God and the broken hearted

The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.
— J. R. R. Tolkein, The Hobbit

I have to start with adventure. It is in my bones and beats hard in my heart. Most of our adventures have been self-selected - a career change, a graduate school application, a move across the country - but this one is different. This current adventure is a mixed bag of genetics, fate, and the messiness and pain of life on earth. As Tim Keller says,

Human life is fatally fragile and subject to forces beyond our power to manage. Life is tragic.

Our particular journey begins with love and hope, but is interrupted by loss and pain and tears. But even in the darkest days, seeds of hope - though dormant - survived. To quote Tolkien again, “Deep roots are not reached by frost.”

Early in our marriage we dreamed of our future family. How many kids would we have? Boys? Girls? Both? But as time passed and physicians ran tests and tiny heartbeats on the sonogram machine waned and stopped, our pain and hopelessness grew.

Close friends had children, our nieces and nephews grew older, we attended baby shower after baby shower, leaves changed and fell and changed again. Years passed and our hearts broke.

Blessed are the brokenhearted…Matthew 5:4


Our hearts felt cracked and broken and lifeless. But life does not pause for you to recover from hard blows, from loss or pain or diagnoses. Bills must be paid, jobs done, dishes cleaned.

“God will heal your broken heart! Have faith!” echoed the voices of the Well Meaning.

But overtime, our hearts did not heal. At least not in the way most people define healing.

So I read on.

Blessed are the brokenhearted, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4


Didn’t the writer mean to say, “Blessed are the brokenhearted, for God will heal their broken heart and give them everything they want”?

The truth is, when your heart breaks, God doesn’t promise to put it back together again.

But He does promise something better, something truer, something we need even more.

He promises to comfort.

But this translation is misleading and might make you think God promises a nice pair of sweatpants, some ice cream, and a six figure salary.

The Greek word for comfort is parakaleō. The primary meaning of this word is “to call to one’s side.”

The brokenhearted are blessed not because they are healed, but because, mysteriously, they find that God is close to them in their brokenness.

Perhaps closer than was possible before their heart broke. In a mysterious way, Holy Spirit - the paraklete - moves in through the cracks and makes His home.

And it’s not only God that comes close, but friends and family and coworkers and strangers. It is in our pain, our brokenness, that we are finally able (or forced) to remove the facade that so often inhibits real relationship.

And so, today, we are not healed.

Our hearts are still broken.

And we will forever be different because of our loss and pain and unrealized dreams.

And although there are dark days, we find great comfort among the company of the Man of Sorrows.

Who, mysteriously, brings Good News of great joy even in the midst of the Darkness.

And we believe, against all odds, that we find ourselves in the midst of a Great Story - full of adventure, love, risk, loss, and death. And that there is a Final Chapter on the Horizon. And, in that Final Chapter,

Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost. -Tim Keller

James Hennessy