Last weekend I was getting out china to set the table for company. In the process I dropped a glass platter. Of course, it broke in a zillion pieces. The tiny shards went all over the dining room floor. Shattered. I didn’t mean to drop it, but it still happened. Shattered. Ruined. No repair possible.
Our lives can be like that. Words get said. We experience events or circumstances that we cannot forget. We say words we wish we could take back. We do things we deeply regret. Some are easy to forgive, whether we forgive other people or ourselves. But some are not easy to forgive at all. Nor can we forget them. They shatter us inside. We are broken.
“Broken” is not an attractive, inviting word. We in the West are particularly averse to the word. Regardless of what happens in our lives, we resist hearing we are “broken.” We are self-sufficient, independent and proud of our ability to fix things. But we struggle to fix these hurts. We cannot our shattered hearts back together again. (photo from pexels.com)
Why does it mean that we are broken?
Merriam-Webster Online defines “broken”, in part, as “damaged or altered as if by breaking, not working properly.” Who wants to be labeled “broken?” Who wants to be viewed as damaged goods? None of us do!
So why do I blog so extensively about being broken? When our hearts are broken, we find it very difficult to trust. Relationships with people and with God are negatively impacted; we cannot give or receive love well and we isolate ourselves. Depression that lasts beyond sorrow consumes our mental and emotional capacity (our soul capacity). Focus and productivity are impacted. We turn to addictive behaviors and substances in order to numb the emotional pain. We have little hope and no drive to get out of bed. And the thinking patterns and behaviors are passed on to the next generations.
We were made for relationship and love, to be wanted, needed and valued. We were made for purpose. I blog so extensively about being broken because God wants to restore both our relationship Him and His purpose uniquely designed for each of us.
Bible meanings for “broken”
I found 25 different Hebrew words in the Old Testament that are translated “broken.” Meanings vary somewhat but include “frustrated, shatter, break down the structure so it can’t hold its own weight, draw away, strike down, dismay, render helpless, wander as lost and reduced to disorder, feeling of depression or discouragement, loss of hope, crushed so the vitality and drive or spirit is gone, oppressed, broken by a grieved heart.”
Do any of those resonate? Come on, Boggess! Find a new topic or a better word!
I want to share some of the Hebrew passages and definitions with you because they identify both our need and God’s answer.
For example, “shābar” means phrases such as “break, burst, break in pieces, shatter.” It also means “bring to birth.” So how is it used?
Scorn, disgrace, and shame break our hearts. Break in pieces. Shatter. They leave us distressingly sick, weighed down so we can’t function as we should. Helpless in a way. Perhaps those are better ways to express our brokenness.
20 Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none. Psalm 69:20 (NIV)
The Psalmist uses two different words. One is shābar or broken. The other is “dakahʾ,” meaning “crushed, literally powder, beat to pieces.” It comes from a word that includes definitions such as “bruised.” A bruise comes from something or someone more powerful than we are and takes time to heal.
God responds to our brokenness
How does God respond to our broken heart when we are crushed with sorrow for sin, failures and weaknesses? He comes close. He doesn’t run off, holding us in contempt. He doesn’t despise us. Think about the power of such unconditional love; He doesn’t hold His nose at what we’ve become.
18 The Lord is close to those who are of a broken heart and saves such as are crushed with sorrow for sin and are humbly and thoroughly penitent. Psalm 34:18 (AMP) 17 My sacrifice [the sacrifice acceptable] to God is a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart [broken down with sorrow for sin and humbly and thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:17 (AMP)
God heals our brokenness
God does more. He thoroughly repairs us, makes us whole and usable again. And He binds every wound. It’s a picture of putting a compress on a hemorrhaging wound so one doesn’t bleed to death. The compress may have to be held in place a while until the wound can be stitched thoroughly and healed.
3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3 (NIV)
Jesus also came to heal our brokenness
Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted, and quoted Isaiah 61 when He announced His ministry purpose in the Temple.
He came to bind and heal the broken hearted. This is not referring to sin that must be atoned for, but our souls or hearts, minds, emotions and wills. They are shattered, burst in pieces. Jonah 1:4 uses the word to describe a ship about to be broken by a violent storm. This broken is no mild word. Life can make us feel like a ship tossed and battered in a violent tempest until we break.
1 THE SPIRIT of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound, Isaiah 61:1 (AMP)
What if help and healing you sought were not help and healing
Perhaps you have sought help from a counselor or a church and did not receive help. You may have even been wounded further. I am sorry. I especially apologize to you if it was a church. I assure you that does not reflect God’s heart for you.
God refers to such people as false shepherds, and has scathing words for them. He assured Israel He would hold accountable all such shepherds or leaders. And He assured Israel He would rescue those who languish under such leaders. God will hold accountable counselors, pastors, priests, and others who do not approach hurting, wounded people with the heart of God. That is sobering.
God Himself will look for and after the hurting and wounded, rescue them and care for them. The words are meaningful in a world where shepherding sheep is a common practice.
10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them. 11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. Ezekiel 34:10-16 (NIV)
Shābar (broken) has a double meaning in the Bible
The word has a very destructive and negative tone, but can also be an extremely positive word.
I love this verse. God does not bring people to the very lip of a purposeful and restored life, then shut the womb and fail to deliver the baby. There are no miscarriages and still births when God is at work in broken hearts.
9 “Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?” says your God. Isaiah 66:9 (NASB)
Does it seem odd to you that the word could have meanings that are such polar opposites? I see it as a reflection of the strength of the love and grace in God’s heart, of His ability to redeem us or rescue us from our losses and improve our opportunities (the meaning of redeem in the New Testament). Joseph suffered much but understood what God could do. named his second son accordingly: 52 The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” Genesis 41:52 (NIV)
I know how hard it is to trust that God would love and heal you. It took me nearly 30 years to try. But I could not continue like I was, broken inside. I could not put my glass platter back together. It was ruined beyond repair. Perhaps you have felt like your life or parts of it were like my shattered glass platter. I invite you to consider God’s offer. He truly comes to heal broken hearts and bind wounds. I know. He has done so much healing in my broken heart and with such love. He wants to offer you the same healing with unconditional love.
Carol Boggess, author and speaker
Rivers – A Journey of Restoration From Broken to Breakthrough and God Sees Broken Hearts