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3 Truths About Brokenness

I was talking with a life coach last week. He probed broken areas of my life that I had dealt with a long time ago. I’m a grown man in my 50’s, yet when my coach put a magnifying glass up to my early life, I still had to struggle with my feelings as a high school student. “How did you feel?” He …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I was talking with a life coach last week. He probed broken areas of my life that I had dealt with a long time ago. I’m a grown man in my 50’s, yet when my coach put a magnifying glass up to my early life, I still had to struggle with my feelings as a high school student.

“How did you feel?” He asked.

“I felt small, lonely, and inadequate. I was depressed,” I answered, wishing he would move on to the next subject. 

“If you are going to be able to lead at the next level, you’re going to need to be able to talk about that stuff.”

I knew what he was saying is true, but here’s my struggle: If talking about my brokenness helps others, it also causes me to relive and rehearse those old feelings. Helping them hurts me.

Thinking about it brought these truths about brokenness to mind:

1. We are all broken

We all do things that hurt other people. Our brokenness causes us to act in ways that we regret. Our old wounds may cause us to be sarcastic or evasive. Or, defending our brokenness, we may lash out in more obvious ways.

But knowing that we all share brokenness can be a positive thing. The Bible talks about “fellowship” in suffering (Phil. 3:10).

Feeling like you are the only one broken one in a group can push you into a place of secrecy and shame. Conversely, AA groups work in part because they acknowledge their common brokenness in every meeting. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.

2. We are often unaware of our brokenness

On our journeys through life, we may arrive at a place where we feel we are being broken. The irony is, we were already broken. Often we are just now discovering what was already obvious to our friends.

Sometimes God wants to heal us, but that can’t happen until we see our brokenness for what it is and humble ourselves. Sarah Gill said something that struck me: “True healing and freedom from our brokenness cannot occur until we come to terms with our brokenness.” 

Karen and I have prayed for healing for one of our children. And the healing didn’t come. Instead God said, “let me use her.”

We may perceive an area of weakness as brokenness. We may respond by hiding in shame, but it may be the very place God wants to use us.

3. God gives us brokenness as a gift

Yes, God uses our brokenness. He tells us that he uses our weakness as a point of strength. So, to hide brokenness is to in a way hide the gift of God.

It seems inside out, but lately leadership gurus are beginning to tout the benefits of vulnerability in leaders. Leaders who are in touch with their brokenness and able to share it take the pressure off their followers to be anything other than themselves.

Paul was given a thorn in his flesh. It annoyed him and he prayed repeatedly for God to take it away. But God didn’t. Paul felt broken and wanted to be fixed. But there is a brokenness that God never intends to fix.

Embracing brokenness

No one enjoys talking about how they’re messed up. But if we can press into it, we can experience a whole new level of freedom. Here are some questions to help you process this:

How are you broken? 

In what ways might you be broken, yet unaware? Can you talk about it without being defensive?

How have you responded to brokenness? If it’s a gift, are you able to say thank you?

Comments (17)

  • My dear friend and fellow ragamuffin on these rocky roads of faith…thank you for this short but insightful missive.

    I’m an incest survivor and experienced tremendous physical attacks that in a modern era would have landed a father in jail for felonious abuse. There was huge paternal deprivation and worse. My response was to become a hyper-achieving workaholic even as a kid and that continued through college and adult years. Along the way two failed marriages happened for reasons very complicated and quite simple. A family still makes watch over a genetic disease which has already taken out many close to me and is the “gift that keeps giving” as a new generation now deals with that “Sword of Damocles.” And while having embraced faith at a young age, pain not dealt with created a putrid sludge of infected addiction which will be more than a “twelve step” jaunt through the rest of my life. Make no mistake there has been and is beauty. But honesty demands offering the penetrating look into the obvious…”Butch is broken.” I’d rather heal in God’s way than create my own formulas which are never durable. And it is in those moments with others (like you) around a compassionate campfire of curing care I remember that in this life we are often compelled to “manage tensions” in faith more than “solve problems” in our own feeble strength. Jesus promised never to leave nor forsake us. And on hard days often that is the wreckage I cling to in an ocean of doubt. Hope heals. Perhaps slowly but with the fingerprints of our Great Physician. Namaste.

  • Thank for your thoughts. I have found that the Father always wants us to become aware of what is behind what we do. I found myself today feeling angry at someone when I became aware that this was a pattern in my life when I feel inadequate or exposed or not capable or enough.

    These are good words. Bless you.

    Tim

  • The grace you’ve found has been costly, Butch. But I’m so glad you’ve found it. As you drink deeply from its waters, you are refreshed and can refresh others. It’s a beautiful thing to see you walking in a whole new level of freedom.

  • There’ll never be a time this message will grow stale, especially for they, whose encounter with God left them no room for excuses or escape. The more we understand this awesome truth, the more tolerant and gracious we become.

    Thanks Dad…. thanks!

  • Butch, Your words eloquently exemplify Seth’s point. Fascinating truth in that the first step in healing require us to acknowledge our brokenness. Two false statements are: I am not broke, and I am broken beyond repair. The truth is that we are all broken but God can take the brokenness and fastened into something beautiful and more than what we can imagine. Blessings my brother.

  • Thanks Dave. We are on a journey and it is made better by those with whom we share truth…like that you just shared. Thank you…. Shalom brother.

  • Seth, Thanks for sharing this. I have found that brokenness doesn’t really “sell.” It makes people uncomfortable to talk about it, yet in my own life I have found incredible healing in facing it, embracing it, and surrendering it. It is refreshing to hear it not only shared, but encouraged as a pathway to freedom.

  • Very well written, concise and insightful, thanks Seth.

    Tim added, “I found myself today feeling angry at someone when I became aware that this was a pattern in my life when I feel inadequate or exposed or not capable or enough.” and boy is that me so many times. ‘not capable enough.’

    And Dave added, ‘Two false statements are: I am not broke, and I am broken beyond repair.’ a great summary.

  • We are all broken. And will be until we take our last breath.

    When mentoring a young man several years ago, I taught him this truth with a comical example of what I dubbed my very “healthy mean bone” that surfaces here and there.

    My young friend was sincere, intense, and dedicated in his pursuit of all things on this planet. And had a strong grasp of goal setting and follow-through that I have rarely seen. At 25 years of age.

    But what he lacked was an understanding that it’s okay to be broken. And that each time we face once again our own brokenness it is an opportunity to actually rejoice.

    Why? Because it is the reason and rationale for why we have and need a Savior named Jesus.

    Mistakes, sins, repeated errors, flaws that resurface when we thought we had conquered them…are all simple opportunities for a sense of humor about ourselves and the renewed realization of just how grateful we are for the Cross.

    I think he got some of what I taught him. Well, the most important stuff, at least. Because the most important stuff didn’t come from me anyway, but from the Holy Spirit.

    Blessings…

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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