When I heard the crash and scream I ran into the kitchen to see what happened. My mom was standing near the stove crying and moaning.
My dad was standing near the refrigerator speechless, looking helpless, his face beat red.
I followed his eyes to the floor where my family’s most expensive glass pitcher lay broken into hundreds of pieces. A total loss.
It was made of beautiful lime green cut glass with a cover. Looked really classy. Had been in the family for decades. Was used only on special occasions.
Since my parents were about to have guests over, mom had asked dad to get it out of a cupboard. But now its days were over.
All of us stood there in disbelief staring at the remains.
A bad word when it comes to glass pitchers. A bad word when it comes to everything we own. A broken car will not get you anywhere. A broken microwave will not heat your food. A broken phone will cut you off from the world.
Life on planet earth teaches us broken is bad.
The Bible says otherwise.
As we start let’s ask the Lord for help. Father, Remind us that apart from You our time in Your Book will be a complete waste of time. Give us teachable attitudes. Sweep aside distractions. Speak deeply into our hearts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Many of the ideas shared here were borrowed from ”Embracing Brokenness” by Alan Nelson.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.
Say what? God values brokenness? That sounds awful. A word that we despise is something God values? Appreciates highly? How can that be?
Getting a grip on this word in the Bible will help you understand the Christian life much better and yourself and God.
As surprising as it is to have to say this, as annoying as it is to hear this, brokenness is a part of the Christian life.
“Almost every one of us will encounter some issue that introduces us to brokenness at a far greater intensity than we ever thought possible.”
We had better learn to deal with it.
The Bible has many poster people for brokenness. Let’s pick the most obvious one in the New Testament and see what we learn.
Acts 7 is a powerful explanation of the Christian faith by a young believer named Stephen. Unfortunately, his audience is primarily enemies of Christianity who can’t stand what they hear so they kill him.
and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
For Saul to be holding the clothes of the killers makes him an accomplice at the least or instigator of the murder at the worst.
As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
Reminds me of a dragon with flames coming out of his nostrils as he devours Christians. This guy Saul is out of control in his hatred of followers of Christ.
It gets worse.
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Saul isn’t content with attacking Christians in Jerusalem; he wants to go north to Damascus in present day Syria to attack believers there.
Acts 9:3-4, 9
As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
: 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
And so God breaks Saul.
Some key elements of this breaking of Saul should be highlighted:
1. Saul who is called Paul later on is not a believer when this breaking process starts, but it leads to him becoming a follower of Christ. Brokenness can happen to nonbelievers or believers.
2.Saul doesn’t ask to be broken. Brokenness is initiated by God. God doesn’t make appointments.
3.Brokenness is a head-on crash with our old nature. This breaking of Saul brings his marathon in sin to a stretching halt. Instead of being the energizer bunny of persecution who just keeps going and going and going after believers, Saul is greatly humbled. He can’t see. He can’t move without help. And that crash you hear in Saul’s head is louder than the sound of that pitcher hitting the floor in my family kitchen as Saul realizes he’s been wrong! Jesus really is God! And his old set of values and ambitions are vaporized.
4. Great things came out of this breaking. His hatred of Jesus turns to love for Jesus. From a wrecker of the church he becomes a builder of the church. From an attacker of truth he become the great communicator of the New Testament (after Jesus).
5. All breakings in the Bible are not like this one. All breakings are different – one size does not fit all. Saul is probably at least 30 years old here. Breaking can happen earlier or later in life. Saul’s brokenness phase of his life lasted a brief period of time, but you don’t have to turn many pages in the Bible to find examples where it lasted much longer – take Moses for instances.
Also, brokenness ordeals vary in intensity – compare Jonah being in the stomach of a whale versus David being rebuked by a prophet.
But one thing for sure
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.
God values brokenness. God is pleased when we come to Him “with the grip of sin on our lives loosened, our ungodly self wounded, our impenetrable hardness softened, our pride brought low – when we in ourselves become as nothing and when God becomes everything to us.”
If we are serious about following Jesus, brokenness is a required course in the Christian life. So if brokenness is such a big deal – let’s be sure we understand exactly what brokenness is.
We need to listen carefully.
Brokenness is not the same as being filled with the Spirit.
