Blessing in Brokenness
Many years ago, I read a story about a church in Europe that had a beautiful stained glass window situated high above its sanctuary. One day, a powerful storm came through and shattered the glass. The congregation was unable to reproduce the panels, but all the pieces were collected and stored in the church basement. One can imagine that being in the sanctuary without the stained glass window must have continually reminded the parishioners of the beauty that had been lost. What had once been a source of joy had turned into a point of grief.
A craftsman from a nearby village heard about the damaged window and asked for the shards that had been collected. They were given to him, and he began to fashion a new window from all the tiny broken pieces. Two years later, he shared the final result with the church, and it was even more beautiful than before! The new window was more intricate because the pieces were much smaller. Though it was a complex and delicate project, in the hands of a good craftsman, the restoration came out better than the original.<sup>1<sup>
This story is a beautiful illustration of the blessing that can come from a time of brokenness. In life, every one of us will experience some degree of brokenness. It might be a heart that is broken, or a home, or hopes and dreams. We may be left wondering how we will possibly continue on, and whether life will ever feel normal again. Sometimes, life will not go back to how it was before, and we will have to live with a new normal.
It may not seem that brokenness and blessing can really go together, but they do when we have Jesus in our lives because He is the Master Craftsman. Without Christ, the trials of life can be devastating, but if we choose to give our broken pieces to Him, we will find that He can put them back together in a way that will honor and please Him. Let’s consider just a few of the blessings that can emerge from a time of brokenness.
During any trial, one of the best things to do is to read God’s Word, because it has so many promises that offer help and encouragement. Verses that we may not have given much thought to before can become treasures to us when we realize their meaning in a time of trial. Here are some of my favorites.
Psalm 34. This entire Psalm offers great comfort, but especially verse 15: “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.” How wonderful to know that God hasn’t lost sight of us when we are in distress. He sees us, He knows what is happening, and He says, “My ears are open unto your cry.” We may not even know what to pray, but according to this verse, if all we can do is cry out, God will hear.
Verses 18-19 continue, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” While some people avoid situations that seem messy or painful, God does not. He draws near to us, joining in our sorrow. He becomes a part of whatever we are going through, and He will deliver us from all of our trouble. We will not find this assurance anywhere except in God.
Isaiah 41:10. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed: for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” When we are feeling afraid, it can help to remind ourselves that God is never afraid, and His message to us throughout Scripture is consistent: “Fear thou not.” God is also never surprised. He knows what is coming and already has a plan to see us through. He has promised to strengthen, help, and uphold us.
Isaiah 43:2. “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” This verse reminds me of how a parent might comfort a hurting child with the words, “It’s going to be okay.” Children feel relieved to hear words like these from a trusted source, and here God is letting us know that whatever we go through, it’s going to be okay. In fact, it will be better than okay because God has promised to be with us! We are not going to be overwhelmed by a spiritual battle.
Sometimes I wonder why the disciples, when caught in that storm at sea, asked Jesus, “Carest thou not that we perish?” Could they have perished when Jesus was with them in the boat? Is it possible that Jesus would either watch them all sink, or else sink with them? It is not possible! Similarly, with the Lord by our side, we will not be overcome by the storms of life.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” When we are hurting, God wraps His loving arms around us and lets us know that He will see us through. What a comfort! This promise is not just the case in some, but in all our tribulations. Then, if we meet others who are going through something similar, we will have credibility when we tell them God is able to see them through, sharing from our own experience of how God preserved us.
God’s grace and strength
Paul the Apostle once had a wonderful experience of being taken up to the third paradise and seeing incredible things. Then, lest he be exalted above measure, God allowed him to have a “thorn in the flesh.” Paul asked God three times to remove that problem; he really wanted it to go away. Yet God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” It was clear that this ailment was going to remain with Paul. It was his “new normal.” Yet, his response was: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
One of the hardest things about being broken is that we feel so weak. We like to feel capable of handling our challenges each day, yet sometimes we may find ourselves unsure how to even put one foot in front of the other. Paul learned that those are the times when he was truly strong because he had to depend on the strength that only God could give. It is a marvel that God’s grace can help our weaknesses to the point that they become strengths!
