What if that which I am most tempted to hide would become a blessing if exposed, confessed, and taken to Jesus?
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16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. — Psalm 51:16-17
THIS SIDE OF EDEN
If there is one word that describes life on this side of Eden, it is broken. Material possessions break and need repair. Friendships fracture. Marriages crumble. Promises get broken, dreams shatter, and hearts break.
From computers to HVAC units and everything in between, on this side of paradise, everything is breakable. Few things work as they were intended for very long.
How does it feel when something breaks? Try to capture the emotion. When you turn the ignition, and nothing happens.
Is it frustration? Anger? Maybe self-pity? My reaction is usually all the above. Across the board, emotions tend to be negative when it comes to encountering brokenness.
A NEW PERSPECTIVE
However, when we enter the gospel into the equation, we are presented with the potential for an entirely new perspective on brokenness. This should not surprise us, as practically every topic seen from a biblical worldview runs opposite what we typically think or expect. For example, Jesus says, if you want to live, you must die. If you want to be mature, become like a child. If you want to be great, become a servant. If you want to be rich, be generous. If you want to be honored, humble yourself. The ways of the Kingdom of God are entirely counterintuitive.
The same is true with brokenness.
A friend of mine in Mississippi takes broken pottery and turns the pieces into stylish picture frames. Most folks would just throw those pieces away. But to Stacey, the broken pieces are beautiful. In fact, she can't use them until they are broken.
Every human is like a broken piece of pottery. We do not function the way we were intended. While created with unique dignity in the image of God, the image was shattered in the fall. Like a mirror dropped on the floor, the pieces are all there, but the reflection is awfully hard to recognize.
BROKEN BUT NOT RUINED
Because of our brokenness, some of us think we are ruined. Worthless fragments of humanity. Yet, what if the revelation of your broken condition is part of God's plan to bless you? And through your brokenness to bless others? Not in spite of the brokenness but because of it.
This is what we learn in Psalm 51.
You may know his story. David, the King of Israel, had just been exposed by the prophet Nathan for heinous crimes David had tried to cover up, including adultery with a woman named Bathsheba followed by the murder of her husband. This Psalm is David’s lament over the depravity of his flesh and his longing for restoration and renewal.
What could David do to secure forgiveness? How could he make up for his crimes? What sacrifice could he make to appease God’s justice and even the score? Verses 16-17 reveal the answer.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
What can we do to make ourselves right with God? While moralistic “religion” would have us believe that we can make up for our offenses with a new commitment to obedience combined with acts of penance, David knew he had nothing to offer that could come close to making atonement for his transgressions. Well, he does have something. But it is not what we would expect God to value.
He comes forward with a broken spirit. No excuses. No demands. No expectations. David’s heart is genuinely grieved over his sin and what it has done to his relationship with the Lord.
Earlier in his life, the once lowly shepherd boy was a young man after God’s own heart. He found delight in the Lord and loved him as he was loved. But unconfessed sin with compounding guilt created a barrier of shame that caused David to withdraw into hiding. Oh, he still went through the external religious motions. But his heart was far from God.
Can you relate to that? You go through the outward religious motions. But your heart is far from God.
I can relate. If you can, I want you to know this. Until your heart stops beating, it is never too late for your spirit to be restored to the Lord with renewed joy and peace. What happened to David can happen to you and to me.
It begins with a simple awareness of and sorrow over your broken condition combined with a deep sense of helplessness to do anything about it.
Alexander Whyte (1837-1921) was a pastor in the Free Church of Scotland and Professor of New Testament at New College, Edinburgh. He knew what David learned, saying, "Grace (like a mountain stream) has only one direction it can take. It flows down.” Or as Puritan theologian Thomas Watson said, “Until sin becomes bitter, Christ will not become sweet.”
But this is how the gospel works. The bad news precedes the good like darkness precedes the sunrise. When God reveals my brokenness, he intends to repurpose the broken into something beautiful. In the gospel, brokenness is the unexpected pathway to blessing.
THE BLESSING OF BROKENNESS
You have heard it said that Christians are blessed to be a blessing. It is also true that we are broken to be a blessing. Because when God breaks, he breaks to bless.
Isn’t this the message of the cross?
When instituting the Lord's Supper, Jesus took bread and—what did he do—he "broke" it, saying, "This is my body, given for you." Jesus was broken to bless. This is how we receive the blessing of forgiveness. Not by my obedience and sacrifice but through Christ’s obedience and sacrifice. He is broken under the weight of my sin so that my soul can be restored and brokenness repurposed.
There is a parable told in India of a man who would go down to the river to gather water with two buckets attached to opposite ends of a pole he would carry across his shoulders. One was cracked and one was not. As the man walked back up to his home from the river, the pot with the crack bemoaned that all of the water he was carrying had leaked out along the path. When his owner detected discouragement, the pot explained that he would never be useful, because he was broken. He felt ruined and worthless.
With a smile, the owner invited the broken pot to look back upon the path. One side of the path was barren, but the other was lined with beautiful wildflowers, which were only able to grow because of the water that leaked from the broken pot. The pot’s owner had not despised the cracks but made something beautiful out of them.
God does the same thing with our brokenness. As David says, God will not despise or reject the one who comes to him with a broken, grieving spirit but will heal and renew the grace-needy heart. Where there has been barrenness, in the wake of true repentance, beautiful blooms of grace will begin to grow on the path.
Can you imagine what this could look like in your life? Close your eyes and start dreaming… and believing.
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