The God Of The Broken Heart

“But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.”

John 19:34

I have had numerous conversations over the last few weeks with individuals who have lost a spouse and each claimed to be suffering from a broken heart. A broken heart is not an imagined experience as some might think. As someone who lives every day with a broken heart due to coronary heart disease I know first hand what a broken heart feels like. Also, as someone who has lost a loved one, I know all too well the physical pain that is caused by emotional trauma. I have EKG’s to prove it. Thats why I read with interest studies that discuss Jesus death upon the Cross. I appreciate all sides of the argument as some will say Jesus couldn’t have died of a broken heart due to the fact that scripture required his death to be by the shedding of blood, as if somehow a ruptured pericardium couldn’t be the cause of death.

Let’s be perfectly clear. There is no question that Jesus Christ died an excruciating death upon Calvary’s Cross after being severely beaten, flogged with a cat of nine tails made with metal and bone which literally tore away the skin from his body. After having a crown of thorns thrust down into his head he was crucified in both hands and feet. The fact of the matter is Jesus bled for the sins of mankind and yet scripture tells us none of those things killed him. Actually scripture says no one took Jesus life from Him but rather He laid His life down so He could take it up again. From the Cross Jesus uttered these words, “Father into Thy hands I commit my spirit.” “And Jesus breathed his last.”

When the soldiers pierced Jesus side with a spear scripture tells us that blood and water came out of his side. Medical science tells us what that means in layman’s terms is Jesus heart burst within Him. In other words Jesus ultimately died of a broken heart. Would any other death even be capable of killing God Himself? Remember, after all, God doesn’t just love, God is love! The only way to kill love then is to break His heart.

I read an article this week titled, “Jesus Died Of A Broken Heart” which provided some psychological, biblical and historical evidence to show that Jesus died from what is known as, “broken heart syndrome” (technically a psychosomatic phenomena called “stress-induced cardiomyopathy“). Psychological studies concluded that many older couples that have been married for many years suffer intense grief when their spouse suddenly dies.  Some times the husband and wife are so close that when the one dies, the other will end up dying soon after because of pain of being separated from their loved one. (It wasn’t just something that happens in “Where The Red Fern Grows”).

Numerous studies have been done on the psychosomatic effects of rejection and separation. Dr. James Lynch wrote a book called, The Broken Heart, noting that, “stress, pain, anxiety, fear and rage sometimes appear in indexes of textbooks on the heart but never love.  In surprising number of cases of premature coronary heart disease and premature death, interpersonal unhappiness, the lack of love and human loneliness, seem to appear as root causes of the physical problems.” Dr. Lynch went on to say, “We have learned that human beings have varied and at times profound effects on the cardiac systems of other human beings.  Loneliness and grief often overwhelm bereaved individuals and the toll taken on the heart can be clearly seen.  As the mortality statistics indicate this is not myth or romantic fairy tale.  All available evidence suggests that people do indeed die of broken hearts”

There is overwhelming evidence between heart disease and emotional stress. Dr. George Ingle from Rochester University Medical School, did a very careful study for six years that explored the backgrounds of 170 sudden heart attack deaths.  His studies showed that a great majority of sudden death cases had a close personal loss precede their death making the point that, “grief is proportional to intimacy.” The more you love somebody, the more you are hurt when that person dies or rejects you.  The question they were seeking an answer for was, “Can you be so close to somebody that their rejection can literally break your heart?” Let me just say as a pastor who’s been rejected by my fair share of people, (admittedly often times due to my own failures), and yet its the ones where I sought to care the best I knew how that have broken my heart over the years.

My comfort is often times found in Hebrews 4:15, which states, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus Himself suffered a great amount of rejection and grief. Don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself. Isaiah 53:3 tells us, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hid their face, he was despised, and we did not esteem Him”. The entire chapter of Isaiah 53 describes Jesus’ grief. Read just a few verses that make it clear, “A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”; “surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows he carried”; “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief”; and “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied”.

In Matthew 21:42 in the New Testament we read, “Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone (the stone refers to Jesus) which the builders (teachers of Israel) rejected, this became the chief corner stone;” In the next chapter of Matthew we read, “But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance.’ And they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him” (Matthew 22:38-39).You can almost feel the pain in Jesus words in Matthew 23:37 when he weeping says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” Luke 17:25 paints a very clear picture when he writes, “But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation”. John 15:25 just says it bluntly, “They hated Me without cause”.

There are many many more passages of scripture that deal with the rejection of Jesus and the ultimate pain that it brought to His life. Though Jesus was 100% God, let’s not forget that He was 100% man too. Jesus suffered overwhelming grief when He walked this earth. Since love suffers long it’s safe to say Jesus suffered more than anyone before or after Him ever has. Thats why we can find comfort in the God who feels what we feel and who understands from personal experience just what a broken heart feels like. For me, the overwhelming proof of Jesus understanding of our broken hearts is when He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and he actually sweat blood drops due to the stress He was under. Do you think all this stress, the stress of the whole world which overwhelmingly rejected His love could have a negative impact upon His heart?

In Matthew chapter 26 verses 37-38, Matthew writes,“And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed.  Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.’” Luke, being a physician adds something in his account, (Luke 22:44) “And being in agony he was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” Medical science tells us this phenomenon is known as “Hematidrosis”, or “bloody sweat”, Under tremendous emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands in the face can break, causing the mixing of blood with sweat”. All these are just contributing factors of a broken heart.

Maybe this might put it into perspective for you. “Jesus was only in his early to middle thirties and was most likely a strong man since He was a carpenter and walked most everywhere He went and yet we read in John’s gospel (John 19:34) that, “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water.” C. Truman Davis writes concerning the medical significance of the blood and water, “We, therefore, have rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that Our Lord died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure…”  Heart failure you could say began to develop in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was sweating blood, then the stress continued to build when He was rejected by many of His disciples and was fully realized when His people nailed Him to a cross.”

Are you suffering from a broken heart today? Remember, love suffers long, but not forever! That’s the good news of the Gospel today. One day every tear will be wiped away and there will be no more death or dying but until then, to know a broken heart because of deep love or from bitter betrayal is the Medal of Honor for loving deep. Maybe even more important, a broken heart allows us to identify with Christ and an opportunity to know Him in a way we otherwise could not know Him. Don’t bury the pain, feel it, embrace it and allow it to shape you and bring you closer to Jesus not further away. No one understands your hurt and pain more than Jesus. People might be able to share with you truth but Jesus is the truth and just what our hearts need. Jesus, He’s the only one who can mend the broken heart. Open yours to Him.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Psalm 147:3


Michael Osthimer





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