By Rick Ezell
Brokenness is defined as fractured into pieces, sundered, weakened, crushed by grief, out of order. Have you ever felt that way? Do you know what it means to be broken?
Broken People Are the Rule, Not the Exception
We think that brokenness will never happen to good, honest, hardworking people. To believe brokenness can be avoided is arrogant and ludicrous. To say that broken experiences can never happen is a myth.
The Bible tells one story after another of people flawed, outcast, handicapped, and broken. Abraham lied. Moses murdered. Rahab prostituted herself. David committed adultery. Jonah was racist and rebellious. Elijah suffered depression. Mary Magdalene was possessed by demons. Peter denied Christ. Saul advocated killing Christians, had poor eyesight, and lived with a thorn in the flesh. Timothy was terrorized by fear.
Broken people mark every page of history, even Christian history. The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, had a disastrous marriage. The great hymn writer, Fanny Crosby, lived blind from birth. The wife of British preacher Charles Spurgeon became an invalid at age 33. Chuck Colson, aide to Richard Nixon, was imprisoned because of his involvement with Watergate. Joni Erickson, as a vivacious teenager, dove into the Chesapeake Bay and became a quadriplegic.
No one is immune. Brokenness may take the form of an affair, an addiction, an appetite, or an illegal act. Or, it may come totally out of the blue like a pink slip, or your spouse walking out on you, or your child getting cancer. Our brokenness may be visible to all or may occur with only one accomplice or it may be a personal crisis of belief.
Broken People Can Be Rebuilt
Like the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty, broken people have had a great fall. Can they be put together again? No matter how far you have fallen, you can be raised. No matter how tattered and torn your life is, it can be repaired. No matter how withered your body is, your life can be made whole. No matter how many pieces there are on the floor, you can be put together again.
As a child, I knocked over a lamp and broke it. After confessing my clumsiness, my mother glued the broken pieces together, returning the lamp to the table. The crack was always there, but the lamp was rebuilt.
Broken lives may always have cracks to remind them of the past. God’s grace is like the glue my mother used on her lamp. The bonded edges can become stronger than the original surface. God specializes in rebuilding broken lives. He can rebuild yours.
If the brokenness has been caused by sin, then confession is in order. If we have misbehaved, we must present ourselves to God in openness and acknowledge responsibility and accountability for our wrongdoing. When we turn from our own way to God, the sin is exposed. It will be unattractive and uncomfortable, but only then will the love of God be free to flood into the dark recesses.
Once we turn from our sin, we are then in a position to receive God’s forgiveness. Living in forgiveness may be the most difficult thing we must do—not because Christ won’t forgive us or because others won’t forgive us, but because we won’t forgive ourselves.
An internal voice replays the past, reminding us of our hurt, failures, and pain. The voice shouts: You’re a failure! You’re worthless. You messed up. You are a disgrace! But we must listen to God’s stronger voice that calmly repeats: You are forgiven. The cross was for you. Jesus’ death has set you free. Believe in Christ’s forgiveness. Then start living like a forgiven person.
Rebuilding a broken life is not a solo event. Just as Christ does not give up on us and comes to our aid, others will too. Usually the brokenness is a burden that is heavier than one can bear alone. As strong as we may feel, we need help from others. The broken apostle Paul reminded us to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). I wonder who had come alongside him to carry his burdens. For us this help takes the form of a support group, a Sunday school class, a friend, a minister, or a counselor. When tragedy strikes, we need people around us to support, encourage, and hold us up.
Broken People Can Be Useful Again
The message of the gospel is: in Jesus Christ we are not only made whole—we are made useful. Moses murdered a man, but God used him to lead his people into freedom. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, but God’s grace enabled him to serve as Israel’s king. Peter betrayed Christ, but the apostle was later restored to give leadership and direction to the early church.
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently” (Galatians 6:1). In the New Testament, the word restore describes the mending of fishermen’s nets in order to be used the next day or the setting of a fractured or dislocated bone to accelerate recovery and healing. Today we use the word restore in relation to an old car or a piece of furniture, taking something that was considered junk and bringing it back to life to serve a useful and valuable function. It becomes a thing of beauty.
When God restores a life, he puts a person back in shape—valuable, beautiful, and useful. The person is granted a new purpose.
Broken People Can Help Other Broken People
My friend, Don, is a broken man. He is an engineer and inventor by training, a pastor by calling, and an encourager by gifting. Don loves to kid around with whomever he is with. He loves to tinker and to talk. Twelve years ago Don suffered a stroke that impacted one side of his body. Now when he walks, he drags his left leg. Two years ago Don suffered another stroke. This time it affected his eyesight. He can only see shadows and the glow of light. He no longer tinkers, though his mind is still sharp. He no longer preaches, though he still thinks deeply of God. Don, though confined to home, still encourages. He does not allow his handicaps to impede his efforts to inspire and to uplift others. When I visit, he cheers me up with his affirmation and homespun wisdom. His laughter and his spirit are contagious. He often calls to check on me and see how I’m doing. What he does for me, he also does for many others. Don has not let his brokenness defeat him. Instead he takes advantage of his situation to help others.
Don shows that broken people have a role and a place in God’s design to be used to assist others to wholeness and health.
If you find yourself broken, come to the one who specializes in mending broken lives—Jesus. Accept Jesus’ invitation of forgiveness. Begin the rebuilding process. Allow Jesus to restore and rebuild you. He will mend your soul. He will make you whole and useful again. Then, in spite of and oftentimes because of your brokenness, you can help other broken people to become whole and useful again.
Rick Ezell is a pastor and author in Greer, South Carolina.