“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” – Psalm 34:18-19 (ESV)
Building a Foundation
Brokenness. It’s hard to wrap our hearts and minds around this concept. The idea that brokenness and deep wounds are the beginning of healing is overwhelming at times. We see suffering going on all around us, people hurting in dark places, and our hearts ache. It is difficult to see, in our minds, how a loving God could allow so much grief to take place in the lives of those He loves.
To understand the deeper connection between brokenness and love, and God’s rest in the midst of it, we first need to have a foundational understanding of brokenness. What is it? Where does it come from? Whom does it affect? And what is its purpose?
What is it?
According to most dictionaries, brokenness is defined as a very negative experience. Words like “violated,” “ruined,” “crushed,” and “fragmented” are used to describe it. It is soul crushing. It is a heavy, painful, and ultimately violating thing that disturbs the rhythmic pattern of our daily lives. But biblically, we see that brokenness is defined with more beautiful imagery. There is a transitionary process of renewal that God uses during our most broken moments. David writes in Psalm 51:8, “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” (ESV) Through our breaking we can more clearly see the beauty of God’s rebuilding, and we find joy and rest through suffering.
Where does it come from?
The first picture we see of brokenness is in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve eat of the tree which God commanded them not to eat. In that moment of disobedience, sin enters the world, and as a result, brokenness. Now here is where the line often gets blurred. Brokenness, while a result of the Fall and of sin, is not actually a sin. And brokenness, while a result of sin, is not always a punishment for sin. If someone is suffering or brokenhearted it does not necessarily mean that they did anything to cause it. Brokenness, like pain, is a result of, not a synonym of sin. Jesus says of the man born blind in John 9:3, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (ESV) And even Christ himself experienced brokenness, even as He knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Whom does it affect?
Brokenness has affected everyone. Not a single person is removed from experiencing brokenness. If you go out into the world, you will see it all around you. If you hide yourself away from it, you will feel the brokenness of loneliness or bitterness. There are countless examples of people experiencing brokenness throughout God’s Word and in history. We see brokenness in the killing of the Israelite baby boys prior to the Exodus, in the losses and afflictions of Job, in the betrayal and brokenhearted woe of David hiding from his pursuers, in the lives of Naomi and Ruth losing their husbands and having to move to a strange land, in the slavery of the Israelites at the hand of Pharaoh, and ultimately in the sacrificial life and death of Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his striped we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV).”
Christ loves on and remains close to broken people all throughout His ministry. He treasures the broken. He invites the broken into His embrace. He chooses to use a multitude of broken people to proclaim His message. The broken have a beautiful heritage and duty, to share that no matter how much pain we experience, God’s love is greater. Mary the mother of Jesus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David – these are all very broken people. We even see those inflicting brokenness, become the broken and be used by God. We look at the apostle Paul (Saul), Nebuchadnezzar, and Matthew the tax collector.
What is its purpose?
Ann Voskamp writes, “Maybe this is what real love feels like—a slight breaking of the heart, and a slight breathless surprise at finding yourself put back together into a kind of wholeness. Shalom.” Brokenness is ultimately a healing process. It is a start to growth. Voskamp also writes in her book, ‘The Broken Way,’ “For a seed to come fully into its own, it must become wholly undone. The shell must break open, its insides must come out, and everything must change. If you didn’t understand what life looks like, you might mistake it for complete destruction.” It is the beautiful beginning of something new. Something being prepared for beauty, in its own time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
John Piper, founder and teacher of desiringGod.org, writes that “being broken and contrite is not against joy and praise and witness. It’s the flavor of Christian joy and praise and witness.” Brokenness is an incredible tool that God uses to shape us and to build into us and others. Many times, a broken bone must be rebroken in order to set it and give whole healing. Brokenness is sometimes the very thing used to bring restoration.
Easier said than done, right?
Christ Comes for the Broken
He who knew no sin, God incarnate, came to live the broken for the broken. We don’t have to face it alone! We never have!
“In the sharp edge of grief, Jesus doesn’t look for something to fill the broken and alone places; He takes and gives thanks—and then does the most countercultural thing: He doesn’t keep or hoard or hold on—but breaks and gives away. In the midst of intimate betrayal, He doesn’t defend or drown Himself in addicting distractions; He breaks and is given—He gives His life.”
– The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp
Christ takes on our brokenness, as well as our sins, and He suffers so we can have a relationship with Him. THAT is mind-blowing!
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
He not only endures His own suffering among humanity, but also bears our suffering and takes it on for us. We have no need to feel the weight of it by ourselves.
“You don’t have to be alone in your hurt! Comfort is yours. Joy is an option. And it’s all been made possible by your Savior. He went without comfort, so you might have it. He postponed joy, so you might share in it. He willingly chose isolation, so you might never be alone in your hurt and sorrow.” – Joni Eareckson Tada
God Gathers the Broken
God uses brokenness, and both gathers us in His arms and comforts us in our brokenness. Vance Havner, evangelist and speaker, said, “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.” Our brokenness is not without meaning. The end seems so far away sometimes. I know I have felt brokenness continually. I have lost those I love and what I love, dreams and plans, a sister, a home, and health. I have watched those I love experience brokenness and have tried to carry it on my shoulders. I have heard grief at 3AM and during birthday parties and family gatherings. I know, however, that though this broken, bleeding heart will not be without griefs and burdens and breaking until Heaven, I know that He will sustain me in the midst of it. He will gather my broken pieces, let me cry on His chest, and shield me with His strength and rest. I sob and pound my fists against Him, and He holds me as I weep.
Though brokenness is key to renewal, it also breaks His heart to see us suffer. We can cast our grief upon Him because HE CARES for us (1 Peter 5:7). David writes in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” (ESV)
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
I’m not going to tell you that you’ll be fine. I’m not going to tell you that this is all going to pass. I know it hurts. I know the pain is real. We cannot pretend that it isn’t. However, I will tell you this…it is okay to not be okay. It is okay to feel this brokenness and allow God to pick up your pieces. It’s okay to shatter, to break, to burst, and to crack. It is okay to have to depend on His comfort. Not to dwell on your pain, but to dwell in His embrace, and to let Him heal you. He will always gather His broken.