“A man’s spirit will endure sickness,
but a crushed spirit who can bear?
A crushed spirit. This proverb struck me like lightning to my core. I know the face of a crushed spirit. I have seen it in the mirror.
Lately, I have witnessed this same face on some of my dearest friends. Each crushed spirit is the result of a different and devastating circumstance, but each has led her to the same place. I see the heaviness in her eyes, hear it in her voice, and witness the burden on her body.
I wear my emotions on my face, but I am not an emotional person. “Touchy-feely” would never be used to describe me. I tend to be more practical; sometimes fighting to feel an emotion. But every so often, when I witness a crushed spirit, my spirit inside literally aches; as if saying, “I feel your pain. I know what crushed feels like. I get it.”
Because a crushed spirit is not an emotion.
No one emotion can be used to define the complexity of a crushed spirit. It is not a thing that we put on or a place we can go when we feel like it. Nor, is it accessible like an emotion.
A crushed spirit is something that happens to us.
It is the state of being after a broken heart, a shameful experience, or a devastating circumstance. It is the state of knowing you will never go back to where you were before you got that news; be the same person you were before that incident; or live the life you lived before you witnessed that event. Your life is forever changed.
A crushed spirit comes like a thief in the night and robs us from capturing any joy in life. Its weapon is a fog that paralyzes our emotions and replaces them with deep sorrow. As a heart-broken friend repeatedly put it, “It is the dark night of the soul.”
Like an exclusive middle school click, distress and misery are its only friends, kicking out its foes of laughter, wonder, and delight.
I have been paralyzed by a crushed spirit three times in my life: the tragic loss of a dear friend, the devastating news of disease on one of my own, and the rejection from some of life’s most trusted allies. In each of these seasons, the weight of all three was unbearable. If you have lived life at all, you know what I am talking about.
When I think back on these seasons, what amazes is not that I survived them, but that I survived them well. Now, I did not go through the seasons with perfection and clarity. No, far from it. They were messy – like pig pen messy. My emotions would collide into each other and every emotion felt stronger than the one before. Anger, resentment, spiritual doubt, withdrawal, sadness… were on repeat. Culminating in a state of sorrow.
During this season, I came to understand that time was my closest companion. With time on my side, I slowly weathered the heavy fog. Every day was a fight, a choice- would I win or the fog? Would I overcome the fog or would the fog overcome me? Many days the fog would win, but many days I would win. Eventually, very slowly, I began to experience a twisted delight. Rays of light began to break through the fog bringing something new and beautiful –
The sun on the other side was brighter than the sun before.
As these rays of light broke through the fog, they came with great intensity – a deeper gratitude, a deeper appreciation, and a deeper love than I had ever experienced before. One of the most precious gifts in these times was the differentiation of the friends who were in my corner and the ones who were for show. If you are living through a season where your spirit is crushed…
…please hear me when I say this – this time is only for a season. I promise.
“For everything there is a season,
and a time for every purpose under heaven…
If I can offer one small (big) piece advice during this time, it would be this: to lean in and go deep. Weather the storm by leaning into the calm of Christ and going deep into the truth of Jesus. Get quiet, read your Bible, pray, journal, surround yourself with only a close few, and definitely talk to a professional if needed.
Our instincts tell us to take action and to move away from this season as quickly and as easily as possible; but in reality this response only prolongs the sorrow. I have handled all three seasons differently. In the first, I ignored it and ran. In the second, I got busy and made my life full of things-to-do. But in the third, I leaned in and went deep. It was the Son on the other side of the third that took this season, wrought with my crushed spirit, and made something new.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
Allow your spirit to be crushed, lean in to what is good and true, surround yourself with love and wisdom, and weather the season amidst the wave of emotions with forgiveness and kindness. I promise you, when you come out on the other side your life will shine brighter.