I’ve had this post saved in draft since September last year, but I never really felt right about posting it. A couple days ago it came back around when I got the opportunity to talk to one of my discipleship partners about it. So, I started feeling like it was time to finish and post it, then we talked about it in Life Group last night and that confirmed it. So, here it is…
Over the last year and a half I’ve really began to understand just how important brokenness is. Christ's is a ministry of suffering, there is no way around that. If we choose to share in Christ's glory, Romans 8:17 says we must, not should, share in His [Christ's] suffering. Brokenness doesn't necessarily involve suffering as we understand it. But brokenness is the key to so much in God's Kingdom. God desires us to come to Him with a broken spirit. Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” I've come to understand, through experience, that brokenness is where God teaches you. I've said it in a blog before, while God is present both on the mountain and in the valley, His purpose is in the valley (this is a spin off of something that my friend Thomas – his blog HERE – and I have talked about in the past). God uses the valleys, or the wilderness, to purify us, to teach us, to grow us and move us toward the promise He holds for us. While brokenness is vital to growing in Christ and becoming the person that God desires us to be, it's importance isn't the point of this post.
As I walked in and out of my various seasons of brokenness, I began to realize that God seemed to talk to me and direct my steps more as I was walking through the valleys. Not that He didn't when things were good, but there was, what seemed like, continuous interaction throughout the actual suffering. Once the season of brokenness lifted, there seemed to be a decrease in the amount of communication between God and I. I now realize that God became more silent to allow me to implement the stuff He had taught me. In doing so I was able to realize His purpose in that suffering and it helped me grow in faith and holiness. However, at that time I began to actually long for the days of suffering because I desired to hear from God. I began to look for opportunities that could be considered brokenness or suffering. Many times I would look at a circumstance that was less than desirable and call it suffering and brokenness. I was trying to live this life of brokenness that was fully based on my outside circumstance. In essence I believed that if I remained perpetually broken, then my connection to God would be more constant. I was fabricating this false brokenness hoping that it was the kind of brokenness God wanted, but in reality I spent more time trying to be “broken” than actually trying to seek Him more and use what He had taught me though that season.
God doesn't require the type of suffering or brokenness that comes from outside circumstances. Of course as Psalm 119:71 points out, that suffering is good for us and He does use it to teach us, lead us and even discipline us, but I don't know that He is looking for circumstances to define the brokenness that He desires. He desires our hearts to break for the things that break His, He desires our spirits to constantly long for more of Him. David is a beautiful example of what brokenness before God should look like. Even though he was a king and could have, and did, literally anything he desired, his spirit was always in agony because he desired to be closer to God, to know Him more. Through the Psalms David praises God, but he is constantly tormented by the thought of God abandoning him. He wanted God that bad and the thought of losing Him caused David to live in this constant state of suffering and brokenness.
Early Christian monks used to fabricate suffering in the form of physical punishment to their bodies, such as whipping themselves or banging their heads against wooden boards. They used this self inflicted suffering as proof of their piety. I think we often still do that, only we've traded in the whips and wooden boards for late bills and jobs we hate, but endure. That is not to say that God is not or will not use that suffering to teach us, but (and I know I have) we can often use that stuff as our evidence of suffering. Unfortunately, when used this way, instead of driving us toward God, as suffering for the sake of the cross should, these things cause God to decrease and us to increase as the focus of concern. This is backwards and only serve to drive a wedge between us and God's presence.
I also figured out that brokenness and suffering are not mutually exclusive. You can be high on the mountain and still have a heart that is constantly broken by the desire to know God more, to be with Him more and to want what He wants. I thirst for God and to thirst for God is one thing, but to desire to always thirst for Him is a whole other level of brokenness that I've not achieved and can't imagine what it would even be like. The bottom line is this: God does desire us to come to Him broken, but He doesn't want it to be fabricated out of the circumstances of life. He desires it to be a genuine suffering for the sake of Christ and a brokenness caused by a deep longing to be close to Him always. It's a longing that doesn't cripple you (because the truth is...you can't completely achieve that fullness here on earth), but drives you ever toward Him at a furious pace.