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.