The term “brokenhearted” very graphically depicts the depth of pain we can experience when life disappoints us. It is actually a construction of two terms, the verb “broken” and the noun “heart.” The verb when used literally means to break in pieces as in the smashing of pottery (Jer. 19:11) or the breaking of limbs (Lev. 11:22). When we are devastated by disappointments, our heart, the seat of our emotions, is smashed; it simply falls apart. The parallel phrase helps explain this broken heart: we are “crushed in spirit.”
The Hebrew scholar Allen Ross in his commentary on the Psalms captures the image of a broken heart very well writing,
The heart represents the will; to be broken in the will means the fight is gone, all hopes and expectations are dashed, and the afflicted one is resigned to devastation. Parallel to that is the “crushed in spirit.” “Broken” and “crushed” are figures (of comparison) that describe the person’s will and outlook on life as hopeless. People who are broken by circumstances are the very ones that God is near, for he delights to heal and restore those who cry to him from the most difficult situations.
Often times we become brokenhearted when relationships don’t go well or as we thought they would always be. What we once counted on for security or happiness is gone or is changed. David tells us that no matter what, “the Lord is near.” And not only is he near, in some cases he is the cause of the pain. Tim Keller in his book Counterfeit Gods states that an idol is a good thing that becomes an ultimate thing. When we put too much trust in anyone or anything, it becomes an idol and God is free to remove it or fix it so that it functions as it ought. That path is very painful but hopefully it will culminate for our benefit and his glory.