Several years back, a friend told me that she was going through some health challenges. At one point she confided, “Linda, I feel so terrible.” I felt badly for her at the time, but I felt even worse when I was facing the same health problem shortly thereafter! I called her and asked if she had any advice for me. She said, “I looked at others who have suffered with this, and I knew that if they made it, I could too.” Before the call ended she added, “By the way, when you feel really low, don’t complain, because later when you feel better, you’ll really regret anything negative that you said.” That was great advice.
If we know others who have been through what we are facing, it can help to reach out to them. They can empathize with us and give advice for navigating the challenges ahead, and may also become close friends through the shared experience.
Most of us prefer to have broken things fixed right now. In fact, sometimes “now” feels too late! However, when things are broken in our lives, God does not always put them back together quickly. He may want us to learn a lesson in patience. James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” In other words, we can actually be glad when life gets rough, recognizing that the ultimate result will be that we are made perfect before God. The very trials that can cause us to question what God is doing, can also cause us to look to Him and search His Word for help. As we patiently hold on in faith, God will refine us and make us perfect. How remarkable is the work that patience does!
The Bible tells us, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Years ago, God really impressed that admonition on me, so I started looking for difficult situations to praise God in. Soon enough, one came. It was a snowy winter night in Minnesota, and the road conditions were very bad. While driving home alone, I took a corner too fast and skidded right into a ditch. The car landed so low that no one could see me, and I had no way to call for help. To make matters worse, I had neglected to wear boots! There I was, alone in a ditch, in the middle of a snow storm, about three miles from home and with thin shoes on my feet.
In that moment, a realization came that this was my opportunity to practice thanking God “in everything.” It may not have been very joyful, but as I started to crawl out of my car I said, “I praise You, Lord, for letting me get in this ditch. Thank You, Lord, that there is a reason and a purpose in this . . .” Before I even got up to the road level, a truck pulled up! The driver just happened to have seen me go in the ditch. He called roadside assistance, and they called highway patrol to block the freeway exit while a tow truck pulled my car out. I was home before my husband even had to worry about where I was! I was amazed, and at that point the praises came much more easily. It works to praise the Lord!
In times of adversity, some people have a tendency to blame God for what is happening to them and to push Him away. This is a serious mistake, because God is the very One who can help us the most, and He wants to do that. Praising God inspires faith in our hearts and brings Him into our situation. Isaiah 61:3 says that God will give “the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” If we are feeling heavy-hearted, praising could be the very way He will lift our burden, and that is just the beginning of what He can do.
A while ago, my husband and I did a remodeling project at home. We had to choose flooring, appliances, cabinets, colors—so many decisions that suddenly consumed my time and energy. It occurred to me that when we experience a trial of brokenness, concerns like these do not seem important at all anymore. We begin to weigh issues in the light of eternity, when our kitchen flooring and cabinets will not matter. Our focus shifts to where it should be—on God’s purposes and plans, and making sure we are in alignment with Him.
What exactly is God’s purpose? Romans 8:28 gives us an idea: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” God’s purpose is to do something good through us. During this lifetime, we will not receive a full explanation of all the good He is doing, but what we do have is His assurance that no matter how it appears, He will use all our circumstances for good.
In 2 Corinthians, chapter 4, Paul spoke of some of his trials and how he was at times perplexed, persecuted, cast down, and bore in his body the Lord’s death. Then in verse 17 he said, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” In the midst of our darkest trials, we need to turn our eyes toward Jesus and let the things of this world fade away. Not only is God working our trials for good, but our trials are working for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” We may not see the benefits now, but when we get to Heaven, Jesus will be able to show us what we gained through our trials.
The greatest blessing
No matter what challenges we face in life, a “new normal” will be even better than the “old normal” when it brings more glory to God. That is truly our greatest desire in this life and the greatest blessing we will receive. As we trust Him with our broken pieces, we will see him mend them into something good.
<sup>Van Gorder, Paul R., “Beauty from Brokenness,” Our Daily Bread, June 25, 1985.<sup>