There is no brokenness of heart that Jesus cannot bind up.”

Since then I have written it too, about eight thousand times, in the margins of hundreds of notebooks, as I’ve gone to God with my own bruised heart, or asking him to lift the unrelenting sadness of others.

Spurgeon knew what it was to have a heart shattered beneath the weight of grief. He knew what it was to have to hurl himself, in fragments, in to the scarred hands of Jesus and to be comforted- amid the rawness of his pain and the darkness of his night- and in those depths,  Jesus bound him up.

The beauty of Scripture is that it does not present a world where there are no broken hearts. It presents our world: a world that is broken and seems to break in more brutal and devastating ways year on year on year. But this is the world that Jesus was sent in to, and this is the world that Jesus is in the process of making new.

Earlier this year I wrote about Psalm 30 verse 5: “weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

I love it because the psalmist does not deny that our hearts with break, shatter or sink.

But it does promise that Jesus can plumb the depths of our grief, and tenderly, powerfully, creatively- with his own broken hands, bind up our broken hearts. It promises that the Lord who knows our grief can bring comfort, beauty, joy and garments of praise. 

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."
Psalm 34:18 

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
Psalm 147: 3

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Matthew 5:4 
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