Whenever we experience problems or pain, suffering or stress, rejection or persecution, illness or weariness, depression or death, poverty or treachery, hardship or hate … or anything else that’s unexpected, unwanted, unplanned … we tend to feel that for some reason God is not pleased with us or perhaps that He’s cut us off. We say “why me Lord?” or “why are you allowing me to go through this God?”. And then when we think God doesn’t answer, our response comes in the ugly form of bitterness and resentment against God and that is a very dangerous thing.
But believe it or not, the richest of blessings can come through the severest or most painful forms of brokenness.
But I hear you say “wait, what blessing can possibly come from brokenness?” When we are broken and stripped down to our very core, it gives us a very good opportunity to go before the throne of grace and experience the amazing light, strength and presence of God.
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
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite (broken) and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite (broken) ones. – Isaiah 57:15
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. – Psalm 51:17
In order for us to be truly blessed and be a blessing to others we must be willing to be broken of our self-sufficiency, sin and pride. God can use many ways to do that. Loss of a job, extended or terminal illness, mental breakdown, mental illness, relationship breakdown, loss of everything earthly possessed in a house fire or perhaps losing a loved one to name a few.
If we are honest with ourselves, everyone of us has experienced brokenness in some way or another. The thing is that few of us are willing to admit it.
Even though it feels like your world has been shattered to a thousand pieces and that there’s no hope for your life, God can take those pieces and put them together in a marvellous way that you never imagined.
Nothing happens without a good reason! God is in control and everything that happens to the child of God, whether it’s good or bad happens for a reason and even though we may not understand it at the time, it has a divine purpose.
In this article I want to briefly outline four different blessings that I believe come directly from experiencing brokenness.
The blessing of confidence in faith
Periods of brokenness can really put our faith in God to the test. Let’s use an illustration from the Bible to start off with: The Story of Lazarus in John chapter 11. Why did Christ allow Lazarus to die and then subsequently raise him from the dead? Because He wanted to test the faith of Mary, Martha and the others that were present. No doubt their hearts were broken and their spirits were crushed but at the end of the ordeal, their faith in God was strengthened more than ever before.
Verse 15 of John chapter 11: And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.
The Apostle Peter in his first epistle, chapter one verses 6-7 offers one purpose for our suffering:
1 Peter 1:6-7
6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
If you think that God doesn’t test our faiths and that He wants everyone to be happy, healthy, wealthy and problem free, then let’s have a look at a couple of Scripture references to refute this common misconception rife in liberal churches today:
1 Peter 4:19
Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
The Apostle Paul’s personal experience also refutes the idea that a blessed life is a problem-free life.
2 Corinthians 11:23-33
23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.
32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:
33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.
How did hardship affect Job’s faith?
10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
11 My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.
12 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.
Now have a look at our Lord’s attitude when he was crushed and broken for us on the Cross.
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
The writer of the book of Hebrews encourages us to embrace hardship in this manner:
32 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;
33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.
35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.
36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
The bottom line is that brokenness forges strong faith.
The blessing of empathy and compassion for others
If we have never been through a period (or several) of brokenness in our lives, it is very difficult to be compassionate and show empathy for others in that situation. Thus God allows us to experience brokenness in order to provide comfort to these people who may be going through a time of tribulation.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
Jesus Christ is our example.
15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
God has allowed my family and even myself to go through various times of spirit-crushing distress and I think that we’ve come out of them as changed people with the ability to understand and empathise with others.
Here’s a few examples from my own life: mental illness is something that runs in my family. Because of my experiences I am able to be more understanding of people suffering from mental illnesses. I work in a small family business. Business is tough, cash flow runs dry and you put in so much with very little coming out in return. I know how hard it can truly be and I have a special empathy for those struggling to make ends meet. Death has reared it’s ugly head several times. Losing a loved one or seeing firsthand someone losing someone close to them changes the way one sees death. I have compassion for those grieving the loss of a loved one or a friend. I have been through the long and drawn out homicide court case where the victim was a relative – something that not many people have the misfortune of experiencing. I can understand and empathise with those who may be going through a similar situation.
We can bless others by showing compassion and lending a listening ear and an open heart and we are also blessed in doing so.
The blessing of a deeply intimate relationship with God
It is in the darkest of times that we can really draw closer to God and draw upon Him as the source of our comfort, peace and joy. That sweetness of that close relationship comes as a direct result of us being broken in spirit and realising there is nothing in and of ourselves and that everything comes from Christ and so we turn to Him in humble reliance. A stint of work related depression definitely drove me to God that’s for sure. I realised that everything I do is useless and empty without Christ blessing, guiding and empowering what I do.
Sometimes God allows trials and tribulations because of continual unrepentant sin in our lives and and other times those trials and tribulations are used by Him to draw us closer to Himself. True personal revival comes through repentance and repentance should be a direct succession of brokenness. You can read more about God using trials and tribulations as discipline in my article “Examine Yourself“.
In the context of salvation Psalm 34:18 says “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”
The blessing of being more conformed to the image of Christ
Trials and tribulations are all part of the sanctification process of making us be more conformed to the image of Christ or in another words be more like the character of Christ.
Romans 5:3 gives us a great example…
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
In other words, we can learn patience through times of tribulation and that is just one example out of many others. So if you struggle with a problem of impatience, the “bad” news is that you’re in for a blessed time of God driving you up the wall through a variety of different circumstances.
If you are broken for whatever reason, I want you to feel encouraged. God never abandons His children. He is faithful even when we are unfaithful. However as I have just written about, sometimes God allows us to go through periods of brokenness in order to unlock rich spiritual blessings that we would not otherwise be able to appreciate or even comprehend. So praise Him out of the middle of your tribulation! Travelling through that tunnel of darkness may be very trying for the present time but remember there’s light at the other end and what a blessing it is to know that God uses these times to make us stronger in our faith and closer to Himself.