Psalm 34: Brokenness

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Whoever of you loves life
    and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are attentive to their cry;
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
    to blot out their name from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked;
    the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord will rescue his servants;
    no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

– Psalm 34

This is a long Psalm and, as these are meant to be devotional readings rather than commentaries, I’ll make no apologies for focussing on just one single verse. Verse 18 is one of my favourite verses in the whole of the Psalms, ‘The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’

I’m also not going to make any apologies for a lengthy quotation from songwriter Matt Searles whose recent album Tumbling Sky is subtitled ‘Psalms for Weary Souls’ (mattsearles.bandcamp.com).

Searles comments: ‘In a society uncomfortable with brokenness and suffering, and in a church culture where struggles and doubts may not always seem welcome, the Psalms are a precious gift, as God gives us words to pray to him in all seasons of life.

‘The Psalms teach us authentic spirituality – that brokenness is not a sign of spiritual failure, that sadness is not a denial of the gospel, that tears are not incompatible with the hope of resurrection we have in Christ.

‘Jesus doesn’t say “Come to me you who are happy, come to me you who have everything sorted out, come to me you who have all your questions answered.” Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”’

We are broken people – some more obviously than others – and, having inherited a broken world, we have added to that brokenness through our own actions. God is not indifferent to that but his purpose has always been to fix things up, calling Abram, calling his people Israel and then coming himself in the flesh to be with broken people and to fix the world for good. We are part of that now. Jesus has changed the world for good but we still await his kingdom to come in all its fullness and until that time we cannot fully escape the experience of brokenness.

What do we do with our brokenness? We take it to the one who ‘saves those who are crushed in spirit,’ as Julie Miller puts it:

You can have my heart, though it isn’t new. It’s been used and broken, and only comes in blue. It’s been down a long road, and it got dirty along the way, if I give it to you, will you make it clean and wash the shame away?

So beyond repair, nothing I could do I tried to fix it myself but it was only worse when I got through. Then you walk right into my darkness and you speak words so sweet and you hold me like a child till my frozen tears fall at your feet.

You can have my heart, if you don’t mind broken things.  You can have my life if you don’t mind these tears. Well, I heard that you make old things new, so I give these pieces up to you.  If you want it, you can have my heart.

– (Broken Things, from the album, ‘Broken Things’)