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Broken

By Eric M. Pazdziora
A

broken arm is painful. A broken glass is dangerous. A broken mirror is unlucky. A broken heart is depressing. A broken toy is sad. A broken promise is wrong.

So it’s strange that some well-meaning devotional writers tell us that spiritual brokenness is something we should aspire to, an attitude that we should constantly maintain. The doctrine has it that God uses suffering to break us spiritually, forcing us to depend on Him and making us willing to serve Him.

The Bible says the opposite. Spiritual brokenness is destructive and unbearable:

The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness,
But who can bear a broken spirit?
(Proverbs 18:14, ESV)

A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones.
(Proverbs 17:22, ESV)

Life has a way of hurting us, injuring us, breaking us. Sin, grief, injury, pain, suffering, bereavement, all of them act on our spirits like a hammer on glass. Some people may be in denial about it; some may be suffering from it every moment; some may be slowly recovering. Whatever the case, nobody needs to break us. We don’t need to break ourselves. We’re already broken.

That’s not a good thing. That’s an awful, painful, horrible thing. But it leads us to the only verse in Scripture that seems to put brokenness in a positive light:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
(Psalm 51:17, NASB)

That might be where some of those misguided teachings were extrapolated from. In reality, the verse is much simpler, deeper, and better than that. David wrote this psalm while he was in anguish over the guilt of his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. Sin breaks our spirits; remorse breaks our hearts.

When we’re broken like this, in our shame or despair or pain, we start to think that God doesn’t want us, that we’re not good enough for Him, that we have to wait until we’re whole again before we go to God. Who wants a broken heart lying around cluttering up their house? Broken things belong in the trash, not in the throne room.

Not so, says penitent David. God doesn’t despise us if we’re broken. God wants us to bring our brokenness to Him. God wants us to come to Him fractures and all. God will take any heart you have to give Him, even a broken one. Especially a broken one.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the LORD delivers him out of them all.
(Psalm 34:18–19, NASB)

Brokenness is an affliction (not an aspiration), but the Lord is in the business of saving people from afflictions. The Lord doesn’t just want you to bring your broken heart to Him; the Lord sees your broken heart as a reason to come near to you.

The Lord does not break us in order to heal us any more than a doctor breaks your leg in order to put a cast on it. Why should He break you when He wants you to be whole? Isaiah said as much a few thousand years before:

A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice…
(Isaiah 42:3, NIV)

God doesn’t break you. But if you’re already broken or hurting, God heals you. If you have a broken arm, you go to the doctor. If you have a broken sprit, you go to the Great Physician.

I will seek the lost,
bring back the scattered,
bind up the broken,
and strengthen the sick…
(Ezekiel 34:16a, NASB)

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
(Psalm 147:3)

God heals you by taking your brokenness onto Himself. In the person of Jesus Christ, God Himself was bruised, rejected, beaten, bloodied, broken.

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:4–5, NKJV)

…this is My body which is broken for you.
(1 Corinthians 11:24, NKJV)

This is one of many reasons we worship our Lord by making a sacrament out of broken bread. That was our brokenness on that Cross. You don’t need to be broken anymore—by His wounds we are healed. And when we are broken, we can look past the brokenness of the Cross to the empty tomb. What is broken will be made whole. What is dead will be brought to life.

Brokenness isn’t something we need to achieve. Brokenness is something we already have. Brokenness is something Jesus heals.

Jesus’ Heart

What can bring hope to a broken heart?
Only a heart that’s been broken too;
And Jesus Christ had a broken heart
When He spilled His blood for me and you.

What can bring warmth to a frozen heart?
Only a heart with the fire of love,
And Jesus Christ has a heart of fire
With the tenderness of God above.

What can bring peace to a troubled heart?
Only a heart that has conquered pain,
And Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace,
For He gave His life and He rose again.

What can bring help to a sinful heart?
Only a heart that is free from sin,
And Jesus Christ has a perfect heart—
Will you give your heart to be cleansed by Him?

(Music and Lyrics by Eric M. Pazdziora. Copyright © 1999.)