Being filled with the Spirit is something any believer can do any time of his Christian life. A baby Christian can be filled with the Spirit. A believer who has been saved 60 years can be filled with the Spirit. All it takes is confession and yielding. We can be sure we are filled with the Spirit if we confess all known sin and put Jesus on the drivers seat of our lives.
Praying constantly for guidance is evidence you are filled with the Spirit. Filling your mind with God’s Word and letting it guide your life keeps you firmly on the Spirit filled path.
The ball is clearly in your court when it comes to being filled with the Spirit.
On the other hand being broken is something God does to us whether we are saved or unsaved. The ball is pretty much in God’s court as He tries to tame us, tenderize us, get us to listen to Him better, make us more usable to Him, help us be empty of self. We can ask for God to break us, but if and when that happens is not up to us.
Brokenness is not humility. But much humility results from brokenness. Humility is giving God the credit for everything while brokenness is a process of making your soul more tender to God.
Brokenness is not repentance. But deep repentance results from brokenness.
Brokenness is not necessarily suffering. Actually, if you submit to being broken, you might greatly shorten your period of discomfort.
That is what brokenness is not. But let’s turn that coin over and find out what it is.
Brokenness is the process of God taming your soul, removing barriers to you being an effective Christian, reforming your character in a major way, reducing you to submission, helping you to die to self so a new more Christ-centered you emerges.
When you think of brokenness, think of death, death to the old you. Think of unconditional surrender. Think of massive pruning of sin’s firm grip on your heart. Think of short term pain, long term gain.
Which raises a host of questions:
Question one: Why do you have to be broken?
Does anyone look forward to it?
But wait a minute: when the Bible talks about brokenness, it is not talking about taking something pure and dropping it on the floor. It is talking about taking a sinner and loosening the grip of sin on his life.
What my dad broke in the kitchen was totally good and harmless.
What God breaks in our lives is warped and distorted and grotesque and ugly.
That’s why brokenness in the physical world is bad while brokenness in the spiritual world is good.
Let’s face it – you and I minimize the power of sin.
We gloss over its ugliness. We are frequently seduced by its deception. But, it is everywhere … in our music the TV, radio, billboards, our conversations.
We are blind to it. We don’t understand the wickedness of sin. We don’t understand the power of our old nature.
When you received Jesus as your Savior you knew you were a sinner, but you had no idea how sinful you were.
It’s one thing to stop fighting, and stop cursing, and stop being disrespectful which are sins that everyone can see.
But what about sins that no one can see like lustful thoughts, jealousy, hatred, greed, and biggest and worst – the pride monster?
Those inner sins that no one can see are like those vines that grow up a tree and drain the life out of it.
Unless someone hacks away at those vines by the roots, the life of that tree is in danger and might even die.
Brokenness is God coming with His hatchet and hacking away at malignant huge vines of sin in your life that probably no one else can see – so that your spiritual life is stronger, brighter, more sin free.
Brokenness is major surgery that upgrades your spiritual life immensely.
Question two: Why is the idea of being broken a huge turn off?
“We have somehow ended up with many 21st century
Christians who consider adversity, whether it comes from a broken body or a broken heart, a violation of their spiritual rights.”
Lord, I want you to fulfill MY agenda, I want peace, I want an affluent lifestyle, and then LEAVE ME ALONE.
Did you hear of any Christian who said that his goal was for God to break him?
Have you ever heard a Christian sing, “Lord, please break me, Lord, please break me, oh, how I long to be broken”.
You and I can see movies about the cross and not get it that if we follow Jesus, we’ll have suffering of our own to go through.
Where do we get the idea that Jesus died on the cross so we could live problem free lives?
Most of our Christian church culture is simply mirroring the culture of the world where what you do matters, not your character.
But God does care about the character development of all of His children. It is so easy for us to be concerned only about what we do for God while He is concerned first of all about what we are on the inside.
Another way to say this is we can be obsessed with fruit in our lives while God’s response is to focus us on abiding in Christ, staying close to Christ, saturating our lives with Christ, working on our relationship with Him.
We must learn to celebrate basic Christian disciplines of Bible study and prayer and Scripture memory and fasting and genuine fellowship… and stop being a prisoner to the status quo.
