Have you ever found yourself in the beautifully awkward predicament of having an encounter with the Lord in a very public place? You know, when your sniffling isn’t cute anymore, and you’re probably distracting the family behind you, and your running mascara (by now, I should know better than to purchase anything other than water-proof mascara) has successfully ruined both your makeup and the sleeves of your shirt?
This was the predicament I found myself in that Sunday morning…and it wasn’t the first time. Although tempted to be a little frustrated by my properly functioning tear ducts, I was reminded that my tears were the natural response to an answered prayer. And my prayer went something like this.
“Lord, break my heart.”
I walked into Sunday’s service unaware of the scripture we would be diving into, but as the time of confession during worship approached, I began to feel the weight of my sin, leading me to pray.
“Lord, break my heart.”
I realized how quickly my receptive heart had turned from willing obedience to selfish contentment the past week. I knew how I was supposed to respond in certain situations, how I should have treated other people, and how I was needing to be spending my time, but I simply became uninterested. I constructed idols out of my desires and offered them my thoughts and devotion. With every nudging from God, convicting and encouraging my heart to respond to His call, I turned my head. While at first I recognized the sting of refusing God to pursue my own selfish ambitions, with every turn away the sting reduced until it was barely there.
My heart became nearly numb to God’s nudges.
However, I believe God had faithfully answered my prayer before I even uttered a word that Sunday morning, placing a mere crack in my heart just to recapture my attention. I began to desire that crack to give way to the complete shattering of the stone inside my chest, longing to feel His pull and hear His call once again in my life.
“Lord, break my heart.”
That Sunday’s sermon was on Psalm 51, a Psalm of contrition.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart You, God, will not despise.” (vs.1-2, 17)
As the words were spoken aloud, I knew God, in His perfect sovereignty and timing, had orchestrated that moment for me to humble myself in repentance. That He would gently and lovingly lead me to the place where my heart would be utterly broken over my own sin.
It is God’s means of grace that He would break our heart over sin. And I believe David truly recognized the beauty of this truth. For it is the pain of a broken heart brought forth in repentance that reaps the joy of forgiveness.
It is the work of the enemy when God’s children believe in the lie that they are required to be shackled and enslaved by that brokenness, that they cannot be mended, and that they cannot have their joy and freedom restored to them. True remorse over sin is the evidence of God’s handiwork in our hearts, but that remorse is a means to an end. And that end is forgiveness. Forgiveness that reaps praises of joy, freedom, and peace.
On David’s heart was sealed the truth of this forgiveness, which spills over into the Psalm.
“Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice” (vs.8)
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (vs.10)
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (vs.12)
“Open my lips and my mouth will declare Your praise.” (vs.15)
David came before the Lord completely broken. His heart torn. His spirit downcast. But His prayer reveals the hopeful expectation of God’s forgiveness and all that it entails.
God longs for our broken prayers and crushed spirits, for it is in that woundedness that we encounter the goodness of His mercy. His forgiveness and grace that He lavishes upon us when we come to Him in humble repentance is like a cool spring to our desert souls.
The sin that breaks our heart is blotted out. Washed away. Forgotten.
In it’s place God creates a pure heart. He restores to us the joy that comes from Him alone. He renews a steadfast spirit in us. Our lips that once spoke of our shame now declare His praises.
And He does this for us time and time again.
By His grace alone may we pursue righteousness relentlessly and find the courage to allow our hearts to be broken over our own sin.
For when God tenderly breaks our heart, He is desiring to restore it.