If you'd like, you're welcome to read Part 1 and Part 2 first. =)
Welcome (or welcome back) to my ongoing conversation on the popular Christian concept of brokenness. I am so glad you're here and look forward to your reflections and input! I hope you will look up the scriptures I have linked to throughout this post so you can further your own exploration of what I have to share here!
I have continued to study and pray and contemplate many things I have heard and read. It is a challenge to pin down a clear and particular definition and application of brokenness. It is a word much-used by modern Christians and theologians, many with renowned names you would readily recognize with respect, but it isn't a word I've been able to find frequently in Scripture, and certainly not with all the meanings it wears now!
This word bothers me . . . at least some uses of it bother me.
Am I being rebellious? Stubborn? Obtuse? Unspiritual? Foolish?
I hope not. I pray not.
There are just too many passages in Scripture that express God's desire and promise to make us whole, to make us new, to heal us, to restore us, to comfort us, to give us peace, to provide for us, to help us, to guide us, to give us victory, to fill us with joy and His certain hope. I can't find a single one that says that God's ultimate desire for me is that I would live in perpetual brokenness.
Now, before you think I am throwing out everything that has ever been written or spoken or taught about what might or might not be the godly value of something that could be called brokenness, let me assure you, that is not the case. I just think the word has come to be used too broadly, has acquired too many muddy definitions (by usage, not always by accurate theology), and can unintentionally cause great misunderstanding and unnecessary pain when misapplied. For example:
1. Brokenness is sometimes used to describe our human frailties--our tendencies toward some bad or sinful habit, a personality flaw, or a temperament trait that is a place of personal weakness.
2. Another way brokenness is often used is to describe the wounds people receive from painful life circumstances that happen on our fallen planet. Unfortunately, people then attribute these circumstances to God's sovereign intentionality sent because of His perceived desire for our brokenness.
3. Brokenness can also be used to speak of an unceasing pain over sin and a relentless sense of worminess before a disapproving and offended God who takes some grim pleasure in putting us in our place with a harsh voice and an iron fist.
While I think it is tremendously important to be real about who we are and where we are in our growth, some of these definitions of brokenness can keep us focused on ourselves, especially when people start teaching that we should seek to become increasingly broken in order to please God. Even worse, some of these definitions twist God's relationship with us into a terrible and damaging caricature that will hinder our intimacy with Him.
That being said, I think there ARE some very important truths we can really embrace about brokenness that may sort out some of my unease with this word. So what might be some things God would desire to break in us?
1. God wants to break the power of sin and the influence of the world and the flesh.
SIN (in its many forms).
These are examples of things that God knows are destructive to us and our relationship with Him, not to mention rebellious. These are things that keep us from being all He intended us to be and that hinder us from being in continuous close fellowship with Him. He will always do what is necessary to chisel away and break these stony, stubborn impurities out of the hearts he loves. He sees these things like we see cancer--something destructive that must be removed!
The quality produced when God breaks our pride and convicts us of sin is HUMILITY. We do best when we have a heart tender toward the Holy Spirit convicting us of sin and when we are humbled by the knowledge of our vulnerability to the pull of the flesh. Conviction of sin should break our hearts and send us running to our Abba Father for help. We do not need to live perpetually scattered in painful pieces over our sin, but can instead bring our sin humbly to our Father in confession so He can "forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 NIV God passionately and favorably responds to people who have humble attitudes before Him and who come to Him for the solution to their sin problem.
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Brokenness . . . the godly brokenness of humility . . . is not about keeping us broken in fragments like some hopeless Humpty Dumpty, but about bringing us to God's loving and capable hands with which He puts us back together and forms us anew. When He does, we can walk forward knowing we are made whole by the only One who ever could.
2. God wants to break our habit of going our own way.
We have a tendency to want to control our own lives, determine where we go and what we do. As Christians, as Christ-followers, we need to learn instead to SURRENDER our will to God's will, to want what He wants, to go where He directs. "Yet not as I will, but as you will." Matthew 26:39 NIV We tend to have a very dim view of God's ideas for our lives and think if we surrender to Him that He will immediately crush all our hopes and dreams and make us do something we hate or lead us through terrible suffering.
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV
Does that sound like Someone who wants to smash every dream you ever had? I don't think so! God made us with a very particular mix of aptitudes and affinities and a wild imagination to go with them, and He did that purposefully. If our dreams are aligned with His will, and if we are surrendered to His leadership and are passionate about His glory, God infuses those dreams with His power and makes them come true beyond our wildest imagination! If our dreams are more aligned with the world, or if we're not ready yet, then God will redirect us, or He may have different timing than what we would choose, and sometimes (not always) the roads we walk with Him can be difficult, but just like Jesus, when we follow God's way, it is always "for the joy!" Either way, we can trust Him to guide us into the very paths that enable us to become our truest selves and to participate in showing His glory to the world!
Brokenness . . . not a broken spirit, but a will that is surrendered to the One who can be trusted, the One who designed us for His purposed greatness, to show Him to a needy world!
3. God wants to break our hearts with His compassion for hurting people.
"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matthew 9:36 NIV
Jesus' life on earth gave us His pattern to live by if we want to show the heart of God to the world (and we SHOULD want that). Luke and John tell us that on more than one occasion, Jesus was moved to tears with His COMPASSION for the pain and suffering of people he encountered, for the destruction of death and sin. It is not to a passive, detached and merely sympathetic observance God has called us to, but a deep and active compassion that moves and breathes and gives His love to the hurting.
Brokenness . . . not the despair of being overwhelmed by the world's pain, but the big-hearted flood of compassion for someone in need. It is the compassion that flows from God's heart through us to put our hands into action, our boots on the ground, delivering His love in practical ways.
Oh Heavenly Father, that you would move our hearts to humble repentance, surrender of our will and compassionate action, all for Your glory!
When have you had an opportunity to live out humility, surrender or compassion this week?
Join me next time for one final post in this series where we'll explore what horses can teach us about brokenness!
Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
"This also is Thou!"
461. Celebrating Easter with the baptism of both my children--something they have both wanted for a long time!
462. Mom and Daddy's unexpected Easter gift and the lovely meal it gave us together as a family (wish you could have been here with us like you were in spirit!)
463. Songs that carry me away and make me sweetly homesick
464. Hero Husband home safe and sound after a speaking engagement in Southern California
465. Drummer Boy's 20th birthday spent in the studio with him watching him work and make musical magic!
466. The glow of 20 birthday candles!
467. She So Sweet, so happy!
468. The beauteous poem she wrote
469. Knowing dinner tasted so good to them!
470. Iris in bloom--my favorite flowers!
471. Watching the Royal Wedding with She So Sweet and hearing Scripture going out over the airwaves to 2 BILLION people! Isaiah 55:11!
472. Waking up WITHOUT that wretched headache!
473. Clean, running water
474. Our plum trees grown tall from the twigs they seemed when we planted them, and the cooling shade they provide.
475. Iced coffee with LOTS of ice.