Brokenness: Being stripped of my self- sufficiency.
My pastor used this definition in a recent sermon, and I was awestruck by the simplicity of it. The beauty of it. Not very often do we associate something that is broken with beauty, but life experience has taught me just that over the past several years. God has brought me to a place where brokenness is OK.
I’ve always heard 2 Corinthians 12:9- about God’s power being made great through my weaknesses. And I know that it’s the Christian thing to say that I rejoice in my weaknesses. But I don’t think I really believed that down in my heart of hearts. I really thought my self-sufficiency was something to brag about to God.
Looking back over the past year, and even the few years before that, I can see God breaking me. Breaking down the crutches and vices I’d leaned on for so long. The things I could pat myself on the back and credit myself with the accomplishment. It wasn’t until He broke those things down that I could truly understand what real rest and deep inner peace was.
The first area he attacked was my work life. I had a successful career where my customers loved me, my employees respected me, and my bosses were proud of me. I was putting in a lot of time and could hang my hat on my accomplishments. It was what made me feel successful, valued.
Things changed, though, and all the sudden I wasn’t so impressive to my bosses. I couldn’t reach the goals that were set, and it was becoming harder and harder to mask my stress and manage my employees well. I tried desperately to find another job….something that wouldn’t driving my anxiety levels up so much.
God shut every door I tried to escape through, and kept me right where I was. And while I would go home in tears many nights, eventually, His methods broke through my stubborn head. My career started to become less of my identity. It was no longer the thing that I could brag about, show off. God showed me that my worth is not found in the accolades I receive because of my work.
And after He dragged me through that fire, He let me rest and placed me in my current job. A job where I’m probably happier now than I ever have been….but it’s not who I am. It’s just something I do.
If I thought that breaking was rough, I obviously wasn’t prepared for what was to come. God began to tackle my depressive tendencies and bad thinking. It wasn’t until He let my depression come to a head- to a point where it was hurting my relationships, my health, my work performance, and my overall sanity- that I truly understood my brokenness. (More on that saga of my life can be found here.)
It was a very painful process, but it was a necessary breaking. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the pain and the loving breaking that my Father did. It’s as if He looked at me with a tear in His eye and said “I know this is going to hurt, but I promise you it will be worth it.” And all His promises are yes and amen!
I’m sure there are still things needing some breaking in my life. I just pray that my own pride and self-sufficiancy doesn’t rear it’s ugly head to fight it. Actually, let me rephrase that. WHEN my pride and self-sufficiency rears it’s head, I pray that I see it and squash it quickly.
Just a month or so ago, I was feeling a little bit proud of myself, probably dwelling too much on progress I had made in my personal life. The Lord used one random question in my Bible study to open up a wound on my soul that bled out fear and anxiety I thought I had conquered. I literally sat at my desk in tears, terrified of backtracking to places I’d been before.
But I was gently reminded that if I keep my eyes on Him, and choose to rest my brokenness in Him, then His greatness will shine through those issues. He’s done it before, and He’ll keep on doing it.
My pastor used the story of Jacob to illustrate brokenness. Things weren’t going well for Jacob, largely because of his own doing. But you-know-what was about to hit the fan, and he prayed to God for deliverance. God didn’t deliver Him right away. He challenged him, caused him to wrestle with the very nature of who he was. And Jacob fought back so hard that an angel broke his hip in order to overcome him.
After this wrestling match, God did deliver him. He answered his prayer and gave him everything He had promised. But he didn’t fix his hip. Jacob limped around the rest of his life. He had a daily reminder that he was broken, that it was God who sustained him. (Genesis 32:22-32)
God broke me down in my struggle with depression. But He didn’t heal me of it. And every night, when I take a little blue pill to manage the chemicals in my brain, I’m reminded that I’m helpless to do it on my own, that I am dependent on God and the tools He’s given me.
And when negative thoughts come racing in out of nowhere, and I start to panic and stress over dumb things like the mess in the kitchen, I don’t have to be taken by surprise. I know that I’m broken and that I will struggle with this the rest of my life. But I also know that God’s got my back for the rest of my life. So it doesn’t surprise me, and I don’t feel defeated everytime. I just pick back up and chase after Jesus a little bit harder, because I know- truly know, deep down in my soul- that that’s the only thing that will sustain me.
Being stripped of self-sufficiency has given me the freedom to rest in His all-sufficient grace. And you can rest in that sufficiency too. What is it that God is trying to break in you today? Will you let Him, and discover the peace that He has to offer in the midst of brokenness?