Broken To Bless“A wise sufferer will not look inward, but outward. There is no more effective healer than a wounded healer.” — Philip Yancey“All gracious affections that are a sweet odor to Christ, and that fill the soul of a Christian with a heavenly sweetness and fragrance, are brokenhearted affections. A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble brokenhearted love.” — Jonathan Edwards “If you allow physical selfishness, mental carelessness, moral insensitivity, or spiritual weakness, everyone in your contact will suffer.” — Oswald Chambers
Nearly 40 years later, a new generation of Israelites also became desperate and demanded water. The Lord agreed to meet Moses by a rock at kadesh, the same place from where their fathers had sent 12 spies to explore the Promised Land. His task was simple: “Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water” (Num. 20:8). In later writings we are told what happened to these rocks. Isaiah explained: “He split the rock and water gushed out” (Is. 48:21). In the Psalms we read: “He split the rocks in the desert and gave them water” (78:15), and “He opened the rock, and water gushed out” (105:41). Notice that the rocks were broken so the people could be blessed.
This thought was probably in Paul’s mind when he compared Christ to a rock (1 Cor. 10:4). He had to die (be broken) so we could be blessed. Because of this similarity, some see these rocks as a type of Christ. But perhaps we can also see that breaking the rock illustrates a spiritual principle found elsewhere in Scripture – that God uses broken things and broken people to bless others. Notice the following interesting details.
God Broke The Rocks
Although Moses had to do something in each case – strike and speak – these actions by themselves did not break the rocks. Even his frustrated double-strike did not break the rock at kadesh (Num. 20:11). Likewise, we are dependent on God’s intervention in breaking rocks. This encourages us to pray this way:
• “Lord, break my selfish heart, and help me feel the pain of others.”
• “Lord, break my pride and arrogance, and help me be humble and gentle.”
• “Lord, break my know-it-all attitude and help me learn from others.”
• “Lord, break my urge to control, and turn me into a humble servant.” Breaking requires more than simple willpower. Something spiritual must take place.
God Made The Water Flow
It is not normal for broken rocks to become fountains of water. Breaking experiences can lead to anger, self-pity or “worldly sorrow” (2 Cor. 7:10). If we are to bless and refresh those around us, we need more than broken rocks. We need God to work through what is broken.
Obedience In The Breaking Process Is Important
When God says speak to the rock, we should speak to it and not strike it. God’s grace ensured that water flowed, but He was not pleased with Moses’ well-intended disobedience. The Lord’s blessing in ministry should never be taken as proof of His approval.
It’s a fact that some people are genuinely converted through the ministry of an immoral evangelist, the preaching of a doctrinally deviant teacher and the viewing of pirated copies of Christian videos. Correct theology and moral principles are to be derived from His Word, not from our experience. our Father longs for children whose obedience is based on holiness and revealed truth. His blessings are always acts of grace.
The annual Feast of Tabernacles lasted seven days. on the last day, “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice: ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him’” (Jn. 7:37-38). As our hard, fleshly crust breaks, the Holy Spirit manifests Himself by blessing, encouraging and refreshing others through us. Those who have been broken seek to give rather than get, to build others up rather than discredit their work, to serve others rather than lead and control. Those who have been broken are aware that without the working of the Holy Spirit through them they are as useless to those around them as a hard and dry rock in a “thirsty and waterless land.” Are you being used to bless others? do you sense that the Lord is trying to break something in you? our Lord still wants to turn “the hard rock into springs of water” (Ps. 114:8).
Broken Pottery Soothes Discomfort
Broken clay pots usually end up on the rubbish pile. A broken pot is associated with something “despised … an object no one wants” (Jer. 22:28). In the middle of crushing difficulties, king david called on the Lord: “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress … my strength fails because of my affliction.” And how did his friends see him? “I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery” (Ps. 31:9-12). But, as we shall see, broken pottery can be very useful.
Remember the string of disasters experienced by Job? He lost his wealth and children. Then the Lord allowed Satan to afflict him “with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head” (Job 2:7). As he sat in the ashes, his wife suggested he “curse God and die!” Then his three friends arrived (2:9-11).
After a period of prudent silence, they shared with him their theology, their analysis of his situation and proposed an action plan. With pain Job referred to them as “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2). What soothed his pain as he waited for the Lord to reveal Himself? “Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes” (Job 2:8).
Does your life include bits of broken pottery? our sovereign Lord can use your scars, mistakes, failures, and even your ongoing painful experience. He can use them to deepen your understanding and appreciation of His grace; He can also use them to teach, comfort and encourage others. God’s grace combined with your broken experience makes you more accessible to others.
As I write these words, my wife is suffering from a burnout. In our 22 years of marriage we have lived many happy adventures together in England, Canada, Colombia, and now in Holland. I have never known her to be so weak and emotionally unstable. She is in pain. She is exhausted and wants to sleep, but she can’t. She wants to trust the Lord, but continues to worry over the most insignificant details of life. She loves people but now avoids them. With our four children still at home, and having to limit and cancel travel engagements, life is somewhat complicated.
I am aware that some dear saints are called to live deeper pain than ours, and yet one wonders: How is the kingdom of God advanced through this painful and frustrating limitation? Can’t our Lord achieve His purpose in another way? religion and faith are not natural themes of conversation here in the south of Holland. In fact, they are usually tactfully avoided. knowing that my wife is suffering from burnout, our neighbor came to visit with some flowers. during the visit, she asked my wife about the church we go to. She had never done this before! Why now? Perhaps when broken and weak, we are not a threat.
Most of us are weary of artificial evangelical success stories, where some appear always happy, spiritual, healthy, and where their ‘success’ is claimed to be the norm for all – where everything that happens can be explained and put into neat theological boxes. Those who carry scars and bits of broken pots are real people; and we love to hear and be with real people because their words carry weight. The Lord can use them to comfort others in pain. “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” (2 Cor. 1:3- 4). While broken we often receive something from the Lord that we can share with others.
Recently we had a visit from a woman who suffered burnout a few years before. one of her “bits of broken pottery” is that she still takes anti-depressants. She would love to live without them. She has tried. But her weak constitution still requires them. Her testimony was an encouragement to us. A few weeks ago, a brother in our local church shared with me his experience with his own burnout at work. I am now reading a book about Christians and depression, written by a Christian medical doctor who himself battled many years with depression. It would be a very different book if he had not suffered himself. Perhaps it would never have been written!
Does your life contain scars and bits of broken pottery? If it does, don’t pretend it doesn’t. don’t hide your broken pottery. God uses broken pots to teach, comfort and encourage others.
By Philip Nunn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org