Holy Week Reflections on God’s Broken Heart
Floyd McClung had just finished teaching at a YWAM (Youth With A Mission) school, which involved speaking, personal ministry and personal counseling—18 hour days. Physically and spiritually exhausted, and simply “tired of people,” McClung boarded his plane back to his home in Amsterdam where he encounter the last thing he wanted—a needy, drunk man wanting his attention:
After a few minutes his head came around the corner. “Whatcha reading?” he asked as he peered over my shoulder. “My Bible,” I replied a bit impatiently. Couldn’t he see I wanted to be alone? I settled back in my seat, but a few minutes later the same pair of eyes were again looking over the top of my seat. “What kind of work do you do?” he asked.
Not wanting to get involved in a long conversation, I decided to make my answer brief. “A kind of social work,” I said, hoping he wouldn’t be interested. It bothered me a little that I was verging on not telling the truth, but I dared not tell him I was involved in helping needy people in the inner city of Amsterdam. That would be sure to provoke more questions.
“Mind if I sit by you?” he asked as he stepped over my crossed legs. He seemed to be oblivious to my efforts to avoid talking to him. He turned to face me and he reeked of alcohol. He spat as he spoke, sending a fine spray over my face.
I was deeply irritated by this man’s obnoxiousness. Couldn’t he see I wanted to be alone? All my plans for a quiet morning were destroyed by his insensitivity. “Oh God,” I groaned inwardly, “please help me.” The conversation moved slowly at first. I answered a few questions about our work in Amsterdam, and began to wonder why this man wanted so desperately to talk to someone. As the conversation unfolded it dawned on me that perhaps I was the one who was being insensitive.
“My wife was like you,” he said after a while. “She prayed with our children, sang to them and took them to church. In fact,” he said slowly, his eyes misting over, “she was the only real friend I ever had.”
“Had?” I asked. “Why are you referring to her in that way?”
“She’s gone.” By this time the tears were beginning to trickle down his cheeks. “She died three months ago giving birth to our fifth child. Why?” he gasped, “Why did your caring God take my wife away? She was so good. Why not me? Why her? And now the government says I’m not fit to care for my own children, and they’re gone too!”
I reached out and took his hand and we wept together. How selfish, how insensitive I had been. I had only been thinking of my need for a little rest when someone like this man desperately needed a friend. He filled in the rest of the story for me. After his wife died, a government appointed social worker recommended that the children be cared for by the state. He was so overwhelmed by grief that he couldn’t work, so he also lost his job. In just a few weeks he had lost everything, his wife, his children and his work. It was December so he had decided to leave; he couldn’t bear the thought of being at home alone for Christmas without his wife or children, and he was literally trying to drown his sorrows in alcohol.
He was almost too bitter to be comforted. He had grown up with four different step-fathers and he never knew his real dad. All of them were hard men. When I mentioned God he reacted bitterly. “God?” he said. “I think if there is a God he must be a cruel monster! Why did your loving God do this to me?
As I flew on the airplane with that wounded, hurt man, I was reminded again that many people in our world have no understanding of a loving God – a God who is a loving Father. To speak of a loving God, a God who is a Father, only evokes pain for them. And anger. To speak of the father heart of God to these people, without empathizing with their pain, verges on cruelty. The only way I could be a friend to that man, on the trip from Oslo to Amsterdam, was to be God’s love to him. I didn’t try to give pat answers. There were none. I just let him be angry and then poured some oil on his wounds. He wanted to believe in God, but deep inside his sense of justice had been violated. He needed someone to say that it was okay for him to be angry too. By the time I had listened and cared and wept with him, he was ready to hear me say that God was more hurt than he was by what had happened to his wife and family.
No one had ever told him that God has a broken heart. (8)
From “The Father Heart of God“
What does a broken hearted God imply?
It implies that God is not the victimizer… He’s not the master puppeteer behind this world of evil, but rather that HE HATES EVIL!
His grief reveals that God doesn’t have control over evil, for, if God controlled the evil, why would He grieve Himself?
God’s broken heart attests to his innocence, justice, hate of sin and effort to do everything in His power to stop sin. God is not the one inflicting suffering, He is the ultimate one who sufferers! Recognizing this alone has often staved my heart from losing faith in the goodness of God.
And maybe the cross is the pinnacle of that suffering. A suffering so intense that His body was unable to handle the grief and he died, not from the wounds of the body, but the wounds of the heart (more thoughts on this tomorrow).