We Are Broken
When I was a freshman and a sophomore in college, I preached each Sunday to a small congregation of about 40 people in a country church about eight miles from my home in Louisville, Alabama. During those two years, I began to see what is present in the lives of people in every church—brokenness.
I had been in a church since cradle roll. I’d been to Sunday school, vacation Bible school, worship, and youth group. But I’d not been in a position to see the brokenness around me.
At Dyke’s Baptist Church, as a teenage preacher, I saw divorce, a runaway teenager, a teenage pregnancy, poverty, an alcoholic husband, a child born with a birth defect, aging issues that required hospitalization, and abuse.
I was not equipped to minister to these people. For that matter, I was not equipped to preach, but I was called.
From that first unorthodox calling, I was learning that even those in the church are broken.
We limp to church and we limp home. So what difference does the church make to our brokenness?
It is apparent almost 40 years later that just because we profess Jesus, we do not cease to deal with brokenness. We continue to struggle even though we are church people.
People who attend church still divorce, become addicted to alcohol, porn, work, and drugs.
People who attend church are wounded, rejected, abandoned, bullied, and abused.
People who attend church still become depressed, suicidal, and have mental illnesses.
People who attend church still become estranged from family and need medication for depression and counseling to solve family problems.
People who attend church still mismanage their money, fail to prioritize their time, and do not keep care of their bodies.
People who attend church get sick, have surgeries, have chronic pain, suffer from all kinds of physical issues, die young, die bitter, and we just die. We all do. 100% of churchgoers die. You can quote me on that.
Now before you say, “Well, dang I guess I should have just slept in,” I want to remind you that the apostle Paul said that we can know Christ and the power of his resurrection.
Jesus can transform our lives and does, but just attending church will not make us like Jesus any more than just attending a ball game will make us an athlete. If takes more.
Being a disciple of Jesus is a daily walk and a daily act of obedience and transformation.
There isn’t a single one of us that wants to come to church and wallow in our brokenness.
We all want to leave church feeling better than we came.
We limp in here. We would like to walk out feeling a little better when we came in.
So here are some helps to combat the brokenness that is present in our lives.
1) Don’t Live in Denial
One of the strangest questions Jesus ever asked a man was “Do you want to get well?”
Jesus met the man in Jerusalem near the pool of Bethesda. This was a place where sick people gathered, and “on these walkways lay a great number of the sick, the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed.”
The scripture says that “one man there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and realized that he had spent a long time in this condition, He asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
Don’t all broken people want to get well?
The answer is “No, we don’t.” We say we do, but our actions say something entirely different. Too many times our actions contribute to our brokenness.
The man, like many others, believed that the waters in the pool had some healing powers if someone would help him into the waters when they were stirred. But someone always beat him into the water.
8Then Jesus told him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.”
Notice that Jesus gave this man an opportunity to participate in his healing.
2) Here is the second key to combatting our brokenness. Step into the pain.
Catholic Priest Henry Nouwen says that healing comes from stepping into and not away from the pain.
Do you know the reason most people will not go to counseling? It’s because they do not want to face their pain.
Men are worse than women. You can take the strongest, “baddest” man on the planet who may be able to spit nails and pull a car with a rope in his mouth, but many times men are afraid to face the brokenness that is buried inside.
We will step away from it and not toward it.
Jesus told the man to pick up his mat and walk. The initial response of a lot of people would have been, “I can’t. My legs are broken. Every time I try to stand, I experience great pain.”
There is rarely a path to healing through any of our brokenness that does not involve pain.
Our son Ryan is a physical therapist. He is a healer.
Actually, he is a professional coach who can help patients get greater movement of their limbs, but only those who are willing to do their exercises faithfully and endure the pain are the ones that will recover and gain the greatest freedom of movement.
Every step in the twelve step process of recovery for the addict is another layer of painful self-discovery but only those who are willing to move through each step honestly, faithfully, and diligently have a chance at true recovery.
It’s painful to admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. (Step 5)
It’s painful to make a list of all persons we have harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. (Step 8)
It’s painful to take a personal inventory and when we are wrong to promptly admitted it. (Step 10).
However, that’s how we heal.
If we live in denial, we stay broken.
If the man had looked up at Jesus and said, “It hurts too bad to try and stand,” do you think Jesus would have taken his pain away?
Perhaps. But maybe part of leaving brokenness behind is learning to step into the pain.
We have to acknowledge it to ourselves and we need to share it with people trained and skilled to hear it and help us process it.
3) Here is another key to our brokenness. In spite of our brokenness, the light of God has an opportunity to shine.
There are too many people who believe that because they are broken, they are no longer useful. Just as a broken pot cannot hold water, many people see themselves like that. They think they are no longer useful.
