There is a line in a contemporary Christian songs that I often hum to myself. I have used the line as a daily prayer for quite a while time and call upon it when I am looking to spend some quiet time to meditate.
The song is “Hosanna,” by Hillsong United. Part of the lyrics:
Heal my heart and make it clean.
Open up my eyes to the things unseen.
Show me how to love like You have loved me.
Break my heart for what breaks Yours,
Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity.
That line: “Break my heart for what breaks Yours.”
It sounds like a wonderful sentiment, doesn’t it? There are so many tragedies in the world, so many difficult things that happen to people all around us. So many heart-breaking things.
It’s easy to feel heartbroken for people we love. A little less so for people not in our lives, in countries with people we never have met, in places we never have been, speaking languages we don’t understand, experiencing things we can’t imagine.
We can imagine God’s heart being broken by anything sad, though. Can’t we?
I have pondered this often, and I’m not always sure. Think about it: God is love, right? God is all goodness, all beauty, all that is perfect and right and wonderful. How could that God ever feel sad or hurt? How could that God weep or mourn? How could that God’s Presence be anything but happy?
How could that God have a broken heart?
I have heard speakers from a school of theological thought that God never can experience any emotion other than perfect love and joy. I have pondered this, prayed on this.
Consider the things that might break your heart. I could give you plenty of suggestions just from things I have experienced or heard in the last few months:
A few people – two of high school age – dying by suicide. My mom undergoing brain surgery, and she and my dad dealing with the difficult aftermath. The daughter of some dear friends having a stillborn son when about four months pregnant. A 30-something woman still struggling to love parents completely who abused her when she was young. A woman who is ready to give up on life and definitely on her faith because of intractable depression.
That’s not even mentioning the families of those people missing in the airplane disappearance, or the people who died in the tragic mudslide in Washington, or the ongoing tragic life circumstances in many African countries and Ukraine and Mexico and …
It never seems to end, does it?
If you have a human heart, then it will be broken simply by caring about people and paying attention. When I heard about the recent stillborn birth of what would have been the first grandson for two of my most-treasured friends, I only could cry and pray God would give them strength to support each other through what always will be remembered as one of the most tragic periods of their lives.
I asked in my heart, “God, do you feel their pain? Will you cry with them?”
And I heard a whisper: “Of course I feel it. Of course I weep with them. I love them, too.”
How can a God who is perfect love and joy feel such sorrow? Perhaps it’s because God has loved with a human heart and not just a Divine Heart. He sent His Son to walk with us, to live among us – and indeed live like us. Jesus Christ was fully human AND fully divine. Roman Catholics believe that, along with most Protestant faiths. Some of the “nuts and bolts” of how God engineered both of those co-existing is a mystery, although we know it to be true based on numerous passages throughout Scripture.
We worship Jesus as God. We adore Jesus as the Son of God.
We find a certain peace, consolation and joy in being able to identify with Jesus as a fellow human. When he cut his knee, he cried. When Joseph died, he mourned. When friends married, he celebrated. When someone told a good joke, he laughed. When a relative grew gravely ill, he was concerned.
That hasn’t changed just because Jesus died, rose and ascended into heaven. He shares in our joys and sorrows. And as he looks upon this damaged world … he feels our pain.
So even though God takes great delight in all the beauty of creation and the praise we give him, he weeps and mourns with us as well. His heart breaks.
And he can teach us about how to endure broken hearts in our own lives. We can pray successfully: “Break my heart for what breaks yours.” That will make us more sensitive, better able to support people in their troubles, help us improve as spouses and parents and siblings and children and friends and …
It will make us more fully human. And that means it will make us more Christ-like.
I like that idea.