5 Ways Your Heart is Broken

Ask me 20 years ago, “What is a broken heart?” and I would have responded, “It’s when you go through a breakup with someone you are dating.” Maybe I would add in “someone who is visibly crying all the time.” 

The truth is, most brokenness is in plain sight. You just have to stop and lean into those around you. As you hear their stories and experiences, you will soon bump into the broken places of their heart. 

It’s ok. We’ve all got ‘em.   

Ask me the same question today, “What is a broken heart?” and I will say, “Look around. It’s everywhere.”

How do I know this? Because I was one of those who hid my brokenness and kept it under lock and key. I’m also aware because I now spend my life investing in people’s hearts “behind the scenes.” I’ve learned over and again that everyone has layers of brokenness that need patient healing. 

The only difference between the brokenness amongst us are those who spend their life hiding it and those who chose to embrace the beauty of a healing journey with God. The good news is that Father God’s compassion is endless for those who recognize their need for continual healing and maturity. He has an amazing way of addressing our darkest battles, yet in an empowering way that doesn’t leave us feeling shamed. If we could all experience this grace, it would lead us to stop playing games with each other. We could all put our masks down and allow God to move in our midst with His healing love. 

So, as we move forward, it would help to understand what brokenness is and how it occurs. Some of these meanings overlap, but here are five areas to consider: 

1. When someone’s actions hurt You

The healing journey can often begin with a simple question, like, “Who broke your heart?” For most, you can recall a number of painful experiences, where your heart was pierced in significant ways. If you say you have none, then you are probably in denial or haven’t lived long enough yet. 

For many, when I ask that question, a look of bewilderment appears on their face. No one ever asked them that question, so they don’t know how to respond. Others burst into immediate tears, because an unhealed experience quickly rises to the surface. Others give you a blank stare, because they don’t realize their history has broken experiences. 

The truth is, life brings with it painful experiences that can derail our potential and stunt our growth. Yet in God’s eyes, they can become the biggest places for Him to heal us and use us to heal others. That is, if we are open to the healing process. 

The first arena of a broken heart is when someone does something directly to you. Most likely, their unhealed brokenness lashed out at you, as they sought to preserve themselves. It was a physical action or words that were said that deeply wounded your heart. 

Maybe you responded with tears or anger. It’s common that you suppressed that moment out of survival. You didn’t say anything, as you hoped to get away from the experience as soon as possible. Regardless of how you responded, someone’s hurtful actions can leave a place of pain in your heart. 

Pain is often relative–meaning what hurts you deeply may not be as challenging to someone else. But pain is pain, because we are all on a journey at different stages of how we process life. 

I spend a lot of my work helping people to recognize how broken experiences in life can affect them. Not to leave them as victims, but to empower them to face the issues of the heart productively. Many times, we just need permission to address the painful experience of life and give ourselves room to process through it. 

2. When Life Circumstances Crush You 

Life circumstances can take us by surprise and shock us, but they can also erode slowly and gradually wear us down. We are often shocked when life gets challenging, but God never promised that we’d be exempt from hardship. 

Jesus even said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). We often believe the error that God should rescue us from all of life’s troubles. Yet our God never said that He would remove us from trials, tribulations and troubling experiences. But He did promise to remain with us through them all. His heart is to teach us how to overcome circumstances that at times can seem insurmountable. 

But sometimes you just need some validation that what you experienced was tough. Sometimes we pat each other on the back to kindly say, “Sorry you experienced that, but get over it.” We don’t know how to walk with people in their pain and help them navigate through hard times.  

The burden and weight of certain troubles can feel like a thousand pounds crushing your chest. Each one of us has our share of trials that take us on for size. 

As I reflect on my personal highlight reel, I know there are a number of life circumstances that could have easily crushed me into a bitter pile of numbness. 

  • Discovering that my first-born son was on the autism spectrum. 
  • Going through long seasons of financial hardship that never seemed to end. 
  • Having to make major job changes temporarily, to help my family survive financially. 
  • Having untrue rumors spread about me that shut down many ministry doors. 

