The eyes of God are on the righteous,
and his ears towards their cry.
The Lord sets his face against wrongdoers,
to root out their memory from the earth.
The righteous cry; the Lord hears it
and frees them from all their afflictions.
The Lord is close to those who are broken-hearted
and the crushed in spirit he saves.
The trials of the righteous are many,
but our God delivers him from them all.
He guards all his bones
so that not one is broken.
Evil will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be destroyed.
The Lord ransoms the lives of his servants,
and none who hide in him will be destroyed.
“The Lord is close to those who are broken-hearted” Psalm 34:18
I have a friend who was going through a painful divorce tell me, “It is like a death–except with death at least people bring you food, and there is the added benefit of not having to run into them.” As you can tell, humor carried her through a lot of the difficult days, humor and our Lord, O.L. for short.
When we are broken-hearted we may feel that God is far away. C.S. Lewis wrote the following about the devastating loss of his wife in his memoir, A Grief Observed:
“But to go to God when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”
Lewis’ pain is raw; he feels alone and abandoned by God. Lewis’ publishers made him print the book under a pseudonym when it first came out for they feared that all of his devoted Christian readers would think he had lost his faith. Lewis agreed to do that for the first printing, but then he demanded that they put his name his name on the book. Because Lewis knew that faithful Christians who experience grief know this feeling, this feeling of “where is God?”, Lewis wanted them to know they were not alone in their feelings.
Grief can leave us feeling abandoned by God. And yet the psalmist assures us that the Lord is close to the broken-hearted. Maybe we just don’t know it at the time we are experiencing it, maybe it is only in hindsight that His presence is seen.
This is what I have found to be true. If I ask people to look back on their lives and tell me when they experienced the reality of God, they almost always tell me about a period of suffering and loss. If I ask people, “When did you grow spiritually in your life?” “What event really changed your relationship with our Lord?” people never say, “It was during the most joyful time of my life.” Instead, they say, “It was during the hardest time of my life.” And then they proceed to share their story.
We may feel that our Lord is far away when we are broken-hearted, but I prefer to think that our pain for the moment doesn’t allow us to sense our Lord’s presence. For those who are hurting today, I pray that you will know that the Lord is near and be comforted in your distress.
“Alleluia! Not as orphans are we left in sorrow now.
Alleluia! He is near us; faith believes, nor questions how.
Though the cloud from sight received Him when the forty days were o’er,
shall our hearts forget his promise, ‘I am with you evermore’ ?” (W. Chatterton Dix)
Lord, let us never forget your promise–that you are always with us, even when we feel orphaned and alone. You are near to the broken-hearted and the crushed in spirit are saved. Thanks be to God. Amen.
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