Maybe you’re facing difficult times, and you wonder how God can still have a plan for your life.
What about your loved ones, or those in the world around you? There’s so much brokenness that it can feel like anything you do to help is like a drop in the ocean.
The question is: does brokenness have any purpose? Or is it a hindrance to God’s plans and promises? Can God turn our brokenness into something beautiful?
As someone who has experienced life through the lens of both chronic illnesses and mental health struggles, I think about brokenness often, and I ask myself these very same questions.
Well, it turns out the Bible actually has some very interesting things to say about brokenness. Here are just a few of them.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
Psalm 34:18 says:
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
We experience brokenness in the same way Adam and Eve did after they ate the fruit. They were the first humans to feel shame and guilt – but definitely not the last!
In their moment of hiding from God, where that perfect connection had been broken and, quite literally, brokenness has just been established, what did he do? He came in close. He met them in their hiding, in their shame, and called them back out into connection with him. He even made them some clothes from animal hide.
The Lord has always been close to those who are crushed and broken, right from the very start. Brokenness does not deter God, and he extends endless compassion and love to us, even when we are feeling absolutely crushed.
When we don’t want anyone to see our brokenness, our shame, He is always close, never with judgement but always with kindness. The kind of kindness that heals.
In our weakness, he is strong
In 2 Corinthians 12:7–10, the Apostle Paul explains how he’s been given a ‘thorn in the flesh’. He pleads with God three times to take it away. After all, he’s been through enough trials and hardship throughout his life.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
As humans, we want to alleviate suffering. One way we’re very good at doing this is by trying to rescue people or remove the source of the pain. We see the pain suffering causes, so we do all we can to get rid of it, whether it’s rescuing people, numbing it out, or doing everything within our control to try and change things.
Because that’s the loving thing to do, right? To remove the source of suffering is to remove the pain.
But God responds very differently to Paul’s situation. He does not promise to remove the thorn at all. Instead, he tells Paul that in his weakness, God’s strength is made perfect. Not in spite of his weakness, either, but because of it.
God could easily take away our flaws, our failures and our weaknesses, if he wanted to. Of course, he’s not against us growing to become more like him, but he regularly uses broken people to display his love and goodness.
By avoiding our brokenness, we miss an opportunity for God’s love to shine through our lives. His power is made perfect in our weakness. We don’t need to be perfect at all. Our brokenness becomes a vessel for God’s beauty to shine through.
Paul goes on to say, ‘Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’
He goes from begging God to remove his brokenness, to boasting in it. Paul’s brokenness no longer causes him distress because he recognises that Christ’s power comes through most perfectly where brokenness is found.
In your weakness, you are strong. Not in spite of your weakness, but because of it.
Brokenness adds value
There’s a Japanese technique for repairing pottery called ‘Kintsugi’ (金継ぎ). Kintsugi involves using gold seams to join the object back together, in a way that makes it more beautiful, unique and of higher value than it was before. Instead of hiding the imperfections, it makes a feature of them, and it’s actually because of them that the value of the piece increases.
This is what it looks like for God’s power to work through our weaknesses. He brings value and goodness to what we’ve prematurely labelled as too broken to fix. We must bring all of our broken pieces and allow him to create something of higher value.
If God has transformed your life, turning your broken parts into a beautiful masterpiece, you’ll know that is something you can’t put a price on. And God’s still in the business of restoring and rebuilding today, so keep bringing him your wounds and wonderings. He’ll work it together for good, every time.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28
He will never (ever, ever, ever, ever) forsake us
Throughout the Bible, God promises several times never to leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 13:6, 13:8, Hebrews 13:5, Joshua 1:5). To illustrate how serious he is, the phrase actually uses five negatives in the Greek. It basically reads as ‘I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever leave or forsake you’. It couldn’t be more sure than that!
He promises to be with us always, never loosening his grip nor letting go. Our brokenness is not the measure of whether God will be faithful or not. In fact, God promises to be faithful even if we have no faith left (2 Timothy 2:13).
The Amplified Bible puts it like this:
I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]
I’d say that counts as a pretty solid promise. We can safely say God means it when he says he’s not going anywhere, he’ll never abandon us, and he’ll come to our rescue every time.
Scars are not flaws
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesus, who was blameless and pure, had scars that remained after his resurrection. Jesus’ scars were not a flaw. They’re a reminder that even the Saviour of the world has experienced brokenness.
They also give us a tangible answer to our doubts, like they did for Thomas. In a moment of faithlessness, doubt and brokenness, God meets Thomas with compassion and kindness. Jesus’ scars are a demonstration of the lengths he went to for us, a sacrifice given to restore hope in a broken world full of broken people.
And the same hands that were nail-scarred? They have our very names written on them as a promise that God will not ever forget or forsake us (Isaiah 49:16). Just like a scar, they’re permanently written as a reminder of God’s commitment to us, no matter how broken we feel.
Finding beauty in others’ brokenness
In the same way that God promises to never leave us, be present in our pain, and bring beauty to our brokenness, we can do the same for others.
Author Rachel Held Evans urges us to do just that, in her book Searching for Sunday. She says:
I believe the Church is called to the slow and difficult work of healing. We are called to enter into one another’s pain, anoint it as holy and stick around no matter the outcome.
God doesn’t just magically fix our flaws or put a plaster over our mistakes. He uses it all, displaying it as a symbol of his divine love in the midst of our humanity. He could cure us, offering a quick fix and pretending it never happened, but he’s in the business of healing. Fully healing. And that starts with meeting us in our pain and then sticking around no matter the outcome.
Author Robert Brault said: ‘It is the first purpose of hope to make hopelessness bearable’. On our own, hope can sometimes be hard to hold on to. But together, we can find hope in moments of shared kindness, a hug, a prayer, or offering practical support.
Just as our brokenness is a vessel for God’s goodness, we can see others’ brokenness in the same way, and show up with constant kindness and love, just as God promises to meet us in our times of trouble. We show up because he showed up first. We can use our brokenness to shine his light into the lives of others, so they too might discover his unconditional, unending love. And that is beautiful.
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