The Contrite Heart

The convicted, broken, contrite heart that’s receptive to the will of God is a sweet offering sure to be blessed of God.  To offer our brokenness to God by way of a contrite spirit is showing sincere remorse, regret and/or sorrow for our daily sins or offenses. Literally meaning, “worn out, ground to pieces” the word contrite is ideally suited for the image of a heart broken open for a deeper work of forgiveness and sanctification to occur.

For those who are more pliable to the Spirit, a contrite attitude toward our brokenness and our desperate need for God is trustingly displayed. You may have heard about the sculptor who after finishing his work of art sees that there’s a crack in it. Knowing that it was imperfect, he decides to start over. He breaks the sculpture into pieces and then adds water. Once he does so, the sculpture became clay once more and he is able to re-create his work of art.  So it is with our lives…imperfect and flawed, needing to be broken and forgiven, we become whole once more by the gentle and loving hand of God the Master Artist.

For many, however, the genuine nature of a contrite heart meets internal resistance due to our pride and stubbornness. A contrite heart requires mourning over and regretting remorsefully our sinfulness and disobedience to God’s commands.  The essence of the gospel is that once admitting our arrogance and pride and submitting our lives into the hands of the Sculpture God, we are baptized as the water of His grace softens the hardened clay of our brittle hearts.  When we encounter defiance in our heart toward the need to become malleable to God, a spiritual wall is erected between God and our soul.

King David had a hard time coming to recognize his need for a broken, contrite heart after his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, his sin of murder toward Uriah her husband, and his sin of lying to God and others about his multiple offenses (read 2 Samuel 11 for the detailed story). It wasn’t until he was confronted by Nathan the prophet (2 Sam. 12) that he finally was convicted of his sinfulness, and was broken and contrite before the Lord.  Here was the shepherd boy turned king, leading the people of God, his army and officers, a musician and psalmist unlike any other, suffering from the struggle of running away from the most important response of all: repentance.

Psalm 51 is considered his tome on confession, forgiveness, and faithfulness – all ensuing as a result of his broken, contrite heart.  It’s the way we too must think and feel about our own sin, and our desperate need for God’s merciful touch of healing. He owns his sin and turns to God, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your compassion blot out my transgressions” (vs. 1). He prays for cleansing, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean” (vs. 7).  He pleads for renewal, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (vs. 10).  He delights in his restoration, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me” (vs. 12).

Psalm 51 proclaims the goodness of God and the righteousness of the people of God, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (vs. 17). Yes, a contrite heart is what pleases and honors God and brings about His favor (cf. Isaiah 61).  This is foundational to everything in life. Being a Christian means being broken and contrite – for this is the flavor of deep unending joy, peace, praise, and witness. Jonathan Edwards said it well, “All gracious affections that are a sweet aroma to Christ are brokenhearted affections. A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble brokenhearted love” (Religious Affections, p. 339). Will you open up yourself to God with a contrite heart today?

SHARE THIS POST

Can't find what you're looking for?

Steve Macchia

Founder & President

The Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia is founder and president of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (LTI), a ministry serving the spiritual formation, discernment, and renewal of leaders and learners since 2003. For more than 20 years he has been the Director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Doctor of Ministry Program. From 1989-2003 he was the president of Vision New England, the largest regional church renewal association in the country. Earlier in his ministry life, Steve was a member of the pastoral staff of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts for 11 years. He is the author or co-author of 17 books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective), and Crafting a Rule of Life, Becoming A Healthy Church (LTI), and Broken and Whole (IVP).  He and his wife Ruth live in the Boston (MA) area and are the proud parents of two married children and grandparents to three adorable grandchildren. Steve’s personal website is www.SteveMacchia.com.

My soul comes alive singing the great hymns of the church and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I’m in awe of God for fulfilling the dream for LTI that he birthed in my heart, for the team he has assembled, and the transformational impact experienced in the leaders and teams we serve.

Detailed Biography
Articles by Stephen Macchia
Author Website
Schedule a one-on-one with Steve

Fill out my online form.

Mitzi Mak

Selah-West Faculty

Mitzi started her professional life as a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband Jerry then served cross-culturally for ten+ years, living abroad first in India and then Kurdistan, N. Iraq. In addition to being a Spiritual Director, she now serves as a Formation and Care pastor in her local church in Houston, TX. She has graduated from LTI’s Selah Spiritual Direction training as well as LTI’s Emmaus Formational Leadership Program.

Mitzi enjoys engaging conversation, reading fiction, doing jigsaw/crossword puzzles, ocean gazing and exploring the world with Jerry through food and travel.

God has two main callings in Mitzi’s life: to care for those who care for others and to be a guide in helping others have a healthy relationship with the Trinity – recognizing God’s loving presence and activity in their lives and how to faithfully respond.

Selah was a transformative experience for me – allowing the contemplative within to emerge and to beautifully co-exist with my extraverted personality.