“It is not until a beautiful kernel of corn is buried and broken in the earth by death that its inner heart sprouts, producing hundreds of other seeds or kernels. And so it has always been, down through the history of plants, people and all of spiritual life. God uses broken things. ”
—THOMAS TOKE BUNCH
It is clear from the Scriptures that God delights in the man or woman who has a broken and contrite heart. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart and saveth such of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:17). I believe that some of our suffering is engineered to bring about brokenness. We must be delivered from our own self sufficiency and become completely dependent on the Lord.
Moses is a prime example of one who experienced brokenness. Raised in the king’s palace, we see Moses as a confident man, a man used to authority, and one who takes matters into his own hands. He sets about to deliver his people by his own strength which results in the murder of an Egyptian. Forced to flee from the wrath of Pharaoh, Moses ends up in the land of Midian where he tends sheep in a dry and barren wilderness.
God has to remove him from Pharaoh’s palace to bring about brokenness and prepare him to lead the Israelites in the wilderness. Forty years later when God appears to Moses in a burning bush, we find a changed man. He is no longer sell-confident, in fact his reply to God’s command is, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). Also, Moses tells the Lord that he is not eloquent and is slow of speech and tongue. All self-confidence and self-reliance has gone. That is exactly what God needs in a leader.
Johannes Facius, a well-known writer, teacher and leader in intercessory prayer, tells how the Lord spoke to turn about brokenness after he went through three years of deep depression. He said the first thing the Lord spoke to him after bringing him out of a dark tunnel was the following: “Johannes, all along this way you have been walking I have been longing to extend to you my healing touch, but I could not do it until you had been utterly broken before me. For in the days to come I cannot use you the way I have planned and give you my anointing in an increasing measure unless I know that your spirit is broken and your heart is contrite. I will not entrust my power and the heavy anointing of my Spirit to anyone who has not been broken.”
I believe that the Lord allows us to fail at times so that we learn to depend totally upon Him and have no confidence in ourselves. Johannes Facius says that we do not need more self-confidence as is often taught today, but a Christ-consciousness. He says that the Lord allowed him to be humiliated in front of his friends around the world at a conference in Jerusalem. It was so that he would know in the future that it was only the Lord that worked through him. Only the Lord would get the glory.
I think of Peter who was so cocky, so sure that he would stand with Jesus in his trial; yet he denied him three times. What looked like a colossal failure in Peter’s life, God used to bring about a brokenness and dependence upon the Lord. As we read First and Second Peter, we no longer see the brash and bullish Peter but we see a humble and broken man. He writes in his greeting in II Peter, “Simon Peter a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ” and later, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (I Peter 5:5,6). He also says, “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” (I Peter 4:19).
It seems to me that God has been teaching me brokenness throughout my life. I remember the first time I went to Colombia as a missionary. I was young, naive and untested. My attitude was something like: “Here I am Colombia!” But God was saying, “Here I AM Sharon. I am going to do a work in your life, a work that will bring about brokenness and a dependence upon me.” My first five years in Colombia were not nearly as glamorous as I had envisioned. They were filled with hardships, adversity, misunderstandings, illnesses–one of which resulted in a serious operation–and a stint in the jungle. I did not understand why all this was happening. I only knew that my only choice was to look to the Lord.
What was one of the Lord’s objectives when he led the children of Israel through the wilderness? It was to humble them, to make them dependent upon the Lord. In the past they had been dependent upon Egypt. “And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and feed thee with manna which thou knowest not, neither did your fathers know, that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only; but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of the Lord doth man live” (Deut. 8:3).
What is God’s objective in our lives? Is it not to humble us and make us dependent upon Him? I believe that when the Lord unrolls the canvas of our lives we will thank Him for those times of disappointment, failure and adversity We will see how God has used them to break us from self-confidence and pride.
Pride is deadly. God resists the proud. Paul tells us that he was given a thorn in the flesh, lest he be exalted above measure by the abundance of revelations that he received. We do not know what the thorn was but we do know that Paul prayed that the thorn be taken away. The Lord answered him as He answers us many times: “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, Paul says, “Most gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul went from a confident educated, esteemed man to one whose only confidence was in Christ Jesus. He put no confidence in his flesh.
Watchman Nee says to understand the Lord’s purpose is to see very clearly that He is aiming at a single object, the breaking of the outward man. “If we will open our eyes to see that everything which comes into our lives can be meaningful and that he Lord has not wasted one thing, we can receive suffering with the right attitude. With the right attitude we can offer our suffering to the Lord that He might bring about the needed brokenness in our lives.”
There is an interesting story about Arabian horses. They are horses that are chosen to carry the king. However, before they are ready for this great work they must be trained and disciplined. Day after day they are taken through their paces until the ultimate test comes They are taken out into the desert and driven for several days until they come to an oasis. Of course, they are excited and eager to satisfy their thirst. Then as they reach the water they are ordered to stop. Those that obey and wait to drink are chosen to carry the king. Those that do not wait are disqualified. We, like those horses, are chosen to bring glory to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We can only do this as we yield to the disciplines of the Lord, as we are humbled and broken, as we glory in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh [Phil. 3:3].
There is a poem by a civil war soldier that expresses to me what God is doing in the life of one who yields to the Lord and allows Him to prepare him to bring glory to His name.
I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
.I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for help that I might do great things.
.I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
.I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of people.
.I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
.I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all people most richly blessed.
“We can only be strong in Him when we are weak in ourselves. Our weakness therefore is our greatest strength.”
— HANNAH WHITALL SMITH
From Suffering is My Friend, Not My Enemy. (Newton KS: Mennonite Press, 2012). 33-37. Copyrighted by Sharon Earnest, used with permission. The book can be ordered from firstname.lastname@example.org.