God Is Close to the Brokenhearted

Posted by Jeff Jones, Chase Oaks Lead Pastor, on May 13, 2023

God Is Close to the Brokenhearted

Our community is different today than it was a week ago.

On Saturday, May 6, there was a mass shooting in Allen about 3 miles north of Chase Oaks. Eight innocent people lost their lives and more have been left fighting for their lives in local hospitals. It’s reminded us all how messed up and broken our world is. An event like this is especially disconcerting and causes us to ask a lot of questions because we’re not used to that kind of thing happening here.

We know individual suffering is real. But in North Dallas, we have lived in a kind of bubble, where this kind of large-scale tragedy happens over there.

We know suffering around the world is real. Our church does ministry in places like Ukraine and Ethiopia, where war and famine have turned life upside down for countless people. We pray, we care, and we do what we can to help as global citizens.

And we know suffering in our own country is real. We’ve responded to mass shootings with prayer, care, and compassion. But these things have always been over there…until last Saturday. That happened here, in our back yard.

Some of you have been directly affected. Some of you know people who have been directly affected.

Our kids are asking us questions about what’s going on, and if it’s safe. We have to walk them through that. As adults, we’re also trying to make sense of it: "What’s going on in our world? Why does this stuff happen? Where’s God?" Those are great questions to ask.
We don’t even have to wait for a mass tragedy or natural disaster to begin to wonder about those things. In our own individual lives, we can all (if we’ve lived long enough) look back to times of hardship or tragedy that cause us to ask “God, why?”

Many of you know that when my wife was 14, her mom died from complications after childbirth. Medically, it should not have happened—but it did, leaving a 14-year-old girl to ask “why?” Many of you also know that two years ago, my brother was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, one that never spreads to the brain. But for him, it did. He went into a coma and never came out, and then he was gone. I miss him every day. Again, why?

One thing I can’t do is tell you why everything happens that happens, because I don’t know that. But what I can do is share perspective from God’s word to help us grapple with this kind of tragedy.

The biblical perspective on why these things happen is really the big story of the Bible itself—one that we’re living in the middle of, right now.

The story begins in the book of Genesis, which tells us God created the world and made it perfect. No pain, no violence, no tragedy, no death, no destruction, no disease. That’s what we’re created for. Why isn’t our world like that? Because mankind chose sin. Our world went from perfect to imperfect and broken—a world that we as humans broke.

Paul talks about that in his letter to the Romans:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:18-25)


Paul is pointing us to hope, to a day when this stuff won’t happen anymore because Jesus will return and fix our broken world. We’re waiting for what’s to come. But for now, we live in a place where senseless, horrible things happen. We struggle to know what to do with tragedy because we weren’t made for a world where tragedies and suffering happen.

The truth is, God warned us what would happen if we chose to sin and rebel against him…and we did it anyway. But in his grace and love, he chose to intervene with a plan of restoration, which meant sending Jesus, the son of God, to become human, to live among us, to suffer with us, and eventually to give his life for us on the cross. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin so that the guilt of our sin could be removed, and we could be reconciled to God. And he also began to restore and redeem this broken world. He's doing that right now, through us, his church. One day, that plan will be complete, and the world won’t be broken anymore.

The book of Revelation looks forward to that day:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
No longer will there be any curse. (Revelation 22:3)


A great question to ask God next is, “Well then, why don’t you do it now?” Or “What are you waiting for? How many of these tragedies do we have to go through?”

God talks about that in 2 Peter:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
(2 Peter 3:9)

When Jesus does return, he will do so not only in restoration but also in judgment. And those who don’t know Jesus will face judgment holding onto the guilt of their sins. He doesn’t want that; he’s waiting for people to come to know him. He could be waiting for you, and that’s a choice that you have. But he won’t wait forever.

In the meantime, between now and when Jesus returns, here’s what we need to remember when we experience hardship, tragedy, and grief:

1. God chooses to move close to the brokenhearted.

Psalm 34:18 says,

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Sometimes, we don’t know what to do when we see someone suffering. We may back off—but God doesn’t. He moves toward us because he is compassionate. We can shove him away, but he is close to the brokenhearted and he wants to be close to you.

2. Jesus knows what it’s like to suffer, hurt, and grieve.

I’m reminded of a time in Jesus’ life where two of his close friends, Mary and Martha, had lost their brother. His response is captured in the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35). This verse tells us that Jesus shed tears and grieved, and he invites us to do that too. Even as we have hope in the way this bigger story will end, it’s appropriate to grieve. And he will meet us in our grief. He doesn’t just give us understanding; he also weeps with those who weep.

3. Jesus gives us comfort.

The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus didn’t just come to die on the cross for our sins. He came and suffered, just like you and I. And here’s why he chose to do that:

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Jesus experienced the same kind of things we do—grief, fear, trials, trauma—so that when we go through them, we can come to him and find understanding and comfort. We may not have answers for everything, but we have the strengthening presence of God.

4. God brings purpose out of pain.

Again in Romans 8, we’re told, "…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

That’s a powerful promise, that he will work all things out for good. But it’s one that can be so misunderstood and misused. We have to be careful to not confuse the reason why something happens with the outcome.

God doesn’t cause bad things to happen. We live in a fallen world, and we’re not shielded from the fallenness just because we’re his.
Jesus told us that would be the case, saying “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) He also reminded us that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

God does promise a redemptive outcome, to use our suffering for our growth and good, and to impact others. Eventually, looking back, we can see how God redeems and restores us and gives us hope. But it’s different than him causing our pain to achieve that outcome. We want to be wise and loving in what we say to others who are suffering, and when we say it.

5. God invites us to pray in a way that changes things.

In a time like this, we’re all asking what we can do to help. In our culture, it’s easy to see prayer as a nice sentiment, as though saying “I’ll pray” is like wishing someone “good luck.” The reality is that prayer is the most powerful thing we can do. Prayer moves the action and compassion of God in a powerful way.

James says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16) If you want to do something to bring genuine change in our culture, the most important thing is to ask God to act as only he can, by praying. Our prayers change lives and change the world.

6. God helps us to help each other.

Paul explains,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

As God comforts and ministers to us, let’s be ready to be there for one another. Given the brokenness all around us, it’s hard to imagine living without God and without a hope bigger than the tragedy and suffering that happens.

God has placed each of us wherever we are—at work, and school, in our families and neighborhoods—among people who don’t know how the story that we find ourselves in the middle of is going to end. They don’t know that we aren’t alone in all of the crazy stuff that keeps happening. Let’s be intentional and ready to ask, “How can I pray? How can I encourage and be helpful to other people?” as we receive comfort and perspective from the strengthening presence of God.

Looking for more help? Please visit our Care page for free resources, including info about processing with a counselor or in a group.


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