Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines “Broken” as:
- Violently separated into parts
- Damaged or altered by breaking
- Made weak or infirm
- Cut off
- Not complete or full
Admittedly, none of these definitions sound particularly comforting or attractive, and I think we could all agree that they are not exactly things that we would want to have said about us. Yet this simple word, broken, has become one of the most precious words in my vocabulary.
During the most tumultuous years of my life, I was drawn to this word for reasons beyond my understanding at the time. Some of the most frequently played songs on my iPod throughout those years carried that very word in their title. One thing was true; I understood on a very deep level that I was utterly and completely broken. For me, and for many others I would guess, that word carried a level of shame and hopelessness. I hear people say things like “you don’t want to be with me, I’m broken” or “I don’t feel like anything can help me, maybe I’m just broken.”
Brokenness tends to be something we want to deny or hide, something we are ashamed of. When we are finally forced to own up to our brokenness, we view it as something that requires us to either pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, or crumble in despair. If you need proof of this, take a look at the incredibly heartbreaking statistics on suicide. Or walk into your local bookstore and look at the hundreds of “self-help” books on the shelves; each trying to tell us how we can fix the broken things in our lives.
I tend to take a different stance on the matter. When someone tells me that they are broken, my response is simple; Yes, you are. So am I. And so is everyone else. The truth is, we are all broken, every single one of us. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, everything is not as it should be.
To some, that may sound like desolate, hopeless language. To others it may sound like condemnation or criticism. That may be why many avoid the topic, preferring more victorious language or “feel good” religious jargon. But I choose not to shy away from the topic of brokenness for one reason; I believe that the moment we recognize and embrace our own brokenness can be the most hope filled moment of our lives… because it is in that moment that we realize our desperate need for a Savior. I love the way that Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend put it in their book How People Grow;
“When we are convicted and sentenced to our own realities, then we realize that we need to be rescued.”
As the popular idiom goes, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” If we were not the broken and flawed human beings that we are, there would have been no need for Jesus to go to such great lengths to restore us. Brokenness is an inescapable reality, embedded deeply in the human condition. But as it says in the prophecy of Jesus in Isaiah 61:1
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (NIV).
The truth is, Jesus died for broken people; people like you and me. To deny our condition of brokenness would be to deny our need for a Savior; to say that Christ died for nothing. To recognize our brokenness, and maybe even more importantly to recognize our own innate inability to fix that brokenness, is to take a critical step towards the only true Solution.
The truly beautiful thing is that when we accept and embrace our own brokenness, it doesn’t have to be a place of defeat, but can instead be a place of great victory. To accept our brokenness is to come to the end of ourselves; some would call it “hitting rock bottom.” When we come to the end of ourselves, we are faced with a decision: 1. Give up, or 2. Look outside of ourselves for the strength that we need. It is in that moment that God, in His mercy and grace, offers us HIS strength.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ 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.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV)
The Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on this passage explains, “When we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; when we feel that we are weak in ourselves, then we go to Christ, receive strength from him, and enjoy most the supplies of Divine strength and grace.”
Brokenness is a beautiful thing because it whispers to us of the way things should have been, the way God created them to be. Brokenness is beautiful because it reminds us that we have a God, a Healer, who is greater than our brokenness. Brokenness is beautiful because it is intended to draw us back to God, to the only true source of life and healing. So I for one will gladly embrace that I am beautifully broken, and resting in the hands of my Savior who is making me whole again.