Broken With Purpose
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
When the boy brought his bread to Jesus, what did Jesus do with it? He broke it. God will always break what is offered to Him. He breaks what He takes, then blesses and uses it to meet man’s needs. Is this not true to your experience and mine? You give yourself to the Lord, and at once everything goes so badly wrong that you are tempted to find fault with His ways. To persist in such an attitude is to be broken, yes indeed, but to what purpose? You have gone too far for the world to use you, but you have not gone far enough for God. This is the tragedy of many a Christian. Do we want to let Him use us? Then day by day let us go on giving to Him, not finding fault with His methods, but accepting his handling of us with praise and expectation.
The verses preceding Habakkuk 3:18 reveal a time of brokenness. The Hebrews were experiencing great distress. The news of a mighty advancing army who would invade and attack, the famine that was upon the land because there was no fruit on the vine, no olives for oil, no crop yield, and no sheep or cattle.
“I heard and my whole inner self trembled;My lips quivered at the sound. Decay and rottenness enter my bones, And I tremble in my place. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, For the people to arise who will invade and attack us. Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive fails and the fields produce no food, Though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls,…”
Over and over we read of God allowing or bringing His people to a place of brokenness. As He brought the Israelites to the Promised Land, Exodus tells us that He deliberately led them to the Red Sea and the wilderness. Sometimes we wonder at the methods of God and in this case Exodus tells us that God could have led them the short way. What is God after when He leads us in the path of brokenness if it is not for the purpose of teaching us to become dependent upon Him and to trust our lives to His care. The truth of the matter is that we really can’t manage our life and our decisions and efforts most of the time aren’t sufficient. Like the little boy’s bread and fish, we aren’t enough within ourselves but once God brings us through the brokenness, those pieces become more than sufficient to meet the needs of those whom God has called us to meet.
Some years ago I heard a phrase that transformed my thinking- “wounded healer.” Those two words are almost opposites. When we hear “wounded” we think of the need for healing. We are reminded of pain and suffering and distress. We think of the debilitating effects of wounds that limit our ability. We think that being “wounded” means that we need the care, the attention, and the help. But this phrase tells us that those who have been “wounded” can also be “healers.” Nobody knows better about the healing power of God than those who have been wounded. Those who have been broken know better the power of restoration far better than those who are whole. Those who are weak have learned to greater depths the strength of God. Paul, that great apostle whom God used mightily offers us the secret to his success. He tells us that it wasn’t because of his own capacity but the less of self that remained so that the more of Christ could be revealed resulted in incredible accomplishment.
“but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me. So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength].”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
We read Romans 8:28 and yet often we resist when God is bringing us through a time of brokenness as though somehow He has forgotten us or is in some way displeased with us. Paul in this same writing tells us that “those who are being led by the Holy Spirit are the children of God.” Whenever we are experiencing brokenness, there are a few things we need to investigate. First of all, we need to search our hearts with honesty and ask the Holy Spirit to assist us in our search to determine whether it is sin causing our distress. If we find that’s the case, our response is one of repentance asking for forgiveness. Second of all, if that’s not the case, we don’t need to spend more time seeking the cause. Our question needs to change from “why” to “what am I to learn from this experience.” Third of all, we need to cease chaffing at the circumstances and place our brokenness in the hands of Jesus and ask Him to work through us in a greater way to bless those around us.
When I heard that phrase, “wounded healer” I realized that everything that God allowed me to pass through- both good and bad- was to become tools that He could use to help others. I realized that He would take my wounds and pains and brokenness and somehow in His hands their purpose would be changed from destructive to blessing. Joseph understood this principle. After being thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, falsely convicted and jailed, he told his brothers that all these things happened so that he would be in a place for God to use him as a blessing.
Brokenness isn’t something that we might pursue. It is difficult and painful. When we think about the wonderful salvation we have been given, we must remember that our blessing came through the brokenness of Christ. Every time we share communion we hold the bread in our hands and before we eat, we break it to remind us that Christ was broken for us.
Every breaking that God does is designed to be beneficial in some way. I don’t pretend to understand nor enjoy those times when God chooses brokenness, but I do know that if you will give yourself and your brokenness to God He will use it just like He used a little boy’s lunch to bless those around us and to glorify God.
In our times of brokenness, we are given a choice. We can become despondent, we can turn away from God, we can allow the devil and the world to press us into despair, or we can take the lesson from Habakkuk and say, “Although life isn’t the best right now, I choose to rejoice in the Lord and joy in the God of my salvation.”
Do you ever wonder what the little boy thought when Jesus began breaking his lunch and passing it out? Can you imagine his amazement that Jesus could take so little and accomplish so much? That’s the amazement of broken people who have given themselves to God for His use. No wonder the stories of those in the Bible are stories of amazement, so much so that we have put the characters into an elevated status. The truth is they were ordinary people who through their brokenness learned dependence upon the power of God and by His strength overcame great obstacles.
Zechariah tells us the whole purpose of God allowing us to be broken is that we can begin to see that it’s not us nor our efforts that accomplish great things but when we allow God to work through us, He accomplishes great things.
“And the angel who was speaking with me came back and awakened me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. He said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with its bowl [for oil] on the top of it and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it. And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side [supplying it continuously with oil].” So I asked the angel who was speaking with me, “What are these, my lord?” Then the angel who was speaking with me answered me, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said to me, “This [continuous supply of oil] is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel [prince of Judah], saying, ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit [of whom the oil is a symbol],’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘What are you, O great mountain [of obstacles]? Before Zerubbabel [who will rebuild the temple] you will become a plain (insignificant)! And he will bring out the capstone [of the new temple] with loud shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’”
In the natural, oil comes from the crushing of olives, wine from the crushing of grapes, and flour from the crushing of wheat. Like the woman who broke the perfume over the feet of Jesus, those who allow God to break them produce a sweet fragrance before the Lord. And like the grapes, olives, and wheat, those who allow God to take the crushing of life for His use provide spiritual nourishment for a broken world. The choice is ours. Everyone goes through brokenness and crushing. We can choose to let it make us bitter or better. I hope you choose better.
Dr. John Thompson