Guess what? Our lives will then overflow with fruit like you wouldn’t believe, and our witness will increase substantially.
We don’t seem to get it that a fruitful ministry
is primarily the overflow of a close walk with the Lord.
We don’t seem to want to get it that a fruitful ministry
is primarily the overflow of a close walk with the Lord.
By the way, sometimes you and I look at older Christians and ask, “Why is she going through a breaking trial like that at her age? Why doesn’t God leave her alone?”
Because older Christians can get set in their ways – inflexible, unusable, brittle, in need of another breaking time in their lives so they can continue to be usable by God. If we fight against brokenness we fight against God’s best for our lives.
Brokenness is not the absence of God’s presence but strong evidence for it.
How much time and energy we would save if we’d cooperate in the breaking process – and be blessed by the outcome?
Look around your church. You have to be puzzled by people who attend irregularly. Sporadically. And we wonder, why? I think this is a major part of the answer: they do not want God to break them.
You and I are puzzled by some Christians who have been saved for years but always seem to be angry, unhappy, a delight not to have around. We wonder why. I think this is a major part of the answer: they have fought the idea of being broken tooth and nail.
No one likes surgery. But fighting this surgery from God sentences us to 2nd rate, fruitless Christianity.
Question three: Who are some people in the Bible who are broken?
Maybe we should ask what major person in the Bible is not broken?
Moses is broken when his temper drives him to commit murder. As a result he spends 40 years of his life in exile so he can be the leader God wants him to be.
David is broken when confronted with his own adultery and murder. That is followed by the death of his child and turmoil in his country.
The disciples are broken when the One they followed is taken away from them to be crucified. In the 40 days after the resurrection Jesus rebuilds their spiritual lives so they become the fearless starters of the church all over the ancient world.
Peter deserves special mention as he becomes a broken man when he realizes he has just denied Christ the third time but is restored after a one on one with Jesus and goes on to be the leader of the disciples, gives a great speech on Pentecost, and launches the church.
CS Lewis, the great writer, said he asked Jesus into his life to fix a leaky faucet but instead Jesus wrecked the whole house and rebuilt it. Lewis thought he had just a tiny problem with sin. God knew differently and proceeded to break Lewis’ self-made life and rebuild the man who blessed the world through his writings.
As we wind up our time on brokenness,ask yourself who is the only person ever to walk on planet earth who didn’t need to be broken? Whose life is always our example of total yielding to God?
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name
Jesus is God, second person of the trinity. There are a lot of perks and privileges that go with being God. We couldn’t begin to understand them all. But willingly, freely, Jesus confines Himself to the cramped quarters of the womb of Mary for nine months.
Willingly He submits to living in a human body for 33 years. Willingly He limits Himself to living in a tiny country in the Middle East that isn’t even independent but under the control of the Roman empire. Willingly He becomes dependent on human food to stay alive. Willingly He allows Himself to be tempted and suffer.
You and I are constantly looking for special privileges. What special privileges did Jesus look for while on earth for 33 years?
You and I who say we are Christians hold onto our rights for dear life and will go nuclear if our rights are threatened.
Willingly Jesus gave up the right to be someone important for 33 years, content to be – Philippians 2:7 – a bondservant.
Our selfishness putrefies our ambitions. Jesus selflessness defines pure ambition. “Be all that you can be! Go for all the gusto you can”, said Jesus never.
Philippians 2:8 Jesus gave up the right to win (from a human perspective). He could have won. He could have avoided the cross and pulverized those who tried to crucify Him. But He chose not to win (from a human perspective) so that you and I could win when we deserve to lose.
The broken person does not need to have the last word in confrontations.
“And all the parliaments that ever sat
And all the kings that ever reigned put together
have not affected the life of man upon the earth
as powerfully as has that One Solitary Life.”
Look at the life of Jesus and realize we don’t have to learn how to live better. We need to learn how to die better. Being a seed that is planted and dies and brings forth what it never was.
What a glorious year it would be if this is the year in which God breaks us so that the crash we hear is of our selfishness being torn down so that the ruins we see on the kitchen floor are our bad habits in pieces.
The best possible thing that could happen to us – the absolute best – is that we become broken believers.