Consider the story of the Death March by Alvie Robbins in, Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission.
During the Second World War, the US Army was forced to retreat from the Philippines. Some of their soldiers were left behind, and became prisoners of the Japanese. The men called themselves “ghosts”, souls unseen by their nation, and on the infamous Bataan Death March were forced to walk over 70 miles, knowing that those who were slow or weak would be bayoneted by their captors or die from dysentery and lack of water. Those who made it through the march spent the next three years in a hellish prisoner-of-war camp. By early 1945, 513 men were still alive at the Cabanatuan prison camp, but they were giving up hope. The US Army was on its way back, but the POW’s had heard the frightening news that prisoners were being executed as the Japanese retreated from the advancing U.S. Army.
Their wavering hope was however met by one of the most magnificent rescues of wartime history. In an astonishing feat, 120 US Army soldiers and 200 Filipino guerrillas outflanked 8000 Japanese soldiers to rescue the POW’s. Alvie Robbins was one of the rescuers. He describes how he found a prisoner muttering in a darkened corner of his barracks, tears coursing down his face.
“I thought we’d been forgotten,” the prisoner said in a whispered tone over and over.
“No, you’re not forgotten,” Robbins said softly. “You’re heroes. We’ve come for you.”
Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking that very same thing? “I thought I had been forgotten.” The brokenhearted know. Those that have had their hope slowly erode from the tragic life experience and loss, and have had their hearts bruised or broken thought loneliness, loss, disappointment, divorce, or death know what it means to struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
David also knew what it meant to be brokenhearted. Running for his life from the demonized King of his own land, David seeks refuge in the land of the enemy, the Philistines. After the warriors of King Achish get concerned about David’s presence, David acts insane to save his life. It is in this very low spot that David pens the words, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:18–19). The Lord is intimately close to the brokenhearted. He weeps with you. He keeps count of your tossing, and puts your tears in a bottle. It’s all written in His book (Psalm 56:8). He is the one that saves the crushed in spirit and if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath (Psalm 34:19 MSG).
Proverbs speaks of this condition in different contexts. “A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed” (Proverbs 15:13). “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). “A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear” (Proverbs 18:14)? These proverbs are saying that even if a person is sick, when their spirit is strong and healthy, they will be able to cope and keep going. But when a person is damaged in their spirit, even the slightest of physical troubles, sickness or otherwise, crushes them.
Like a city that is broken into and without walls Is a man who has no control over his spirit. -Proverbs 25:28 (NASB95)
This proverb is saying that when we lose control over our spirit, we become defenseless and vulnerable to the attack of the devil. When our spirit is broken and that damage begins to affect our lives in ways beyond our control, we find ourselves owners of attitudes we wish we didn’t have. A damaged spirit become impatient and angry. There is unresolved sickness of soul.
Godly Ways to Handle a Broken Heart
Being Honest Before God.
Grieving is a natural response to pain and loss. There is nothing wrong with grieving, especially when we are expressing it to God. The Psalms are filled with examples of the psalmist pouring out their heart before God and never seem to end the way they began. It may start with expressing grief but ends with praise (see Psalm 13 for a great example). When we commune with the Lord, we are able to open our minds to the truth that He loves us, that He is faithful, that He is in control, and that He knows how He is going to work it out for our good.
Proclaim and stand on the character of God.
Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will have no fear (Psalm 23:4). It is important to fix our minds on the truth of who God is so that we do not allow our circumstances to change what we know is reality. Thought it all, God is faithful. See Psalm 46:10, 91:1-2, and Romans 8:28.
Remember you are in a spiritual battle.
The enemy of our soul will always attack when things are hardest in our lives. Stand firm against the enemy’s schemes even when you don’t feel like it. “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). The enemy will capitalize on most of life’s catastrophic events. Stand against his voice by putting on your armor. Pray through Ephesians 6 every morning when you are under attack.
Open your heart to the Lord and pray for His healing work.
Make it a goal to posture your heart daily before the Lord, asking Him to restore what the locusts have stolen, mend the fences of your heart, and for the therapy of His Spirit to pour over your heart like oil. Don’t be in a hurry to get out of this season because God is strongest when you and I are weakest (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Walk in Godly fellowship.
This can be the most counterintuitive part of the healing process but it also one of the most important parts. The Lord has created His body to ease the burdens of its individual members (Galatians 6:2). The response of those grieving is often to shun others which increases their feelings of isolation and loneliness. It is much healthier to surround yourself with people that will listen to you and encourage you in the healing process. Not being with other godly believers robs us of nourishment God has provided for us (Ephesians 4:16).
Good is coming!
Broken heartedness is part of the human experience. Loss is part of life, and grief is a natural response to loss. But we have the hope of Christ, and we know that He is strong enough to carry our burdens (Matthew 11:30). We can give our hurt to Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). We can find solace in the Holy Spirit, our Comforter (John 14:16). In broken hearted seasons, we cast our burdens on Him, rely on the community of the church, delve into the truth of the Word, and ultimately experience hope (Hebrews 6:19-20).
Use these declarations to stand in truth knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel:
- God is not finished with you yet. He is committed to you.
- God has not given up or turned His face away. His attention is on you.
- God has not forsaken you.
- Anything the devil has done, God can undo.
- Any pain the enemy has inflicted, God can heal.
- Any dream that Satan has crushed, God can restore.
- Death could not keep Jesus in the grave, and it can’t keep you there either!
- God is ready to bind you up and bring healing.
The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!
-Psalm 34:19–20 (NLT)