Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Beauty of Brokenness

Most people don’t like broken things. We prefer things that are whole. That’s why most people don’t go out and buy things that are broken, like broken cars, windows, or bicycles. It’s safe to say that most people don’t relish the thought of being broken themselves either.

Experiences that break us are not pleasant but painful, hurtful, or frustrating. We often wish these situations would just go away. But can we avoid being broken as disciples of Christ? Is this something only for a few people, while all the rest of us can live a life of ease, free from brokenness? It’s important to know the answers, and there’s a lot that God has to say in His Word about this to provide us with the answers.

All Creation Groans
Perhaps one of the best descriptions of this process is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans. He wrote: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom 8:18-21) Here we learn that the creation was subjected to futility. And this was not something creation willingly volunteered for. So who was responsible for this? God was. Paul said it was because of Him who subjected it. But why was this futility necessary anyway? It’s because the creation itself is in slavery to corruption, and God wants to set it free from that slavery. When it’s set free, the creation experiences the freedom of the glory of God’s children.

This process is not easy. In fact, we know that creation has been groaning through this process like a woman in the pains of childbirth. So it’s clear that this is something God is allowing creation to go through and it’s painful.

We Ourselves Groan
Then to be certain that we don’t think this is all about non-human creation like the earth, the animals, and the environment, he goes on to say this: “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” (Rom 8:23). Paul leaves no question at all about the fact that we disciples of Christ are going through this same process. He uses repetition to emphasize it saying, “But also we ourselves…even we ourselves.” So what is it we’re going through? Well, as with the creation, God has subjected us to some frustrating experiences, and this is not willingly. This process causes us to groan within ourselves. Usually this word groaning is used of the sounds made by dying men. Isn’t that what we are? We are going through a dying process, and inside ourselves we groan. Why is all this futility necessary? Well, like the rest of creation, we were in slavery to corruption, and God wants to set us free from that slavery. When we’re set free, the creation experiences the freedom of the glory of God’s children.

As with creation, the process is not easy for us, but painful. Yet it’s the only way to experience the glorious freedom God intends for His children.

Someone will ask how born again believers could still be in slavery to corruption when the Scriptures teach we are no longer slaves to sin. When we come to Christ, He does set us free from slavery to sin, no doubt about it. But the process is both instant and progressive. We experience something right away that is real, it’s powerful, and it’s life changing. But then the process we experience afterward involves a further being set free from slavery. We’re still waiting for something that hasn’t happened yet. It’s our adoption as sons. It’s the redemption of our body. We haven’t seen this take place yet, so we’re still waiting for it. And until it does, we go through these frustrating experiences that cause us to groan. “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Rom 8:24-25) The Lord has wonderful things in store for His children. But it takes perseverance on our part and it requires that we wait eagerly for it to happen.

Brokenness Releases a Beautiful Fragrance
There was a woman that was a sinner who came to Jesus with an alabaster box or vial full of very expensive perfume. She broke the box and poured the perfume on Jesus head and feet out of love for him. When she did this, the fragrance filled the room. Some of the disciples were indignant and complained about this, saying it was a waste of good perfume. They only saw the money that could have been made by selling the unbroken box of perfume, saying that the money from the sale of the perfume could have been given to the poor. Jesus responded saying that his disciples would always have the poor with them, and they could do good to the poor anytime. But they would not always have Him among them. He said that what she did was good, and she was actually anointing his body beforehand for the burial. (Mark 14:3-9)

This is a great illustration of brokenness, isn't it? This woman literally broke a box of perfume that was worth a lot to her, so that she could bless the Lord and minister to Him. If she had not broken the jar, the lovely fragrance would not have come forth. Others could only see the value of the box while it was whole. But Jesus saw the value of it when it was broken. That's the way our lives are, too. Many can only see how they could be valuable if they were whole, but the Lord appreciates the love and beautiful fragrance that flows from our lives when we are broken.

Jesus once said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal." (Joh 12:24-25). In order for any seed to bear fruit, it has to go down beneath the clods of earth into that dark place and die. Its hard outer shell has to crack open, so that the life that God has placed within it can come forth and break through the soil to bear fruit. That's the way our lives are, too.

Twentieth century Chinese author Watchman Nee wrote: "The Lord longs to find a way to bless the world through those who belong to Him. Brokenness is the way of blessing, the way of fragrance, the way of fruitfulness, but it is also a path sprinkled with blood. Yes, there is blood from many wounds." (The Release of the Spirit, p. 13). Are you willing to be broken, so that the fragrance and fruitfulness may come forth?

