You’ve been to college—maybe even seminary. You’ve been graduated, certified, ordained and commissioned with every credential in order, and, in time you have been or you will be culled and called to serve. On your resume there is nothing lacking, nothing sparing. You literally “fit the bill” and by every conceivable canon you are fully equipped and ready for service and success.
But lest you allow yourself to be caught up to the third heaven with desires and dreams of trouble-free, testing exempt work in whatever endeavor you find yourself engaged, let’s consider one more requirement for a fruitful, faithful life of labors for your Lord. And, that one special, crucial ingredient is brokenness.
It will be an experience you need not pray for, nor will you have to find it; it will find you. Probably at the least convenient time and from the least expected source you will suffer brokenness that will shape you and may shake you to the core of your soul, spirit and body. Only your settled, sure, steadfast confidence in the goodness of God, the guidance of His Spirit and the grace of His Son will see you through.
You can mark it down. If you will be used of God to execute in your daily walk with Him and work for Him, you will need to pass one more course, and that is in the school of brokenness. You won’t be attending any lectures to guide you through. When you look back upon the unforgettable lessons, you will not be able to hang any framed diplomas on your office wall to mark your passing this school of discipleship course. Few people, other than your spouse or maybe a deeply trusted confidant will know the depths, the despair, the draught your soul and spirit suffered; but you will and you will never be the same for it. And, oh, you would be wise to expect some intermittent “refresher” installments along life’s way.
There will be and should be comfort in knowing that God has enrolled every servant of His that has been used to bring glory to Himself in this post-graduate course of brokenness. Jacob (“supplanter”) was left broken, literally and spiritually, after wrestling with God one starlit night on his return trip from Padanaram to Canaan, and he was known thereafter as Israel, a prince with God. Joseph, oh Joseph! Hammered by his brothers’ betrayal for starters, Joseph knew well what he would later write that “God meant it for good.” David was broken by Saul, by his own self (sin), by his son (Absalom), and by his servants before he would confess that “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken spirit and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” (Ps. 51:17) Paul the Apostle possessed credentials like few others could ever boast, but he would be broken in almost every conceivable way so that he could say “And, lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” (2 Cor. 12:7)
One wise man aptly said, “Our life is full of brokenness—broken promises, broken relationships, broken expectations. How can we live with that brokenness without becoming bitter and resentful except by returning again and again to God’s faithful presence in our lives?” (Henri Nouwen) Another spoke well: “The freest person in the world is one with an open heart, a broken spirit and a new direction in which to travel.” (George MacDonald)
Brokenness is not only good, it is vital. Grain that is crushed feeds multitudes; pitchers that were broken gave Gideon’s meager band of 300 barely equipped soldiers a resounding victory over 120,000 well-armed Midianites with their 1,000 camels! Broken boards and pieces of a broken ship dashed upon rocks enabled Paul and his traveling companions to make it safely to shore.
Jesus, our Lord, broke pieces of bread at His last supper with the Apostles on His way to Calvary and in so doing He said that they should “Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” (I Cor. 11:24)
God uses broken things to sing His praises. God uses shattered health to show His grace; He uses useless things to humble men. (Simon Walburg)
From a page out of history: George W. Truett was a great preacher, pastoring the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, for almost half a century. Early in his ministry he was invited to go hunting with his dear friend who was Chief of Police. Tragedy struck when Truett’s gun accidentally discharged, and his friend was wounded. Getting help for the Chief as quickly as possible, the prognosis for his recovery was promising; but, sadly, in a couple of days his condition worsened and he died. The devastated young pastor wanted to resign and leave the ministry, but his friends implored him to remain, so he continued as pastor and when he retired, he had been a faithful, fruitful under shepherd for 47 years, paving the way for his successor, W.A. Criswell, to realize an equally blessed 50 years of ministering at this historic church. It was said that Pastor Truett never smiled again after the passing of his best friend; but it was also noted that he never preached before like he preached after that experience.
So, yes, God uses broken things. Broken hopes, broken bodies, broken fortunes and even broken families, but out of ashes can rise beauty; out of rust, riches; out of weakness, wealth; out of dying, living. Are you broken? Do not despair. Through your weakness God can display His strength. Ride the broken boards or bones to the Shore of safety. God will never leave you. You will never be the same. You would never have prayed for it but you would not trade anything you could name for the experience of it. God works in and through brokenness.
“The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart and: and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Ps. 34:18)