The Bible is filled with stories of God taken the lives of broken people and using them. Moses committed manslaughter. Rahab was a prostitute. Joseph was a slave. David committed adultery, the woman Jesus met at a well had been married five times and was living with another man. Peter turned his back on Jesus. Paul had Christians executed.
God is about repairing brokenness in all forms and in all ways.
Wherever we see brokenness being repaired, we can see God at work.
I saw a video not long ago of a child in a preschool who was the greeter of the day, greeting his preschool classmates.
As his classmates came up to him, they pointed to one of four symbols, a heart, a hand-shake, a fist-bump, or a high five. They told the greeter how they wanted to be greeted.
Most of the classmates pointed to the heart and received a hug from the Down Syndrome child.
That’s God at work.
Where ever people learn that their brokenness does not doom them to separation and in fact they have something special to offer, this is the gospel!
Leonard Berstein wrote a musical in memory of John F. Kennedy. Toward the end of the musical, the priest, who was richly dressed in splendid liturgical vestments was in his place of honor, towering above the crowd.
In his hand, he carried a glass chalice when suddenly, the platform on which he stood collapsed and the priest tumbled down. He tore his robe and vestments, and the beautiful chalice was shattered.
The priest walked through the shattered glass, barefooted, with no robe, wearing only blue jeans and a T-shirt. Then as he looks at the glittering shattered glass he says, “I never realized that broken glass could shine so brightly.”(Henri Nouwen, “The Life of the Beloved,” p. 102).
Even in our brokenness, at a time when we fell most vulnerable, God is at work and can help us find and make something beautiful out of it.
I know a nurse that has a tattoo on her arm that says, “Something Beautiful.” When I ask her about it she said that it was not made correctly but that was fine.
She had it made after she heard a song called “Something Beautiful,” and she had the tatoo put on her arm to remind her that her life was broken but God had taken the pieces and made something beautiful out of her life. (To watch the video click HERE).
I realize that brokenness is often a very private matter. We don’t like for others to know about the brokenness we have in our lives.
What we also don’t like is when we finally risk sharing our brokenness, only to have it invalidated by the other person one-upping us by sharing something worse that they have been through.
What we want and we need is for someone to hear us, to acknowledge our pain, and to remind us that God is with us and can use our pain and transform it into something that can bless us or others.
In the Old Testament is a story of an older teenager named Joseph. He was the favorite son of his father but hated by all of his brothers.
They got rid of him by selling him into slavery to merchants headed for Egypt and told their father that he was eaten by wild animals. This was one of the most painful separations imaginable for a teenager.
Life was difficult and just when it began to get better for him as a servant in Potiphar’s house, it got worse again when Potiphar’s wife lied about him making a pass at her.
But eventually, Joseph was freed from prison after he rightfully interpreted the dreams of Pharoah and saved a nation from starvation.
When his brothers went to Egypt looking for grain and Joseph revealed himself to them he said,
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[a] should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20 NIV).
God didn’t take away Joseph’s pain, but out of the pain, God brought about something good.
When we break the bread of the Lord’s Supper, be reminded that Jesus was not spared the pain of brokenness either, even though he had done nothing wrong in his life.
He suffered in solidarity with us and because of his brokenness, the church came into being.
Jesus lived in an agrarian world. He knew that when a farmer planted a seed, that seed had to die in order for the crop to grow and make fruit.
So when he neared the time that he knew he was going to be crucified, Jesus said:
24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. (John 12:23)
4) This is a wonderful key to hold on to about brokenness. It doesn’t have the last word.
God can have the final word on how it will affect our lives.
How could a butterfly ever fly if it didn’t break out of its chrysalis?
How could an eaglet every soar if it didn’t break out of its shell?
How could the sinful woman pour the costly perfume over Jesus if she had not broken the alabaster box (Luke 7:37)?
How could we share the Lord’s supper if we don’t break the bread?
How could we have known the salvation of Jesus had his body not been broken for us (1 Corinthians 11:24) and had he not broken out of a dark tomb and left it empty?
Jesus understands your brokenness. He understands how to help you break out of the pain and move toward healing.
The good news is that your brokenness does not have the last word in your life if you have the Lord Jesus and you are taking up your cross daily and following him.
Jesus is asking you the same question he asked the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda. “Do you want to get well?”
If the answer is “yes,” Jesus will help you use your brokenness in such a way that you can find the places where it shines and the places where God is at work.
Jesus is here to remind you that He went through his brokenness to get to Easter, to save us from sin, which cripples us all.
Psalm 51:17 says that “The sacrifice God wants is a broken spirit.” It says that God will not despise a broken and repentant heart.”
If you are experiencing brokenness today and are seeking healing from God, will you come forward this morning and pray with me?
Will you allow me to intercede for you?
Will you allow your church family to embrace you from their seats? Will you allow us to be in solidarity with you?
Don’t live in denial.
Allow God to begin his healing work in your life today.
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