The book was small, with a dark clothbound cover. “Read this,” said my friend. I looked at the title: “The Tears of God.” That didn’t seem right. God, who spoke the worlds into existence, who parted the sea with His breath, in whose eyes the nations are but a drop in the bucket, has tears?
I took the book and sat down to read it. It didn’t start out about God. It was about the romance of a young man and a woman. He got the Lord’s direction and approval for the marriage. Things were good and along came a child. Then the husband noticed that his wife was not acting quite as warm and close as at first. She brought a second child into the world, but her husband wondered, “Is it really mine?” After that she was much more distant. And this is when the husband joined the fellowship of the broken heart.
I was sitting in a restaurant with two friends, both of whom were part of this fellowship. They were talking about their heartbreaks. One was telling part of his story. He had been somewhat like the husband in that book. He had sought the Lord. He had served the Lord. He had married in what he believed was the will of the Lord. Then his wife left him. And his heart broke. “Sometimes it hurts to see an intact family,” he confessed. “I know what you mean,” said the other friend. There is instant understanding in this fellowship. It is not that they wish for anyone else to go through what they have suffered. But seeing an example of what they had hoped and prayed for brings a twinge to the already bruised heart. It is a living reminder of their own shattered dreams.
What does God have to do with this? Does He know anything about this kind of suffering? Let’s go back to the story in the dark little book I had read. When his wife became with child a third time, her husband knew it was not his. After that birth, she left. Now it is night. The boys are put to bed. The lonely man goes to a quiet place and kneels. His heart is aching. Where did he go wrong? Did he miss God’s will in the marriage? Could he have done something differently?
Before he can verbalize his thoughts, he hears a strange sound. It is right near him and sounds very much like a drop of water fell. Then he hears it again. And again. There is no rain outside. Everything in the house is dry. Except the drops. Then he hears a Voice. “How can I give thee up, O Ephraim?” And that is when Hosea understands. These are the tears of God.
God wanted Hosea to know the fellowship of the broken heart. Why? So that Hosea would reflect the heart of God when He gave the Word of God to the wayward. And I believe that God wanted everyone in the fellowship of the broken heart to know that He understands their brokenness.
The rest of the book followed Hosea’s search for his wife and God’s search for His people who had forsaken Him. The part about the literal tears is literary license taken by the author. But the book of Hosea shows in a graphic way how God really cares about people who have left Him for sinful ways.
Christians who are part of this fellowship feel their brokenness very keenly. They have prayed, dedicated, taught, worshipped, sacrificed, and given – only to see their efforts apparently evaporate into thin air. Does God understand their heartache?
Another prophet told of a landowner who dedicated part of his land to make a vineyard. He fenced it in, built a tower inside, and planted good vines. He had it well taken care of. He spared no expense. “And he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes” (Isa. 5:2b). He may as well have done nothing. Wild grapes grow on their own.
Jesus came to earth with a mission. When He began His ministry, He said that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him, to “preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk.4:18,19). He came to heal the brokenhearted, but did He know anything about a broken heart? Perhaps the writer of the little book was not so far off when he described the tears of God. Two times that we know of, Jesus wept.
When Jesus came to the tomb of His friend Lazarus, the Bible tells us that Jesus wept. He felt the pain and loss of Mary and Martha. His own friend was dead in the grave. This was not a family that was decimated by divorce or abandonment, but was greatly saddened by death. There is a fellowship of the brokenhearted because of the last great enemy to be conquered. Death comes, sometimes to the young, sometimes to the healthy, often unannounced and unprepared for, but ultimately for everyone. Jesus shared in the pain of the loss of a loved one.
Jesus also longed for His people. And when they did not receive Him, it broke His heart. Not long after His sorrow at Lazarus’ tomb, He came to Jerusalem. “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it” (Lk. 19:41). He was not finished with the fellowship of the brokenhearted. He continued in it all the way to the cross “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isa. 53:4a). How does His cross deal with our broken hearts? The prophet continued. “The chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5b).
The healing of the brokenhearted is at the cross of Jesus. The first healing is for our own sins. When our hearts are broken and contrite, the Lord will not despise us, but will receive us. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive…” But that is not all that we can do at the cross. Once we are forgiven, we have access to God by the blood of Jesus. Because of the cross, we may bring everything to Him, including broken hearts. “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6 NRS) Since He knows what we feel like and has taken it to the cross, we can leave it with Him. The result? “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7 NRS).
How can we keep from allowing our broken hearts to dominate us? “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8 NRS).
Keep thinking God’s way, and God has made a promise. “And the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:9b).
The Lord who prompted Hosea to find his wife and buy her out of slavery to be his very own; the Lord who said “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely,” cares more deeply about the wanderers we love than we do. The fellowship of the brokenheart has a friend in Jesus. The writer of that famous hymn profoundly concluded, “Take it to the Lord in prayer.”