The Great Privilege Of A Broken Heart by Travis Sharpe

There are many ways that a heart can be broken.

When someone you love lies to you, your heart can be broken. When a child goes astray, your heart can be broken. A failed relationship or shattered dreams can lead to a broken heart.

broken heart

But today, I want to talk about another kind of broken heart, the kind that comes from loving someone that you might not have expected to love. A brokenness that is caused by God loving someone through you. A brokenness over people and their struggles in this life.

My first broken heart

In 1996, when I met a group of homeless people for the first time, I didn’t expect anything life changing to happen. I was not looking for a ministry and I was not looking to start down a completely new path for my life.

I was simply doing an act of kindness. That was all, or so I thought.

The group of homeless people as a whole interested me, but there were a few individuals within that group that captured my heart.

I met a man named Sydney Lang and a man named Fred Davis. There was also Donnie, George, Chicken Wing, and Jimmy.

There were hundreds of homeless people that I met over the first few months of becoming involved on the streets of Augusta, GA, but these six men were different. I became attached to them. They became attached to me. I loved them. They loved my back.

Out of all the other people, we had a special bond. I saw them struggle with addictions and homelessness and daily life. I learned that they had fears and hopes and dreams. I saw that they were human just like me.

I walked through many months of difficulty with each of these men. I saw their ups and their downs. Most of the time they were very honest with me about their problems and their shortcomings.

Over time, even though we were real friends, they all faded away. Sidney and Fred are both dead now. I have no idea where Chicken Wing, George, Donnie and Jimmy are.

What I do know is that God used all of these guys to break my heart. I wept over each of them may times. I cried myself to sleep on more than one occasion because I didn’t understand why they struggled so much.

It was hard.


As I write this, we have now been in the Philippines for a little over two months. Not long after our arrival, we met five kids who were sleeping on the street. They spent almost every night sleeping on the sidewalk in Bacolod near a convenient store called Munsterific.

These five kids, Leonard, JD, Ariel, Anna Marie, and Angelica are the first street children I have ever met and come to know personally. We met their family and have been involved with them now for several weeks.  We have taken each of these kids to the doctor because they are all sick.

JD and Leonard have a younger brother named Democrito. He is four years old and he has captured my heart. At first, he would barely look at me. But now, as soon as he sees me, he runs and jumps up into my arms and tells me that he loves me.

Their living conditions are horrid and I am worried to death over them all. Last week we found out that Democrito has Pulmonary Tuberculosis. He is a very sick boy.

My hands are tied

Although We love these children dearly and want to just sweep them away, we cannot. They have parents, they have families. The parents don’t do things the way I want them to and it hurts to watch the results unfold.

We are doing the best we can to ensure that these kids eat, get medical attention and hear the gospel, but other than that, our hands are tied.

It’s like watching a crash in slow motion but not being able to react.

I know Democrito loves me because he jumps into my arms and tell me so. My heart is breaking.


This is uncomfortable.

Why in the world would God allow us to meet these people and to feel this brokenness?

Wouldn’t it be better to never get attached? Wouldn’t it be better to play it safe and guard your heart so that it is never broken?

No. God has to break our hearts. Here’s why.

1. To crush us

By nature, we have hard hearts. We are sinners and we don’t possess the attributes that God possesses.

God is love, but we are selfish. God is giving, but we are takers. God is long-suffering, but we get frustrated. God is merciful, but we are cruel.

Before we can ever be used by God to love and help people on his behalf, he has to crush us. He has to take us through a process of dealing with all those attributes of humanity that limit our abilities and our desires.

The thing that amazes me is that God will often use the brokenness of others to break us. As my heart breaks for these kids who live in dire poverty, I am reminded about how hopeless I myself am apart form Christ. I realize just how much I need him in my life.

If my heart is not broken, I am no good to anyone here on this side of Heaven.

2. To convince us

I have heard about children living in poverty for most of my life. I have know about street kids and families who don’t have enough food. I have seen the commercials on TV and I have watched the documentaries on 20/20.

I’m sure you have too.

But I have never before known JD, Ariel, Leonard, Angelica, Anna Marie and Democrito. Until recently, I had never sat in a doctors office with a child who was covered from head to toe with sores because of a bacterial infection.

Until recently, I had never felt the spine and ribs of a malnourished baby. Until recently, I had never seen a 12 year old girl throw up worms because her living conditions were so dirty that worms are a part of life in their little bodies.

Until recently I had never had a little boy throw his arms around my neck and tell me he loves me in his own language.

These things cause you to cry. These things break your heart. These things are a heavy weight to carry around.

But these things convince me.

Because of the hardness of our hearts we are not convinced that the need is real when we see pictures and commercials. It takes more than that.

But when we our heart breaks for one or two or three, we become convinced that the need is real and true for all.

I am now convinced that there are kids all over the world who need love, care and help. It is now a reality in my life that I cannot deny.

3. To call us

God is a calling God. He called Jonah to Nineveh. He called Phillip to the desert.He called The disciples to follow him. He calls the hungry to eat and the thirsty to drink. He calls the weary to rest.

Remember the homeless men that I told you about earlier? I eventually lost touch with all of them. They faded away. They are now only a part of my past. But God used them and my relationship with them to call me to many more just like them.

Because of them, there are now many people whose lives have changed. There are people who were just like them who are now church members and some who are even preachers.

In the years since I met that first handful of homeless men who broke my heart, thousands of other homeless  people have been helped. They have drank from my brokenness.

In other words, God will use our brokenness over just a few, to call us to many.

Crowds do not change us, but individuals do. Nameless people don’t make us cry, but friends do.


What I don’t know and what I think I know

Right now my biggest fear is that my little buddy Democrito might not always be in my life. I fear that we may lose contact or that he may not survive where he is.

I don’t know what will happen with him and the other kids that we now love and weep over. But if I know God like I think I do, thousands of children in the future will have new life because my heart is broken over these few.

I have been crushed. I have been convinced. I have been called.

It is a great privilege.

About your heart

What about your heart? Have you allowed it to be broken yet? Or do you guard it so tightly that your life is not disturbed?

I agree that a broken heart is no fun at first. In fact, it might be the worst kind of pain we can endure. But did you ever stop to consider that God might want to give multitudes of people new life through your brokenness?

Don’t fight the frustration, allow God to minister to you through it. Don’t run from your brokenness, embrace it.

It is indeed a great privilege to live and minister out of the deep well of a broken heart.


I would love to have you as a subscriber to my email list. To receive my weekly emails straight to your inbox, sign up here!