Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

God is close to the brokenhearted

By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO | Published August 15, 2013

There is a short story by Andre Dubus, about the lives of a married couple whose only child has died. The prose slowly moves the couple through a day, but it is a day marked by grief, a deep sense of loss and as deep a need for the agony to end.

Night draws near and the loneliness comes. Their hearts are broken. The night must somehow be endured, suffered, lived through. They hold each other and cry. Their pain brings them to each other, and all they have is each other.

Life goes on, but it is a different life, a life forever changed by death. It is a scene familiar to many of us who have known loss. And for those of us who have not—time may or may not change that. But I think all of us will know a time in life when death will take so much away and leave us longing for what was once loved and familiar, for a person we could once hold close and love—and can no longer do that.

The heart loses a part of itself, a part through which it knew love and goodness.

In reading the story, you get the sense that someone is there with that couple. Like a narrator, hidden from view, but who is not only telling the story so that we might see but also telling us that there is something of grace and sacredness in broken hearts that can do nothing more than touch each other, hold each other, and cry from grief to get through nights that are forever changed.

It might be said that all we have is each other to bear our griefs, our sorrow. But that is not quite true. God is close to the brokenhearted.

God has made a home in the human heart and there is no heart without God. Jesus comforted the brokenhearted and was a man whose heart was broken. In his dying moments, he feared that even God, his father, had abandoned him.

The words from John’s Gospel, as recounted in the Last Discourse, are the hidden backdrop to life. The inevitable joys and sorrows of this life somehow live in and move through the heart of God. And God is not silent. He holds close the hearts of those who know loss and moves them close together, to give solace and warmth to the long and scarred nights of this life.

Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at