“The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
What does it mean to be “brokenhearted.”
It probably means whatever someone who has one says it means. Just as “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” so being brokenhearted is defined by the one who has one. A breakup between a husband and wife can leave one or both brokenhearted. Any perceived loss can leave someone brokenhearted to the perceived depth of that loss. So, people tend to define this on the basis of their personal experience of loss.
Maybe there is a slightly deeper meaning. In the Bible, the word “heart” very often translates the word that actually means “will.’ It refers to the place where a person makes his decisions and determines actions. Someone today may say, “I just didn’t have the heart to do that.” By that they actually mean they did not have the will and its underlying emotional content to take a particular action.
Thus, to be “broken hearted” actually means that the will is broken. It isn’t working. It isn’t operational. Someone loses the will to go on. That usually occurs when someone reaches a point where things appear hopeless.
A parallel to this is in the latter half of the verse above: “crushed in spirit.” The word “spirit” in Hebrew is “ruach” and in Greek “pneuma.” They both mean the same thing: wind. The spirit was thought of and described by the word “wind.” Sailors who sail purely by the wind understand this. When you’re out on the water using only the wind, and the wind dies down to nothing, the water is smooth as glass, and the sails just hang there. There is nothing that can be done. The boat just drifts. “Crushed in spirit” means to have the wind taken out of the sails. Dead in the water, so to speak.
In this light, have you ever felt brokenhearted or crushed in spirit in this manner? You may want to remember the next verse, “Many adversities come to the one who is righteous, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” (Psalm 34:19) The Lord can mend hearts that are broken, and provide “wind” for those crushed in spirit. He can do that because He is near. In fact, He resides within us now through His Spirit.
Lord, Help us to rest in You today and trust You to lead us forward. Amen.