March 27: Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Posted by Campus Ministry on Friday, March 27, 2020 at 6:00 AM PDT

‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted,” the Psalmist writes in today’s scriptures, “and those who are crushed in spirit God saves.” 

I’ve been armoring myself against heartbreak a lot these days. Perhaps you can relate? Each morning, I find myself having to resist the urge (at times unsuccessfully) to rush to my phone and begin scrolling, taking in the news from the wider world and my more personal one. I can feel my mind making constant calculations: am I going to make it out of this unscathed?

A few days ago, after a sobering conversation with my roommate about the spread of coronavirus, I sat down on my floor and let some of the fear and anxiety I had been carrying in my chest melt into tears as I allowed the realization to wash over me that there’s no making it out of this unscathed. It wasn’t that in that moment I had some sudden foreknowledge about my future fate; rather, as I put down the armor around my heart, I began to acknowledge all of the ways that this pandemic has already touched me and, though I don’t know exactly how, will continue to do so.

The realization came as a release and, as it washed over me with the kind of mysterious consolation that accompanies even the bitterest of truths, I found myself sinking into the ground of a reality that had not been accessible when I had been armoring my heart against its breaking—the reality of my inseparable connection to all life on this planet. The very heartbreak against which I had been bracing myself became a portal, and in that moment I sensed my connection to every other person who has experienced heartbreak.

I think that’s why God is close to the brokenhearted—it’s because the brokenhearted let God get close. The world offers us many ways to buffer our hearts against being broken. In ordinary times, we can choose from an endless array of consumer distractions to keep our experience of heartbreak at bay. We all have our ways of doing it—for me, it’s filling up every waking hour with social commitments, or squeezing in that unnecessary Target run, or scrolling endlessly on my Instagram feed. And the world offers us no shortage of causes for heartbreak. But the thing about buffers is that they don’t only keep heartbreak at a distance, they also buffer us from ourselves, each other, and from God. In the era of coronavirus, many of us are finding ourselves face-to-face with big and small heartbreaks, and suddenly without access to many of our traditional coping mechanisms. Today’s psalm invites us to make space for our heartbreak with the trust that our broken hearts might be portals—portals through which we find one another, and through which God finds us.

How is your heart today? When was the last time you let yourself feel it break?


Anna Robertson, Campus Minister for Retreats