Eric M. Pazdziora is celebrating his mumblemumbleth birthday today, and he got a new CD of his original settings of hymns about grace. There are copies for everyone else, too. His wife Carrie sings on it, so it’s really good. If you want one, some details are on this post at ericpazdziora.com.

[Image Source]


17 comments:

  1. This hit me *right here*. I'm also thinking, of course, of all the broken little children…

    break their will
    their spirits…

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  2. It is funny how the enemy uses lies about God to keep us right where he wants us – broken. This was such a good reminder! I needed it today.

    And happy birthday, Eric! I hope you have a wonderful one. 🙂

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  3. *gasp* Really? Can it be true?

    *thinking*

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  4. When I think of the many ways people use the word "break", I think of horse training. (Disclaimer: I am not a horse person. My oldest sibling is.) I know Pearl compares raising children to training animals, and also says you have to "break" their wills, as Hillary wrote in her comment above.

    The thing is, from what I understand, "breaking" ruins horses. From what I understand, horse people no longer approach horse training from that perspective.

    Rather than dominating horses to submit to the whims of humans (saddles, bits, bridles, riders) as once was the idea, trainers today try to solicit the willing cooperation of horses through building trust, learning to speak with a horses body language and read a horses body language.

    It makes me think of how Christ took on Himself the likeness of sinful man, in order to "show us the Father" in the Word become flesh. He humbled himself to get through to us out of love.

    When I grew up in the country, farmers would terrify their horses, tying them up and throwing saddles on them and repeating the process until the horse realized resistance was pointless. And that was just the start. I've even known of farmers to punch horses with their fists and beat them with objects to show the horse they were powerless.

    That's what the word break means to me. Who would ascribe that horrid behavior to God? And why would anyone want to be "broken"?

    Thanks for another great post, Eric. Every Sunday when we take communion, we tear a piece of bread off while a fellow believer says, "this is his body which was broken for you".

    Yes, Jesus loves me. I will do this in remembrance of His great love, the One who was broken to bring healing and wholeness to humanity, including me.

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  5. I, too, am so saddened by the teaching that we should "break" our children. In my observation, the passive ones usually become robots. The strong-willed ones, who are tough enough to resist breaking, are often left so damaged by the relentless attempts that they can't function. Sad, sad, sad.

    Grace

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  6. "A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out."

    The Lord's kindness is what drew me to Him in the first place. Kindness doesn't break people; it heals them.

    Happy birthday, Eric!

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  7. Thank you Eric, this is a topic I have been studying lately –looking beyond what is broken and seeing what always IS – Wholeness because of the redemption gift. Brokenness only breaks the mask to let the light of the soul in. What a blessing this was to read the verses here today.

    my favorite parts:
    Whatever the case, nobody needs to break us. We don’t need to break ourselves. We’re already broken.

    Why should He break you when He wants you to be whole?

    If you have a broken sprit, you go to the Great Physician.

    I will seek the lost,
    bring back the scattered,
    bind up the broken,
    and strengthen the sick…
    (Ezekiel 34:16a, NASB)

    He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
    (Psalm 147:3)

    thank you especially for the Ezekiel verse. This came to me just in time for another project I am working on and I didn't realize this was in there about 'wholeness' –outstanding! What a God-thing!

    luv Jenn

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  8. Still thinking. Is this kinda the same as God giving grace to the humble? Some people turn that into having to earn grace through humility.

    If this is true (we don't have to try to be broken; we already are; God heals the broken), then it speaks directly to something that triggered me really badly this week. I'm kind of reeling still. Having a really hard time believing that I've been looking at life totally backwards.

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  9. Wow. This post goes right to that little girl who wanted so badly to be the "little adult" that everyone at church expected me to be, so much so that I had no friends at church (and, as I was a shy child with ADD, very few friends at school).

    Then, in my adulthood, seeking something familiar but not too familiar — and ending up with a more socially acceptable form of the same thing. Self-flagellation and prayers for brokenness were a good way to cover self-loathing and depression, and (with very few exceptions), others within the group and leaders thought better of me for it. Then realizing that the depression was that, and being told that doctors only treated symptoms, not depression — seeing a doctor was useless, do this Bible study. Pray these prayers. Ask God to break you of "worldly" things, that will help. If you're still depressed you don't have enough faith.