He Who Falls on This Stone Will Be Broken
Jesus Himself said that He is the Chief Cornerstone, "And he who falls on this Stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust." (Mat 21:44). So there are two kinds of people in life. There are those who reject the Stone and it falls on them. And then there are those who fall on this Stone and build their lives on it. The Stone falls on those who reject it, and it smashes them into fine dust. As Solomon wrote: “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof Will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.” (Pro 29:1). On the other hand, those who fall on the Stone are broken to pieces. When we put our trust in Jesus, it breaks us. But I’d rather be broken to pieces by Him than be scattered like dust.

King David went through many experiences that brought about brokenness in him. Some of these breaking experiences were a result of his own sin, like when he sinned with Bathsheba. Afterward, there were consequences to live with. For one thing, the baby she became pregnant with died after it was born. And other breaking experiences were the result of things other people did to him. For example, since Saul sought to kill David, he lived as a refugee on the run for many years. And later on after he became king, his own son Absalom usurped the throne. David prayed, “I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel.” (Psa 31:12).

Yet David responded well to it. When Nathan the prophet pointed out his sin with Bathsheba to him, he repented before God. He felt like God had broken his bones and he prayed, “Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.” (Psa 51:8). He knew that God was pleased with a broken heart when he prayed, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Psa 51:17). At another time of great national loss, when he struggled with Aram-naharaim and with Aram-zobah, and Joab killed twelve thousand men of Edom, he prayed, “O God…You have broken us.” (Psa 60:1)

His character grew through the breaking process, and he continued to follow the Lord all the days of his life. We know David as one of the greatest kings of all time.

Job also went through a breaking experience. He lost his children, his health, and his property. And in the midst of it all, he said, “My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished, The grave is ready for me.” (Job 17:1). But in the end, God restored Job. He had more children later and was richer than he had ever been before he suffered the huge loss.

Don't Run from the Process
Some believers who experience the breaking process run from it. They walk away and go looking in the world for comfort. But the world can’t satisfy them. It never will. Others go looking for spiritual leaders who will tell them what they want to hear. It’s like the prophet Jeremiah said of the false prophets who were greedy for gain, "They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, 'Peace, peace,' But there is no peace.” (Jer 6:14). People like to hear a peaceful message, and many will gather to hear a leader who speaks that way. But it's only superficial help that feels good for the moment. It doesn't address the deeper issues that God wants to deal with.

We know that a true man of God will not preach false peace when God is dealing with people. The prophet Jeremiah saw how the Lord was dealing with his people for worshiping idols, and he mourned over it. He was broken himself to see this happen to them. "Harvest is past, summer is ended, And we are not saved." For the brokenness of the daughter of my people I am broken; I mourn, dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored?” (Jer 8:20-22). Like Jeremiah, we sometimes feel like we’ve waited for a long time, and we’re not delivered from the situation causing so much grief.

We need to know that the Lord doesn’t just break us and leave us. He helps us and heals us. “He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.” (Psa 147:3) While it may be painful, the Lord is not far away at all, but near to the broken: “The righteous cry, and the LORD hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.” (Psa 34:17-19).

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he wrote about our present sufferings and the pain it brings. We covered this here already. Yet he went on to assure us that God will not forsake us. He will not abandon us in the midst of our suffering. Paul wrote about the way God always works things out. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:28). So when we’re going through a breaking experience, we need to hold onto this promise, knowing the Lord will work all these things together for good.

Who Shall Separate Us from the Love Of Christ?
When we go through breaking experiences, we may wonder if God loves us. We might pray, “God, don’t you care what I’m going through?” But whatever may happen to us, we can be sure that God still loves us. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Rom 8:31-35).

That’s a great question: Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Here’s the answer: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39).

If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ going through a breaking process right now, take heart. Be encouraged. Jesus loves you and will work this all out for good. You are in good company with people like David and Job. In fact, every believer who puts his trust in Jesus will be broken. It’s not optional. God wants us to experience complete and glorious freedom from slavery and corruption. That's the beauty of brokenness. Remember, Jesus said, “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.’”(Luk 9:23-24). So it’s a daily thing where we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. He said, "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” (Mat 10:38).

If you are not a disciple of Jesus and you are not building your life on the Rock, then you need to know He loves you and wants a personal relationship with you. The one thing standing in the way is your sin, and we’ve all sinned. Jesus has taken care of that by dying on the cross for you and paying the price for your sins, so you don’t have to. He has risen from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit and sits at God's right hand.

It all begins by falling on the Stone
It all begins by falling on the Stone, Jesus Christ. Humbly and sincerely repent of your sins before Him, and ask His forgiveness. He will forgive you. And then surrender yourself to Him and invite him to come and live inside your heart. The life you’ve always dreamed of lies in this thing you dread. What are you waiting for? There’s nothing to dread. Your other option is to remain stiff-necked until the day you die, and ultimately be scattered like dust by the Stone. But now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

I hope this has helped you, whether you are a mature believer or a new one, to see the beauty of brokenness.

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Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog available through the links in the side bar. You may also access my blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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