Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Contrite Spirit

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Psalms 34:18

"One way we try to win God’s approval is through striving for perfection. Sadly, none of us achieve this state. We are frail human beings subject to temptation and sin. Did God create us to fail? Is there no hope?

Fortunately, God has not made perfection the measuring device. He is looking for people who will react to missing the mark (as the Jewish writers say) with contrition of spirit. When confronted with your sin and failures, how do you respond? Do you try and justify it or continue in the practice in defiance? Or, do you fall on your knees, repent, and seek God’s forgiveness for your failure?

The word “contrite” is from the Hebrew word daca and literally means “to bruise or crush.” It has the connotation of smitten, maimed, dejected, lame, or contrite. In modern Hebrew usage, the word describes a handicapped, disabled, or crippled person. Webster’s dictionary describes contrition as “sincerely remorseful, having a deep and painful sense of guilt for wrong-doing.”

When God says He looks on the man who has a contrite heart, God is saying he is looking for people who when they sin, respond to their actions with deep sorrow. It is more than mere recognition or acknowledgement of sin. It is a brokenness before a holy God, which leads to repentance [which means] turning from the sin, and literally running the other way."


  1. This is beautiful.

    I've read that the 1828 dictionary (most likely used at the time of Joseph Smith's translations) defined contrite as being to be ground or rubbed into powder, with the implication of being ground into our most humble substance so that we may be rebuilt into something more useful in the future. It requires a sincere resolution to allow the Lord to rebuild us as he desires, with complete and total trust in the process He will take us through.

    Your last statement "it is a brokenness before a holy God, which leads to repentance and turning from the sin" links this well to the broken heart that is required along with the contrite spirit. One of the many ways that broken can be defined is as in breaking a horse. As a person works with a wild horse, eventually the horse turns its heart and will to his master – we then say, “This horse is broken.” Does broken mean sad and crying? No – a broken person is submissive and trusting and loving. They voluntarily give their will to the Lord, their master.

    They turn to Him through repentance, willing to be molded and created as He sees fit.

  2. I believe one of the greatest things we can learn from a child is what it means to come to the Lord with a gift for Him... the gift of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

    Jennifer, your above comment reminds me of what S. Michael Wilcox wrote about the matter.
    He spoke of how he used to watch his uncle break wild horses. He writes:

    “First he roped them, then dragged them fighting and kicking into the chute corral. This corral narrowed at the end to barely the width of a horse’s body. Here he could place a heavy leather halter over their heads without getting kicked. A thick rope was attached to the halter, and the end of the corral was opened. All of the boys would hang onto the rope while the horse reared and raced around the corral. We would half drag, half pull the colt to the center of the round corral, where a thick cedar post was set deep in the ground. Here we would cinch the rope, giving the horse about six to eight yards, and then back away.

    “The horses hated that rope. They would fight it for hours. Finally in exhaustion they would hang back on it, with their feet set firmly in the ground and all their weight pulling on the rope. Their eyes were wide, their tongues often hung out, and their ears were laid back. We watched them from the security of the corral fence.

    "In time, however, they learned that they only hurt themselves when they fought the rope. Then they approached the post, letting the rope hang slack. When this happened my uncle would slowly and gently walk closer. At first they would hang back again at his approach. If they did this, he would back away again. It didn’t take long for the horses to learn that all they got by fighting was a stiff neck. Whenever I see the word ‘stiffneckedness’ in the scriptures, I see those horses with their legs locked, hanging back on the rope.

    “In time my uncle could approach them and quietly calm them down. He would rub their sides and scratch them under their necks, all the while talking gently and lovingly. Soon he could uncinch the rope and teach them to follow his lead. When he could lay the rope across his open palm, turn his back on the horse, and walk with the horse following him, he would say, ‘This horse is broken.’

    “A broken heart is not a sorrowful heart mourning constantly over sin. It is a submissive heart, a trusting heart, a loving heart. It is a heart that says to the Savior, ‘Here is the rope of my life. Lay it across your palms that were wounded on Calvary. I will follow your lead. I will go wherever you wish to take me. I will not fight back.’ ”

    Isn't that a beautiful analogy? It so reminds me of a sweet, innocent child... Can you not picture those children looking up at the Savior with such adoration and trust in their eyes and, without any hesitation, placing their small hands in His big strong one, as if to say, “I trust you with my whole might, mind, and soul”? This trusting nature is what little ones can teach us.

  3. Laura,

    Thank you so much for the additional information and for the time it must have taken to type all that out! Which book of Michael Wilcox's was that taken from?

    It sure adds much more visual imagery to my comment. Thanks again!

  4. My pleasure, Jennifer... It's from his "Don't Leap With the Sheep (& Other Scriptural Strategies for Avoiding Satan's Snares) book, p213-14.