    I'm fortunate to have found a much different church home, where I am valued for myself (not my "devoted worship" or what I can do for them). And, of course, websites like this one — where Hillary and guest posters remind me that I am not the only one. What I am feeling is part of the process of healing. It is not good for anyone to remain or seek perpetual brokenness. It's part of the process, but brokenness is not THE process.

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  10. Wow!

    Pretty much all of the testimonies in my ex-cult were about how God "broke their heart". The pastor even changed lines to song from "God is healing me" to "God is breaking me"…broken people can't protest abuse. Or run away from it.
    Awesome, Eric!

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  11. Beautiful comments, everybody. Just beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    Julie– Wow. As a musician, I think changing songs like that is just sick! And quite right–"broken people can't protest abuse."

    Sharon– "Is this kinda the same as God giving grace to the humble? Some people turn that into having to earn grace through humility. " Yes, exactly so. It's got a lot to do with what Philip Yancey calls "grace avoidance." Sometimes we are so afraid of the idea of unmerited grace that we concoct elaborate schemes and theologies to make us think we can earn it! "Brokenness" is just one example.

    Shadowspring– Beautiful reflections. I did think about horses but couldn't figure out how to work them in (plus, I'm enough of a city boy to know I'd probably sound like a fool to my horse-wise readers!). I remember the scene from Misty— "Breaking them is the fast way, but gentling them is the sure way."

    Everyone else– Thanks again; your comments really mean a lot!

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  12. Thank you. This is beautiful and very comforting.

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  13. Yet another truth distorted by The Preacher! This is the first time I had ever considered that while I had already come to believe it is not we as parents who are to 'break' the wills of our children, I did still think that they needed to be 'broken' by other means such as: consequences, sorrow, God etc. before they would come back to Him.

    How refreshing it is to learn that He doesn't even will us to be 'broken' in the first place!

    Thank you for uncovering this much neglected and twisted truth!

    Cindy@Baptist Taliban Memoirs

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  14. Thanks for this post. I'm still very confused about the things I was taught as a child growing up in a father dominating men dominating controlling family and cult like church. I was taught about being broken and I still see God sometimes as breaking me, hating me. I'm now in my mid 30's a grown up with 3 little ones myself. But, I still feel wounded and confused and struggle. I want my kids to see me work through my hurts and become a whole and healed person. But, as some one who was wounded and shamed it is hard to see God for who He really is. Thanks for this post. I'm going to look up these passages in the Bible. I have a hard time reading the Bible on my own although I do go to a healthy church now. My Dad still is a performing super spiritual elder at a bible church (he left the cult when I was in high school) he has not left many of the teachings and thoughts. He is very superior and spiritual and admired my so many in my hometown. My Mom is very loyal to my Dad and has no voice she is his puppet. My husband doesn't understand why I'm so sensitive and easily hurt. He didn't grow up like I did but, of course has his own issues and struggles. Our marriage is hard. Please pray for me.

    ~ Ali

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  15. {{Ali}} Praying for you, dear. Please email if you need to: hillary@quiveringdaughters(dot)com. (Take out the (dot) and add a . .)

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  16. Sorry but I believe in breaking some things in order to use them in a GREATER way. I do think however, that we need to differentiate between a broken will and a broken spirit. A horse or child or Christian needs a broken will as we are not to be self-willed and egotistical. However, to have one's spirit broken is a sad thing, as it destroys the inner being.
    I believe that God wants us to break some things: our pride, our ego, our self-will, arrogance, and even our thoughts and ways which He says are not the same as His thoughts and ways! Meaning taking our petty values and dreams and plans and breaking them and taking on His even more precious plans for us!
    Some things are also better when "re-broken". Especially consider a broken bone which has healed improperly and makes one unable to function or walk properly. A Dr. must re-break the bone and set it correctly. That is a picture of the brokenness of sin. Being broken by sin, we are molded and shaped incorrectly to be like THIS world. And we must be broken "again" so that the Healer may "set" us straight, so that we may be stronger and of better use to walk in His ways!
    May God break me, so as to make me into something better for His use!

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