The Blessings of Brokenness
by Adrian Williams
Many years ago, I had the honor to serve onboard the US Navy Battleship, USS Missouri, in the North Arabian Gulf. There are few sights more beautiful than an up-close and personal look at the teakwood decks onboard a US Navy battleship. Shiny as they are, there is a deeper story behind those 2” thick 2 x 4 teak planks. To obtain that regal glow that they are so famous for, the decks were waxed regularly. But before waxing, they had to be stripped of any saltwater and previously laid wax. This helped reveal all the old scratches and gouges. Next, there was a sanding process, which is called “holystoning,” where the wood planks are rubbed with soft sandstone in order to smooth out the imperfections. Only then are the decks ready to receive a new coat of wax.
Just like new glory can be given to old wood, God can do the same thing with us. He can put new glory inside an old life, but he must first strip away our old nature and sand away our sinful strongholds.
In our current lexicon, brokenness has extremely negative connotations. When we think of something being broken, we imagine things that are no longer functional, and just like anything else we no longer need, we throw them away. Broken goods are rejected, and sadly that often includes people as well. The world is full of people with broken hearts, broken spirits, and broken relationships. To us, broken things are despised as worthless, but God can take what has been broken and remake it into something better, something that he can use for his glory.
Embracing our Brokenness
What if we were to stop avoiding brokenness and actually saw the blessing in being broken? In his book, Dangerous Prayers, noted pastor and author Craig Groeschel writes,
“What if rather than avoiding brokenness we embraced it? Welcomed it? And even prayed for it? God, break me. Even though it is not pleasant, it will produce a better life. Brokenness is a blessing because it puts us on the road to a breakthrough. Those who are spiritually broken will be blessed because they will see God, and God’s power will flow through their lives.”
Jesus proclaimed, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3, NIV).
The Bible clearly shows us that God both desires brokenness and rewards broken people with the wonder of his presence and the power of his deliverance. But why? Because of our pride. Every sin is an act of rebellion against God, and so every sin is an act born in pride. Pride is what keeps us from seeing our need for God and coming to him for help and salvation. God can only do work in the life of the humble, because only the humble will see his need and ask for help. The Bible says that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6, NLT).
Pathway to Humility
It was pride that caused David to lust after a woman, pride to think he could have another man’s wife, and pride to think he would get away with it. When Bathsheba sent word to him that she was expecting his child, it was pride that kept him scheming, seeking to cover his tracks, and pride that gave him permission to have her husband cut down and killed on the battlefield. His pride finally broke only under the conviction of God when the prophet Nathan told him that his sin was known, that it was despised by God, and that it would cost him the life of his infant son. King David speaks of brokenness in the following psalm:
“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:16, 17, ESV).
In this psalm, King David has come to grips with the horror of his sins of adultery and murder. And in this light, David confesses that what would please God most is if David had a broken spirit. It is this repentance from pride and coming into humility that also makes us pleasing to God. When we see our sins as a grievous offense to the heart of a holy God, we ought to be humbled. When we see ourselves as totally depraved and helpless without him, desperately in need of a Savior, we will be humbled.
Lord, Break Me!
As I look back at the times when I’ve been broken in one way or another, one thing was clear: The brokenness came in times when I felt like everything was going my way . . . those times when I started believing my own press clippings. Just as he has done for me, God will break your dependence upon anything other than himself no matter how long it takes or how difficult the process may be. He is committed to bringing us to a place of wholeness and spiritual maturity, ultimately conforming us to the likeness of his Son.
Whenever we experience brokenness, God’s grace can sustain and mature us. He will show us how to relinquish our reliance on earthly forms of security and teach us how to rest in his perfect peace, provision, and love. It is in this way that we grow in the likeness of Christ and are prepared for future service for the kingdom of God.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12, 13, ESV).
What is God stripping away from your life? What do you trust in more than the Lord? Maybe you are facing a time of brokenness and it feels as though the emotional pain is more than you can bear. Or perhaps you are dealing with a series of disappointments that have completely undermined your sense of security. Instead of becoming fearful, ask the Lord to reveal what he is teaching you.
Adrian Williams has been a member of Christ’s Church for three years. As a founding member of the John Maxwell Leadership Team, certified executive coach, facilitator, and speaker, discipleship is his passion.