When I cry out my broken heart to God, I realize that He is listening to far worse situations, yet still giving full attention to what is happening to me. Even the evening news does not contain the atrocities that men commit against one other every day. Many question whether God can be good when He permits so much suffering in the world. I cannot fathom the cries that reach God’s ears from our planet in one hour. If we only knew a fraction of the evil in the world, I’m sure we would go insane. How does God survive His broken heart for all the ways we sin and hurt each other and live so far from who He created us to be?
At Easter, we get to see God’s broken heart in person. No one describes it better than Max Lucado in “The Upper Room Disciplines 2010”:
It is a stark scene. Jesus praying in Gethsemane, saying, “My heart is ready to break with grief. …” Does this look like the picture of a saintly Jesus resting in the palm of God? Hardly. We see an agonizing, straining, and struggling Jesus. We see a “man of sorrows.” We see a man struggling with fear, wrestling with commitments, and yearning for relief.
We see Jesus in the fog of a broken heart.
My, what a portrait! Jesus is in pain. Jesus is on the stage of fear. Jesus is cloaked, not in sainthood, but in humanity. The next time the fog finds you, remember Jesus in the garden. The next time you think no one understands, reread the fourteenth chapter of Mark. The next time your self-pity convinces you that no one cares, pay a visit to Gethsemane. And the next time you wonder if God really perceives the pain that prevails on this dusty planet, listen to the pleading among the twisted trees.
Seeing God like this does wonders for our own suffering. God was never more human than at this hour. God was never nearer to us than when God hurt. The incarnation was never so fulfilled as in the garden. Jesus, may I watch with you in your pain and so come to understand that you watch me in mine.
If we think our hearts get broken by the realities of this fallen world, can you imagine how the huge reality of knowing the heartbreaking realities in this fallen world breaks God’s heart? There are two previous broken-hearted scenes recorded about Jesus. In John 11:33, we know that Jesus wept about the burden that death of a loved one brings to the hearts of people left behind. He also wept over Jerusalem—His chosen people who would not accept God’s longing to love them so intimately. (Matthew 23:37: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”) When people accuse God of being unable to be good if He permits all the suffering, they do not take into account that God has a good reason for allowing the evil to play out for a time. The evil must be good even though they cannot see it. He is so good that even though the suffering pains Him more than us, He is willing to endure.
Hebrews 12:2 tells us: “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” This verse helps us recognize that the truth beyond the present suffering can bring us strength and comfort to endure our broken hearts. Whatever breaks your heart also breaks God’s heart and so much more.