Dying of a broken heart
Eli was waiting beside the road to hear the news of the battle, for his heart trembled for the safety of the Ark of God. When the messenger arrived and told what had happened, an outcry resounded throughout the town. – 1 Samuel 4:13
1 Samuel 4:16-18
16 He said to Eli, “I have just come from the battlefield – I was there this very day.” “What happened, my son?” Eli demanded.
17 “Israel has been defeated by the Philistines,” the messenger replied. “The people have been slaughtered, and your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were also killed. And the Ark of God has been captured.”
18 When the messenger mentioned what had happened to the Ark of God, Eli fell backward from his seat beside the gate. He broke his neck and died, for he was old and overweight.
Can people die of a broken heart? The answer is a definitive yes. The “broken heart syndrome” has been demonstrated to be real by modern medical science. There is a powerful link between our thinking and emotions and the response of our hearts. The syndrome was first observed in Japan in 1990. It was dubbed the Takotsubo syndrome. It is brought on by sudden stress such as the loss of a mate through death, divorce, or an unwanted breakup, earthquake, wars, sporting events, a major financial reversal, loss of a beloved pet, etc.
These causal events produce a spike in adrenaline. The increase in adrenaline triggers a loss of movement in part of the heart wall, leading to acute heart failure. A study by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center showed that the risk of having a heart attack is 21 times higher than normal within the first day after a loved one dies (Harvard Heart Letter).
Could it be that the passing of Debbie Reynolds (age 84) a day after the death of her daughter Carrie Fisher (age 60) on December 28, 2016, was the result of a “broken heart?”
REFLECT & PRAY
“It is our wounds that create in us a desire to reach for miracles. The fulfillment of such miracles depends on whether we let our wounds pull us down or lift us up towards our dreams” (Jocelyn Soriano, Mend My Broken Heart).
Father thank You that You sent the Lord Jesus Christ to soothe and rescue the brokenhearted.
1 Samuel 4:13 Eli was apprehensive and anguished first and foremost about the ark of God. Eli was waiting beside the road to hear the news of the battle, for his heart trembled for the safety of the Ark of God. When the messenger arrived and told what had happened, an outcry resounded throughout the town.
The Hebrew word translated trembled or trembling is chared. Chared typically connotes fearful trembling or shaking. It means to vibrate slightly and irregularly with fear or anxiety.
Eli’s concern for the safety and return of the ark of God eclipsed his concern for the safe return of his two sons. The short clever account of the dialogue between Eli and the messenger moves dramatically from lesser to greater to an ultimate crescendo. “Methodically the increasingly awful details were revealed: ‘Israel fled’; ‘the army has suffered heavy losses’; ‘your two sons … are dead’; ‘the ark of God has been captured’” (Bergen).
Eli is left totally stunned. Could it be that at this very moment his heart simply broke? No medical evaluation was made to confirm it. We are simply told that he fell from his chair, broke his neck, and died.
1 Samuel 4:18 When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken and he died.
“Curiously, the writer does not tell us that it was the news that the ark had been taken that killed Eli. In a strange expression, he tells us that it was the mention of the ark itself. This confirmed his great fear. The God of the covenant, whose ark it was, had dealt with Eli’s sons. And Eli knew that this was the beginning of the judgment. It was the mention of the ark that killed him” (Woodhouse). As soon as the ark was mentioned, Eli died.
Great losses lead to great sorrow and mourning. The loss of a loved one creates a profound sadness that nobody else seems to understand. Not being understood is okay because being heard, cared for, and comforted his for more important. “Many times, all we need is just a warm hand to hold us and a friend who will be there for us as we face the most difficult times we’ve ever had” (Jocelyn Soriano).
When children of the King choose to be “all in,” they are not exempted from traumatic stress and difficult times. But the Father promises to see us through the hardship and suffering when we reach out to Him. The Father knows us through and through. He is there to listen and be still. He is there to provide sagacious direction and wisdom. But there’s more. He cares, comforts, and rescues us.
Psalms 34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
When we are proud, arrogant, and independent the Father resists us. But when our spirits are crushed and our hearts are broken, He is attentive, accessible, always ready to heal and restore. He cares for His own.
When we are brokenhearted, our emotions and thoughts tell us that we have been forsaken by the Father, that He has turned against us. We falsely believe that we have used up our options, exhausted our possibilities, and are doomed to live in the bondage of emotional despair. But this is far from the truth.
“Into our age, Jesus says, ‘I came to bear your guilty despair far away, and to replace it with joy inexpressible and filled with glory.’ He does it single-handedly. He has the Spirit. He has the Word. That’s all he needs to remake the whole world, beginning with you and me” (Ray Ortlund).
Psalms 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.
“There will always be a pain in ‘goodbyes’. No matter how much we seem to understand everything, it breaks our hearts to ever see anything beautiful die” (Jocelyn Soriano).
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