God wants to break you. Sounds painful, doesn’t it? Even frightening. But brokenness is not something to be avoided. Brokenness is God’s provision for spiritual victory.
Writing about brokenness is like writing about humility. The author who says he understands it only reveals his ignorance when he attempts to explain it. I’ve discovered that brokenness can’t be defined precisely, nor made more palatable. Its messy. And it’s ongoing.
What I know for certain is that brokenness is a journey of sorts. Although the road map differs for each of us, our destination is the same. It’s a place of agreement with God wherein we acknowledge that apart from Jesus Christ we can do nothing of any spiritual value [John 15:5].
Brokenness is the process whereby we decrease and Jesus increases [John 3:30]. In denying ourselves becoming less – Jesus be comes more in our daily lives. But how do we become less? Is it really necessary to be broken? And what can we expect from God in return? These are some of the questions I’ll try to answer here.
First, let take the bite out of brokenness by looking at the breaking process from God’s point of view. To help us that, I’m going to compare the breaking of a man or woman to the breaking of a horse. The parallels are striking. Next, I’m going to show you what brokenness looks like in real life by examining the experiences of Jacob, a proud and deceitful man who fought the breaking process, and lost. And finally, we’ll ask ourselves some tough questions to determine how broken we re ally are.
ONE ANALOGY IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS [Psalm 32:9]
Have you noticed? Jesus never preached a boring sermon. He told stories. He drew pictures with words. He packed truth into analogies that spoke to His listeners. I am the vine and you are the branches (John 15:1). I am the good shepherd and you are the sheep (John 10:7). Meditate on these images, and you’ll glean precious insights into the ways of God.
Living in Wyoming among ranchers and cowboys, I see God’s ways mirrored in another analogy. The human soul, I’m convinced, has much in common with an unbroken horse. A horse is powerful, majestic, and beautiful to behold, but left unbroken, he remains stubborn, dangerous, and even destructive. Never mind potential, if a colt’s neck is stiff and can’t be guided, the cowboy can’t trust him–or use him–for anything.
How many of us, I wonder, miss God’s best for our lives be cause our necks are stiff, and we long to go our own way? Unknowingly, perhaps, we worship a god called self who resists the Lord like a unbroken horse resists his trainer.
Self refuses to depend on God and submit to His ways. “Let me do it my way,” it insists, “out of my own strength.” Self makes success its master, risking depression, disillusionment, failure, and even suicide.
A stiff-necked man is useless to God because his stubborn and haughty heart restricts the Holy Spirit’s work in his life. Speaking before the Sanhedrin, Stephen said, “You men who are stiff-necked … are always resisting the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51).
Like a wild horse, the stiff-necked man can’t be guided. Unharnessed, his energy is potentially destructive. His rebellious words become weapons Satan uses to shatter lives, his own included. For lack of brokenness, his damaged relationships, which could be healed, explode in anger.
The unbroken man is a consumer. Like the wild colt, he occupies space and ‘eats up’ every resource in reach with little regard for needs of others. A taker, not a giver, he offers little or nothing in return.
The Ways of a Cowboy Mirror Those of God
Now consider the cowboy for a moment. He is gentle, patient and persistent — like our Father in heaven. A pail of oats in hand, he opens the pasture gate and heads for his colt. Yes, he seeks him out, but the cowboy never chases the colt. He woos him to his side with the promise of food and a friendly whistle. With oats on his mind, the young horse doesn’t object when his trainer slips a halter over his ears and nose and leads him into the riding arena.
In this new environment, the colt is strangely apprehensive. His ears go back, and he side-steps awkwardly, without warning, as if a rabbit has just run across his path. But the cowboy remains calm and immovable.
His horse may snort and bellow; he may even buck or jump to the side when the cowboy tries to mount him for the first time, but a skillful trainer stays in the saddle, keeping a steady hand on each rein. “You have to show your horse who’s in charge,” the cowboy will tell you. “And you do that by controlling his head and neck. He doesn’t like you tugging on him and he’ll fight keeping his head straight, but pretty soon he’ll figure out that it’s a whole lot easier to do what he’s asked than to go his own way.”
A Broken Horse Becomes One with His Trainer
After working together daily for several months, the cowboy and his horse become one. You can see that by the way the horse responds to the cowboy’s every foot cue or movement in the saddle. If the rider leans forward, for example. the horse starts walking. If he leans back at a gallop, extending his legs forward in the stirrups, the colt slows down. Amazingly, if the horse is well-trained, the pressure of a bit in his mouth is not necessary to control him because he has learned to respond to subtle changes in the alignment of the cowboy’s head and shoulders. Should the rider tum his head even slightly, the horse will move in that direction.
In addition, a broken horse is no longer a consumer only. He has something valuable to offer his master, and this give-and-take relationship will only get better with time as they learn to trust each other more and more.
One day that cowboy will ask him to cross a rushing stream, and he’ll obey without balking. Why? Because the breaking process didn’t cripple or harm the colt. Nor did it sap his energy or drive. It only made him better.
A Broken Spirit Finds Oneness with God
When God breaks us, the results are remarkably the same: We become [relationally] one with God, like the horse and his rider. We are able to sense His every move — His every gentle whisper — and respond appropriately without fear or hesitation.
- We naturally go in the direction God is pointing; and, in so doing, we achieve our full potential.
- We are no longer dangerous or destructive, stubborn or stiff-necked. We can be trusted, and we trust God.
- We are guidable, and therefore useful to God.
- No longer controlled by self, we become givers, not consumers only.
- Now broken in spirit, we are ready to receive God’s blessings, which always await us at the end of our trials.
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Unless otherwise specified. Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible.
Bob Phillips (1947-2017) was a respected pastor and author. This article was featured in his newsletter, Come Up Higher (vol. 1, issue 9). Some of his resources are at www.pastorbobphillips.com/
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