“Jesus didn't say, 'Blessed are those who care for the poor.' He said, 'Blessed are we where we are poor, where we are broken.' It is there that God loves us deeply and pulls us into deeper communion with himself.” ~ Henri Nouwen
Feeling blessed today? If you are down and out, if you are mourning, if you are poor, if you are hungry, if you are insulted, if you are hated, if you are broken, you should feel blessed. That’s what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-12, Luke 6:20-23).
But I don’t feel blessed when I feel broken. I just feel broken.
When a law firm I was a partner in dissolved and I did not know where to look for work, when our son’s appendix ruptured, when a relationship was strained, I felt the opposite of blessed. When there was betrayal, disappointment, and heartache, I felt anti-blessed.
However, when I look back at the times I felt closest to God, the times when I grew the most spiritually, it wasn’t usually a time when everything was going great. It was a time when I needed Him. And when I consider the ways that God uses me now, I can almost always point to something painful in my past that humbled me enough to become useful.
Maybe Jesus was right (duh). Not surprisingly, other Scripture backs up Jesus’ teaching. Being broken opens up the opportunity for some of God’s most noticeable work, and draws us to Him like never before.
Jesus came to seek out broken people
If you ever doubt the pricelessness of being broken, consider who Jesus sought out. The woman at the well wasn’t exactly the most virtuous woman in the village. Zacchaeus was a cheat. Leprous outcasts. Prostitutes. The helpless, sick, and ignored. Even though society didn’t give two shakes for such people, Jesus turned over rocks to find them and then took them out to dinner.
“Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” asked the self-righteous know-it-alls. (Matt. 9:11). “Because that’s who needs me,” Jesus answered.
And He did something about their brokenness. He gave new life. He opened eyes. He broke up funerals and turned them into family reunions. The sick became healthy, the dead became alive, water became wine, and the broken became whole.
When you are broken, you are wanted and loved by Jesus. He may or may not heal an illness, but He will make your spirit whole even if your body remains sick.
Our brokenness shows God’s great strength
Paul was broken with his “thorn in the flesh.” He prayed for God to remove it, but God told Paul that “My power works best in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9). And Paul believed Him. He came to boast in his weakness, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10).
Sometimes in our weakness, we know that the only way we made it through the day is because God propped us up. When we see God’s awesome sustaining power at work in our lives, we are reminded of His love and compassion. We’re prone to wander when things are rosy, but we draw near when we are broken.
Our brokenness makes us useful to God
Notice that Paul did not say, “When I am weak, then God is strong.” God is strong, of course, but Paul said that Paul is strong in his own weakness.
I think what Paul means is that when he is weak, that is when he allows God to work through him. Paul no longer relies on his own strength and education and personality and pedigree. He depends on the Spirit, and then Paul’s ministry shows real power and bears real fruit.
Jesus showed us how to do this. He said that His words and deeds were not His own, but the Father’s. God the Son was equal to God the Father, but submitted to God the Father and did His will. The Son was an instrument of the Father. (John 14:9-14)
That is a pattern we can follow. Christ lives in us, and if we remain in Him, He can live, act, and speak through us. When the branches (that’s us) are connected to the vine (Jesus), big things happen, but without that connection, we can do nothing. (John 15:5)
That power is available to us as believers at all time, but it is usually in our weakness, in our brokenness, when we are willing to stay connected and allow God to work through us instead of leaning on our own intellect and good looks and personality. Our brokenness makes us more fruitful.
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We are blessed when we are broken. Brokenness may still hurt, but when we are broken, God loves us and seeks us out. When we are broken, God shows His power. When we are broken, we are strong through the power of God, and our ministry bears fruit.
Blessed are the broken, indeed.
"For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." ~ Psalm 103:14
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My first book, “Why Me? (And Why That’s the Wrong Question” will be published by Leafwood Publishers in Spring 2014.
Related blog post: You’re Not Too Broken