I once thought I knew what a broken heart was. I thought I had experienced much brokenness— until the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to a deeper meaning of the word.
David said, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
Brokenness is more than weeping, more than sorrow, more than a crushed spirit, more than humility. Indeed, many who weep are not brokenhearted. Many who lie before God and groan are not broken in spirit. True brokenness releases in the heart the greatest power God can entrust to man—greater than power to raise the dead, greater than power over sickness and disease!
The Spirit said to my heart, “I will show you what God sees as brokenheartedness so that I can release in you the kind of power needed in a time of ruin.” This brokenness results in a power to restore ruins—a power that brings a special kind of glory and honor to our Lord in troubled times!
Brokenness has to do with walls: broken down, crumbling, ruined walls. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart. . . . Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem” (Psalm 51:17-18). God associated the walls of Jerusalem with brokenheartedness.
Let me show you an example of a truly brokenhearted man: “And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast I rode upon. . . . Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned” (Nehemiah 2:12, 15).
In the dark of night Nehemiah “viewed the wall.” The Hebrew word shabar is used here—the same word used in Psalm 51:17 for “broken heart.”
Some would think Nehemiah became broken when he “sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4). Yet his weeping and confessing was only the beginning of the breaking. Nehemiah's heart was not fully broken until he came to Jerusalem, saw the ruin—and set himself to do something about it!