The Blessings of Brokenness
We often hear about a book title, sermon title, or conference title speaking about the secret to the Christian life. Well, since God has already revealed to us all that we need to know as to how to live a life pleasing to him, it really is not a secret.
But the problem is, the spiritual truths on this are often not well received or well liked. What he requires of us is not what the flesh wants. It is often not what our churches are preaching either. And too often we try to do things in carnal ways, not spiritual ways.
God’s ways are almost always the opposite of the world’s ways. So if we try to achieve godliness, holiness and the deeper Christian life via worldly means it just will not work. The world emphasises self-sufficiency, power, self, ego and control. Scripture emphasises God-sufficiency, weakness, selflessness, humility and letting go.
If we want to know the “secret” of the transformed life, one greatly used by God, we must reject the ways of the world and embrace the ways of our Saviour. And we can come to few better places on this than what we read about in the Servant Song found in Isaiah 53 (specifically, Is. 52:13-53:12). Here we read about an incredible Suffering Servant.
In 53:2-4 we read this:
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
Brokenness is a key term to describe what we find there. Based on this and other texts we might be justified in saying that those who have known brokenness and hardship and abandonment and rejection and weakness and grief are those who may be the closest to Christ.
Scripture certainly speaks to this often. Consider just five such verses, all from the Old Testament:
Psalm 34:18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners.
Those who have gone through times of hard-core brokenness will realise that often the greatest works of God in and through them come during these periods. Thus instead of seeking to flee from such times, we should embrace them. This is indeed one of the “secrets” of the normal Christian life. So why do we not hear more about brokenness?
I happen to have a lot of books in my library, and I was wondering what I specifically had on the topic. Nothing readily came to mind so I looked at my 100-page Word document which lists all my 6000 volumes. A quick search discovered that I had not one book title with the word brokenness in it. Hmm.
So I did a quick search on amazon with the term, and many books did come up. One series of volumes quite intrigued me, so I have just ordered them. Of course the books will not arrive here until after this piece is penned – so stay tuned. But I refer to A Revive Our Hearts Trilogy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It comprises three separate books of hers bound into one: Brokenness, Surrender, Holiness.
Certainly all the great saints of God have known these truths about brokenness and surrender and the cruciform life. Brokenness is crucial if we want to see God move in our lives and be mightily used by him. A. W. Tozer once put it this way: “All great Christians have been wounded souls.”
This is certainly true, although it must be pointed out that not every wounded soul allows God to work in them to become great for God. When we go through times of brokenness and hardship we do not automatically become more Christlike.
It all depends on how we respond to these trials and difficulties. We can become either bitter or better. We can see them as either obstacles or opportunities. We can use them as either stumbling blocks or stepping stones. So Tozer is quite right: basically all the great saints who have been used mightily by God have been broken people, wounded people, and humbled people. But we need to let God do his work in us during these times.
Many other mighty men and women of God have spoken about brokenness and how crucial it is for the Christian life. Let me quote from just a few of them:
“The prayer that prevails is not the work of lips and fingertips. It is the cry of a broken heart and the travail of a stricken soul.” Samuel Chadwick
“Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.” Bishop Fulton Sheen
“God is not looking for brilliant men, is not depending upon eloquent men, is not shut up to the use of talented men in sending His Gospel out in the world. God is looking for the broken men who have judged themselves in the light of the Cross of Christ. When He wants anything done, He takes up men who have come to the end of themselves, whose confidence is not in themselves, but in God!” H.A. Ironside
“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” Vance Havner
“Before God could bring me to this place He has broken me a thousand times.” Smith Wigglesworth
“Whenever God means to make a man great, He always breaks him in pieces first.” Charles Spurgeon
“Blessed be His name that He has arranged that one Person of the Sacred Trinity should undertake this office of Comforter, for no man could ever perform its duties. We might as well hope to be the Savior as to be the Comforter of the heartbroken!” Charles Haddon Spurgeon
“My grand point in preaching is to break the hard heart, and to heal the broken one.” John Newton
So if you are going through some really heavy duty times right now, understand that God may be doing his precious work of brokenness in your life. He may be using all sorts of hardships, attacks, difficulties and conflicts to refine you, to purify you, and to get you to the place that he wants you at.
And that is a place of brokenness and humility. The best place we can be is on our faces before God, broken before him with a humble and teachable spirit. That is a place God will never despise or neglect.
22 Replies to “The Blessings of Brokenness”
Great stuff Bill 🙂 : In accepting our own brokenness & the brokeness we see & in facing it head on with God we can indeed overcome 🙂
A Prayer of Brokenness –
Daniel 9 :1 – 19
1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; 2 In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. 3 And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: 4 And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; 5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: 6 Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. 8 O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him; 10 Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him. 12 And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth. 14 Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly. 16 O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake. 18 O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.
That is what worries me. I am never sure that my response is as Godly as it could (or should) be. I am still protecting and defending my “self” in so many ways.
Many thanks for those links Thad.
