To The Lost And Broken-Hearted
I was born with a hole in my heart. No, it wasn’t a physical hole that shows on an echocardiogram, but believe me, it was there – I’ve got years of painful, sleepless nights and dark, depression spells to prove it. As early as middle school, I knew there was an emptiness inside me, some hollow place that needed to be satisfied before I could live a normal, happy life.
All through middle and high school I loved basketball, and for a long time I believed achieving something in basketball would give me a complete feeling. I wasn’t super talented, but I had some good moments on the court , but even they left me with a strange, unsettling “So what?” feeling. Still the hole, and all the pain it brought, remained.
As I became an adult, I became more and more obsessed about filling this void inside myself – I was ashamed to be so unhappy. I discovered the music of Bruce Springsteen and identified with his lyrics because he sang of the same sadness and frustration I felt. When he sang, “Sometimes I feel so weak, I just want to explode; explode and tear this whole town apart; take a knife and cut this pain from my heart,” I sympathized with him and the obvious emptiness he felt, too. Though Bruce and I could cry and lament together, I realized he didn’t have any answers, either. My search continued and the hole felt as if it were gnawing into my soul, carving out more and more of me as years went by.
I pursued a fantastic career, opening my own fitness studio at 24-years old. “This is who I am,” I told myself. “I finally have a purpose.” However, to my disappointment, my heart stayed just as empty. Sure, I had a few high moments when my work-life went well, but at the end of the day, when it became quiet, that familiar “So what?” question crept up, causing all my hard work to feel worthless. In fact, I began to feel worthless. At this point, the deepening, cancerous ache in my heart became my identity, not just a trait. I was my suffering.
You need to understand something – this hole in my heart, this deficit in my being, was always there. A sharp feeling of loneliness and hopelessness would shoot through moments that should’ve been happy. My birthday. Christmas morning. Vacation on the beach. No happy occasion was safe from the radioactive wasteland of my heart.
In my late twenties, I did the natural thing and got married. My hopes were so high that a pretty wife that I could laugh with would finally make me whole and give me some type of peace. I looked to her again and again to make me happy, to give me that thing I’d been missing, but she couldn’t. To her credit, I believe she tried her best, but the hole in me was too deep and she failed to complete me; this made me feel more and more lonely, more and more empty. The marriage ended in divorce – something I never imagined I would go through. Now, the corrosive emptiness of my heart had affected and injured another in a major way. The shame and guilt of a broken marriage worsened my damaged status, exponentially.
What more could I do to repair my defective heart? As you’ve read the last several paragraphs, I ask you, “What more could I have done?” I’d even tried education, obtaining my Masters Degree in Exercise Science. Yet again, my heart flippantly replied with, “So what?” I tried church, more sports, collecting basketball sneakers, and even writing a novel. I read inspirational books and watched Rocky movies over and over – all for motivation to continue this quest of healing my heart. Yet again, “So what?” By 33 years-old, it was obvious I was incapable of fixing myself, unable to pull myself up by my bootstraps. The constant hollow feeling became more and more painful and the only hope I began to consider was ending my life. A very dark solution, but if you have ever felt an emptiness like I’m describing, you understand.
The hole in my heart had taken my will to live, but it hadn’t given me the courage to take my life; this conundrum made me feel more helpless and worthless and took me to a face-down position on my living room floor. Incapable of living and apparently just as incapable of dying, I cried and cried with no end goal. In that moment of true hopelessness, with my heart and soul feeling more incomplete than ever, Jesus Christ came to me. Yes, that Jesus, the Son of God. He held his hand out to me and spoke the words “You need to come with me. Now.” No, he didn’t speak audibly, but directly to my soul, which was much more effective. My heart and soul were absolutely spent and I couldn’t muster faith in anything, but somehow, I became the property of Jesus in that moment.
Would you like to know why Jesus was and still is so alluring to me? Like Springsteen, Jesus could relate to my suffering, but that’s not all – Jesus had answers. In those first few days of trusting in my new Savior, I found my old childhood Bible and read about Jesus in the book of Isaiah. In the 53rd chapter it says of Jesus, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from who men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (v. 3) Jesus can relate to me because his life was challenging, but unlike Springsteen, Jesus had a solution for my ailment. Verses 4 and 5 explain, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon his the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” His wounds heal me! Do you see it written right there in black and white? Jesus’ wounds were the solution for the hole in my heart!
Later on, I read in Colossians 1:16 that all things, including me, were made through him and for him. The deep, gnawing ache in my heart was my natural need for a relationship with my Creator. I also read in Matthew 11 when Jesus asks, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (v. 28) “Yes!” I remember exclaiming, “I’m tired of searching all creation to fill this distressed, hollowed-out heart. I would love to rest!” I learned that Jesus isn’t a fairy tale, but has real answers I can rely upon and that drew me in then and continues to do so.
That’s my story. If you’ve never known the feelings I’ve talked about here, I’m really glad you’ve been spared all that. If you do know my struggle and we’re kindred spirits, and you need answers, seek out Jesus Christ. Please understand, he changed things in me I never imagined could change – and he’s still working today. As you now know, I’ve searched nearly everywhere and there’s just nothing which can ease that deep ache like Jesus can. Even more, Jesus has restored things I felt were lost forever. Maybe you’re like me, and you don’t have faith to believe in something as crazy and radical as Jesus, but go to him and he’ll take care of faithlessness, too.
If you’ve hung in and read this far, Jesus is stirring something in you. If you hear or feel Jesus speaking, you aren’t your defective heart, your failures, or your sins. You are whatever Jesus says you are – and he says you’re his sheep and he’s the shepherd. (John 10:14)