Early in my ministry I valued joy and the strength it provides (see Nehemiah 8:10) highest among my internal/spiritual qualities.
Experience (read: suffering) has changed my perspective.
Today I value brokenness and the weakness it provides as among my most valuable internal/spiritual qualities. I find myself remembering this passage more often:
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I’ve discussed with fellow pastors the trauma, difficulty, and suffering associated with pastoral ministry, and with life. These things can break us—break us down and break us open. Leaders learn to walk with wounds which, when submitted to the Lord, actually do a healing work of their own. Ironically, brokenness has its benefits.
It makes us humble.
Samuel Rutherford tells us: “Our pride must have winter weather to rot it.” This is true. False notions of self-reliance or superiority don’t last long when our faults become so obvious to us under scrutiny and our deficiencies are revealed under pressure.
It gives us empathy and compassion.
A famous preacher of an earlier generation used to tell his students, “Preach to a broken heart, and you’ll never lack an audience, for there’s one in every pew.” I couldn’t really do this until my own heart was broken. I found a new depth and power in my preaching, a new emotional power, a deeper ability to feel pain with my congregation.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have
received from God.
It pushes us to depend wholly on God.
Along with the humility and compassion brokenness brings come wisdom and trust. We lean on God as never before. The sweetness of our trust in Him is richer than ever, as is our abiding awareness of His love and care for us.
2 Corinthians 4:7-10,16-17
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. …Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
I remember reaching the point, after an especially trying year, at which I realized I would not trade or erase the trial I’d endured, even if I could, because of the lessons I learned from it and the Christ-follower it helped me become.
That was a powerful revelation, an unexpected benefit of brokenness.
Have you yet experienced your own crucible of brokenness? If so, have you found it useful? If not useful, why?