Take a moment to reflect on what you’ve been through. One of the dominant forces that wants to come in through painful experiences is disappointment. Whether it is losing a job, watching a parent die at a young age or experiencing a major kind of let down, disappointment that is unhealed can lead us into anger and cynicism, but it can also shut down our hearts. 

Most of us were not equipped to handle the disappointments in life. I haven’t met one person who has not had to face circumstantial challenges that at times can take the wind out of their sails. 

Instead of slowing down to process what is happening with God, we can make the mistake of moving on as quickly as possible. That is not always the best response. Sometimes you just need to stop and grieve the pain. In deep disappointment, your relationship with God can become more real than ever. 

3. Life Experiences Quench the Passion

A broken heart can come about through passion and dreams being quenched. 

Many people leap out of the starting blocks with a fire so strong, but over time, that flame gets extinguished. I have watched scores of people with a hot fire for God, who took tremendous steps of faith, to only years later, get taken out. The resistance they faced wore out their passion. 

How many of you in your journey had hopes, dreams and aspirations that never worked out as planned? You had an initial passion, but the lack of results or open doors sucked the life out of your hunger? It’s like turning on a garden hose full blast, but the hose develops a kink in the line. Fairly soon, the water stops flowing. Dreams being quenched is like that small kink in the line. If it is not addressed, it can interfere with the overall flow. 

4. When Your Heart Gets Shattered

The word “broken-hearted,” as referenced in Isaiah 61 has a vivid meaning, “to burst.” It’s like having your emotional and spiritual protection ruptured, leaving your heart broken into pieces. Putting it back together can be incredibly challenging and at times, confusing and overwhelming. 

So, what do we do about this? And where do we go to process this out? Most people feel left alone in the pain of being shattered, so they go to whatever they can to just get by. They often shove the pain down as far as they can and just get back to busy living. Why? Because life keeps moving. The world doesn’t stop because you have a broken heart.  

Many shattered people can still show outward success in business and even ministry. They believe that because they have open doors and great opportunities for achievement, their brokenness is not an issue. So, we end up with a lot of people saying “I’m fine” when deep down, they’re not. But at some point, we will all be confronted with a choice: will we face the pain that shattered our hearts?

5. When You Are Empty 

We live in a sea of emptiness and emotional voids. But do we recognize this is a major sign that your heart is broken? 

Emptiness involves the “woundedness of lack,” meaning your brokenness stems from what you should have been given, but did not. 

  • You should have been loved growing up, but you were neglected.
  • You should have heard your father’s loving words, but didn’t.
  • You should have received nurture from your mother, but didn’t.
  • You should have been equipped to live as an overcoming adult, but weren’t.
  • You were ignored. 

Those areas tear at us, but we often don’t realize it, so the damage takes place silently. The wound of lack can be very difficult to identify, because it involves NOT receiving what you should have. If you live your whole life ignorant to what you should have received, it can be hard to identify what your emptiness is all about. 

Millions of people grow up never getting their heart filled, so that emptiness creates a void–a vortex that attracts broken habits and behaviors. These are null attempts to fill the emptiness. 

Most addicts have empty voids in their hearts. They don’t know how to process love properly, so they only have a dopamine rush as a reference. They are looking to escape pain, but quite often, that pain includes a deep sense of emptiness that doesn’t go away. 

When I teach on the Father’s love, many people become aware of their broken heart, because they realize they should have experienced love, but didn’t. We were all made and designed to be loved and have our hearts filled with a healthy love reference. 

Wherever love has not been solidified in our lives, brokenness resides. 

  • You were born to hear the words I love you.
  • You were born to see love demonstrated.
  • You were born to be equipped as an overcomer. 

God gives us the model of earthly relationships to understand His nature. But so many of our experiences have been tainted. 

We need healing to our broken hearts. 

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