But is Brokenness the Goal?

Brokenness is inevitable. We get broken over sin and sickness and loneliness and failure and loss. All things have not yet been set right. We live in a broken world and we groan.

So is brokenness a good thing? It’s good to be authentic and real, right? But should we celebrate being broken? Should brokenness be our goal?

Those might seem like no-brainers. But I’m not so sure

Is the Broken Way the Best Way?

Much is made of brokenness these days. Ann Voskamp’s book, The Broken Way is a bestseller. Songs about brokenness abound.

When asked, How are youBroken, is what some of us “real and authentic” types say. Brokenness is inevitable. We are all damaged goods.

But, like Chuck Swindoll says,

We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it…We are in charge of our Attitudes.

I have to ask, What’s the focus? Is it my hot mess and brokenness? Or is it God’s power and presentness

Because if all our broken talk makes the hurt bigger than the Healer, if it makes our brokenness- whether from sin or sickness- more real than our living hope, we’re missing the point. If my brokenness becomes a badge of honor, maybe the broken way is not the best way.

There, I said it. You can stop reading now if you like.

Do you want to be healed?

Don’t get me wrong.  It is okay to not be okay. It is okay to admit life is hard and we feel weary.

But I’m wary of a certain sort of brokenness. Because I remember the dark night of the soul when my focus was brokenness and pain. I know that pain can get proud. It can take on a life of it’s own.

Do you remember when Jesus was at the Pool of Bethesda with all the invalids gathered round? And he went up to a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years (John 5: 1-9) and asked, “Do you want to be healed? ”

It’s an odd question. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be healed? I’m not positive why Jesus asked that, but it might have something to do with the reality that brokenness can become identity.

So do you want to be made whole, healed? Or would you rather stay broken?  “Nothing is more desirable as being released from affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch,” James Baldwin has said.

If this guy got healed he’d be on his on his own. He’d have to stop begging and get a job. And if he got healed he’d have to quit complaining about his broken body.

There are a million excuses for finding identity in our brokenness. Maybe one of those is that we love the attention our “brokenness” brings. But clinging to victim status does not mean humble and contrite. It means being defined by broken.

It means stuck.

A Hard Choice

Nancy Guthrie has grieved the loss of not one, but two, of her children. She is super insightful on going through the brokenness that comes from grief and loss.

In an address to women she explained that,

To “move forward” is to take God at His Word, that He is Jehovah Rapha, He is the Healer. He has the power to and desires to bring healing into the broken places of your life.

So getting through this is going to require making the hard choice to not become women who are defined by our grief. Do you know women like that? At some point, it just became their identity; it’s the context in which they deal with anyone; it’s just who they are, and it doesn’t seem as if there’s any desire to be defined by anything else except loss.

Ladies, there is only one thing we want to be defined by, and it is not our grief. We want to be defined only by our connection to Jesus Christ. We want to be defined by Christ alone—not by the losses in our lives.

No, brokenness is not the goal. We want to be defined by Christ alone. When we are weak, he is strong. His power is perfected in our weakness. His grace is sufficient. And we are not alone.

Living that way is called redemptive vulnerability.

Redemptive Vulnerability

Stephen Lee calls says redemptive vulnerability is a vulnerability that leads to life. It’s where we share our brokenness in order to display the surpassing power and sufficiency of Christ and the gospel. Which transforms us increasingly into the likeness of Christ.

But, Lee says,

Vulnerability is not an end in itself. Rather, our vulnerability should point us, individually and together with other believers, to the sufficiency of Jesus. It looks at and hopes in the redemption we have in Christ Jesus and the work of the cross.

Then Lee talks about how we do this redemptive vulnerability thing together. He continues,

To bring redemption to our vulnerability means we open up not to wallow in our situation, but to lift our eyes together to God in hope. We can look together at his promises. We cry out together for comfort, wisdom, help, and faith… Weakness and vulnerability remind us that we are dependent and God is sufficient. God loves to meet us in our moments of need and to give us more of his grace as we seek it moment by moment, especially with others.

That happened last night.

Spotlight on God

We set down our forks and stopped to pray.

Because one friend at the dinner table is an 8-year cancer survivor. Alicia had shared in the dinner table discussion that her annual blood work and  check-in with the oncologist is coming this week. Alicia shared that she was a wee bit worried this time.

