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A word to the broken-hearted

“He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted” (Luk.4:18).

Standing in Nazareth’s synagogue on the Sabbath day Jesus spoke the words of our text. He was reading from Isaiah chapter 61:1-2a. He revealed to those present that this scripture was being fulfilled in their hearing, even as they sat listening, and though they acknowledged that his words were gracious, their unbelief prevented them from accepting his claim to being the One who had come to make this prophesy real and personal to each one of them.

What does it mean to have a broken heart?

In full Christ had said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

To whom had the Messiah been sent?

  • The poor

  • The brokenhearted

  • The captives

  • The blind

  • The oppressed

I recognize myself in each one of those five categories of the desperately needy for whom Jesus came, and maybe you do too. But let us focus on the second of the five – the brokenhearted.

Being brokenhearted refers to the state of being totally crushed in spirit and includes a sense of hopelessness and dismay which can generate a destructive momentum that can manifest in any number of catastrophic ways, up to and including suicide. A truly broken heart is the saddest, most desperate place a human being can reach in this life. In truth, only those who have been or are there can begin to comprehend something of the devastation and loss. Nothing rivals it for sheer pain and anguish.

In Psalm 69:20 we read the words of a man who knew something about suffering to the point of collapse. Though David wrote of his own experience, this psalm is infused with messianic application and it is clear that the Spirit was also giving us some small insight into the supreme agony our Lord went through leading up to and culminating in his sacrifice on a cross as our sin-bearer.

The psalmist wrote, "Reproach has broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness; I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.”

Suffering alone

There is an unspeakably profound depth of suffering for the one whose heart is broken and who must endure it alone, for often there are few (if any) who understand, even fewer who care, and none who can stop the screaming, searing pain within. The few words of sympathy which may float by sound hollow and fail miserably to reach anywhere near the source of the torment.

“…by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken” (Pro.15:13).

I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart” (Psa.38:6,8).

This heaviness can be unbearable and one can feel like having been broken, you are now being dismantled, crushed, and blown to the four winds.

I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel” (Psa.31:12).

That which may assail us from without may be endured and even conquered by a strong spirit within. But when the assault breaks the spirit, then we are stopped in our tracks and begin to free-fall into a hopeless, bottomless chasm of isolation, fear and pain - “The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?” (Pro.18:14).

The Healer of broken hearts

Into this unrelenting gloom steps One with a message: “…he has sent me to heal the broken-hearted.” Hallelujah!

Jesus has not just come to sympathize, he has come to heal the broken-hearted. Just when we thought that all hope was gone and that our fate was sealed, we hear the blessed news: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psa.147:3).

Beloved, do you believe it? Are you willing to accept by faith that the Lord himself is awaiting your response? He has come to heal what no one else can? Will you surrender your wounded self in the glorious presence of the One who himself is the balm in Gilead (or wherever you are) and the physician there? Or will you, like those on that Sabbath day in Nazareth, spurn him and say, “Physician, heal yourself?”

One thing is certain: a broken heart will not heal of its own accord. We may be able to help each other patch ourselves up sufficiently to limp on for a while but only Jesus Christ can truly, thoroughly, permanently heal. And his healing is such that we emerge, not repaired, but remade – in his glorious image.

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