Isaiah 42:3 Matthew 12:20 Ä bruised reed He will not break and a smoking (or dimly burning wick) flax He will not quench till He has established judgment in the earth.” THE BRUISED REED by Richard Sibbes Banner Paperback, 17th century CofE puritan pastor. M Lloyd Jones claimed this book was healing to him. Me too. I have ordered two copies from my local Christian bookshop to give to others. I see in the last phrase that this is all that Christ is about in the will of His Father and ours.
Thanks – Bill! (Matt) Something we so desperately need in the face of the Churches arrogance and rebellion toward the living God and .. like it of not – we ARE the Church, if we stand apart from the Church, we stand apart, in separation from Jesus!
This piece moved me this morning.
I have good problems, but they are my problems and challenges. It helped me to see them in this light.
As Matthew Henry writes in his commentary on Psalm 51 – The good work wrought in every true penitent, is a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, and sorrow for sin. It is a heart that is tender, and pliable to God’s word. Oh that there were such a heart in every one of us! God is graciously pleased to accept this; it is instead of all burnt-offering and sacrifice. The broken heart is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ; there is no true repentance without faith in him. Men despise that which is broken, but God will not. He will not overlook it, he will not refuse or reject it; though it makes God no satisfaction for the wrong done to him by sin. Those who have been in spiritual troubles, know how to pity and pray for others afflicted in like manner.
This past weekend I read a favourite, tatty old paperback from my bookshelf – The Calvary Road by Roy Hession. It’s only a slim volume of 63 pages (put out by the Christian Literature Crusade in London in 1950). The first chapter is simply titled Brokenness. I share some favourite quotes below. For those interested in the entire volume, clicking the link below will download the pdf to your computer.
“Brokenness in daily experience is simply the response of humility to the conviction of God, and inasmuch as this conviction is continuous, we shall need to be broken continually. This can be very costly when we see all the yielding of rights and selfish interests that this will involve, and the confessions and restitutions that sometimes may be necessary.”
“For this reason we are not likely to be broken except at the Cross of Jesus. The willingness of Jesus to be broken for us is the all compelling motive in our being broken too. We see Him, who is in the form of God, counting not equality with God a prize to be grasped at and hung onto, but letting it go for us and taking upon Him the form of a Servant-God’s servant, man’s Servant. We see Him willing to have no rights of His own, no home of His own, no possessions of His own, willing to let men revile Him and not revile again, willing to let men tread on Him and not retaliate or defend Himself. Above all, we see Him broken as He meekly goes to Calvary to become men’s scapegoat by bearing their sins in His own body on the Tree.”
“But dying to self is not a thing we do once for all. There may be an initial dying when God first shows these things, but ever after it will be a constant dying, for only so can the Lord Jesus be revealed constantly through us. All day long the choice will be before us in a thousand ways. It will mean no plans, no time, no money, no pleasure of our own. It will mean a constant yielding to those around us, for our yieldedness to God is measured by our yieldedness to man. Every humiliation, everyone who tries and vexes us, is God’s way of breaking us, so that there is a yet deeper channel in us for the Life of Christ.”
Terrific stuff Kerry! I am sure I had that volume decades ago but it would be back in America somewhere. I will have to get another copy. Thanks again.
Jerry Bridges’ Trusting God even When Life Hurts. Terrific book by a terrific author.
A book for every book shelf. I have all of Jerry’s volumes on mine. I can recommend every single one.
Yes he is terrific Dave – https://billmuehlenberg.com/2016/03/07/notable-christians-jerry-bridges/
I’ve been encouraged by the Bible’s clear teaching that God disciplines those He loves. It was a truth I clung to during a difficult time in my life.
Same here, Ross and I still do.
Great message, Bill. I know so many passionate believers who have been going through the mill for some time now, experiencing so many different emotions which would be termed negative by most…questioning themselves, seeing all their own flaws, repenting, repenting and repenting again. I like your comment about all this being needed for God to prepare us for His service. There must be a lot of service coming up for all those broken souls.
Yes quite so Dee.
After being broken often…nothing you have said I would disagree with. Which I know is a bit weak.
I would pose one point though…..
‘Does my brokenness bring ‘me’ closer to God…or does it put my in a position (state of heart/mind/spirit) to draw ‘God’ closer to me ? Do you believe there is a difference?
Psalms 34:8..speaks of God’s position…
I need to do more research…
Good questions Peter. As I say in the article, suffering and hardship can make us bitter or better. They can be stumbling blocks or stepping stones. So it all depends on what we do with our brokenness. Do we give it to God or do we use it to rail against God? Somewhat like what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:10: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Thanks, Bill. I’ve been in the refining fire recently, yet again. How apropos to read your article just now. Many blessings.
For many, MANY years now I have had on my heart and in my spirit the story about the broken pottery and how God is our Potter and is the shaper and the Author of our faith.
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. [Jeremiah 18:1-4]
And we are NOT to question the Potter as we are being shaped. Isaiah 45:9 and 64:8
I always feel that I am either a broken vessel, shattered by the Potter. Or I am being reshaped by the Potter; shaped in a way that the Potter sees fit.