22A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.Proverbs 17:22
17The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.Psalm 51:17
As these scriptures point out, there are two kinds of broken spirits. One is helpful; one is not.
In the first scripture, the broken spirit points to losing the drive, energy, desire to continue the task of living often as the result of an influence outside of ourselves. There are many reasons our spirit might be broken but the word that comes to mind is LOSS. Loss has the power to break, or crush, our spirits. The psalmist has this to say about the Lord’s response to this type of broken spirit:
18The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.Psalm 34:18
The second scripture speaks to a different kind of broken spirit. It is the kind of brokenness that is necessary for healing to begin and originates from within ourselves.
Psalm 51 is David’s response to the sin he committed with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of Uriah. Written later, perhaps even a year later, it is filled with strong words of anguish as David wrestled with the intense emotional consequences his sin brought into his life.
Sin is not something we talk a lot about. We talk about God’s grace, mercy and love. We talk about Jesus yearning for our hearts. And all of that is true. But without acknowledging our sin, we will never truly know intimacy with God as he intended through Jesus death on the cross.
Jesus going the distance, crossing from heaven to earth, confining himself to a human body with all its frailty, dying a painful death on the cross so that God declares my debt paid –that’s a big deal. And I fear I take it too lightly. I, somehow, have the idea that God needs me. Then I read Acts 17:25 where it says, “and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs.”
The truth is, I need him. I need him to rescue me from myself and my wayward thinking. I need him to keep me out of the ditch of despair. I need him to open my eyes to the wonder of creation, to teach me how to celebrate life, to show me how to live a life of worship. I need him to show me the way to live fully alive. He doesn’t need me.
Years ago, my husband took a job where he did a significant amount of travel. Obviously, I had to take more initiative with our home and children when he was gone. After a few months, I said to my friend, “I find that I don’t really need Dave. I can do the work around home; the kids and I developed a new routine. I don’t feel like I need him like I did before.” She wisely replied, “Okay. So maybe you don’t need him to be there, but what if you just want him to be there.” That one little word made all the difference to me.
God doesn’t need us. He wants us. He wants us so much that he sent Jesus to do the really hard job of saying no to Satan and his schemes so that we can ultimately say yes to God’s invitation to relationship. Unfortunately, Satan doesn’t give up easily. Even though he is a defeated foe, he continues to make every attempt to draw us away into self-centered, autonomous living. In short, he entices us to sin. And many times, we do it.
Sin separates me from God. Jesus brings me close to God again, but a broken spirit – a repentant heart – is a prerequisite to coming into God’s presence.
The problem lies in my hesitancy to admit I sinned; I don’t want to admit I sinned. Have I lost sight of the importance of repentance and confession? Is it not acceptable to admit I missed the mark? Is making excuses for my behavior more acceptable? Is there no Truth, no right or wrong?
These are the thoughts I wrestle with these days. Where it will take me, I do not know, but I invite you to tag along and make the discovery with me.