Which is when another friend paused to ask if we could all pray. Then from around the dinner table we eight did. We prayed. For peace and health, we prayed. And Alicia and her husband both thanked God for his faithfulness.

Then  we said Amen and  Alicia shared with us how God had met her with a song on the way to her last checkup. She said she’s not a slave to fear.

When I asked Alicia today if I could share that, she said, “Sure. Just don’t make it about me. I often pray that God will use what happened to glorify His name.”

That, friends, is redemptive vulnerability.

Therefore We Boast

God met Alicia in her brokenness. And God can meet you too.

Redemptive vulnerability does not put a spotlight on vulnerability, brokenness, or sin. Redemptive vulnerability highlights and magnifies how good, sufficient, kind, persistent, and gracious God is. It’s his grace that makes us aware of our need for him. It’s his grace that causes us to cry out in dependence, to turn away from sin, and to remind us of his love.

That, Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9, is why we boast. Because his power is made perfect in our weakness. God comes in when we’re broken and weak.

Being broken isn’t the goal, but meeting God there- or anywhere- is.

Brokenness is not the goal.

Yes, some things need to be broken: hard hearts and pride, for two.

But Pastor Erik Reed says wholeness not brokenness is not our goal.

Consider this.  It’s okay to go to the doctor’s office and admit you’re sick, but the goal isn’t to admit it and stay that way; it is to get healthy. You go to the doctor confessing you are sick, but your goal is wholeness. The same is true for churches. We go confessing we are broken people, but the gospel is good news for broken people. The gospel is a remedy to our broken souls that makes us whole. James 5 tells us to “confess your sins to one another.” It is one way we get healthy.

We walk out our faith with friends. Vulnerability liberates us from sin’s destructive power and the despair of sorrow. Things come out of the dark and into the light, where they are healed. Confession is not the goal. Repentance is.

Brokenness is not the finish line. Wholeness is.

Brokenness is not the goal. But is one way we can get to know the One who forgives our sins and heals our diseases.

That is the goal. 

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy…

Psalm 103:2-4

In case you were wondering about Psalm 51…

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

That is a precious promise. Psalm 51 describes how God’s people think and feel about the horrors of their own sin. This is a Psalm, John Piper explains, about how be crushed for our sin well.

But Psalm 51:17 is not a defense for making brokenness our identity. Here’s why.

First, we need to realize that Psalm 51 was, as it says, “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” The context was David’s broken hearted guilt over his sin. The broken spirit that God will not despise was a spirit humbled and mourning for its sin. Such was King David’s after the Bathsheba affair. And if there’s one thing we know from the whole of Scripture it is that when we repent of our sin, our God is faithful to forgive (1 John 1:9, Acts 3:19, Exodus 34:6-7, Psalm 103:12, Micah 7:18-19).

No, he will never despise a broken and contrite heart. In fact it’s only the broken and contrite heart, that see their need for God. In fact that’s just how our Lord started the beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. 

Second, we need to remember what sacrifice means. To sacrifice is to surrender a possession as an offering to God. And that is exactly what we do with our spirit made broken by guilt- we offer it to God. Then, He heals the brokenhearted and binds up all their wounds (Psalm 147:3).

2 thoughts on “But is Brokenness the Goal?

  1. Jackie Bladow says:

    This is an interesting and different perspective on brokenness. I think it’s true that brokenness can become our identities if we’re not careful to frame it as you suggest here, as redemptive brokenness that God can bring us through. Along those lines brokenness can become an idol of sorts, too. We cling to it, using it to explain why we’re stuck in our current situation and cannot rise above. That “Woe is me!” type of mentality is the one we have to lift to God and ask for help.

    • Thanks for thinking it through with me. Brokenness is part of life in a fallen world. And the sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite spirit. And He is close to the broken hearted. His nearness is the goal.

      Jon Bloom on self-pity: “It is a dangerous, deceitful, heart-hardening sin (Hebrews 3:13). It’s a spiritual deadener, choking faith, draining hope, killing joy, smothering love, fueling anger, and robbing any desire to serve others. And it is a feeder-sin, encouraging us to comfort our poor selves with all manner of sinful indulgence like gossip, slander, gluttony, substance abuse, pornography, and binge entertainment, just to name a few. Self-pity poisons our relationships and is often an underlying cause of our “burnout.””

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