Broken to Usefulness

F.B. Meyer, the well-known pastor, once said, “Brokenness is attractive to God.” Many times God chooses his servants and shapes his vessels from the least likely material found in the least likely of places. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.” God will not use a person who is self-sufficient to do His serious work, rather He chooses to use those who are humbly aware of the fact that they are broken vessels.

The book of Judges offers clear evidence that God delights to use the weak and broken to perform his work. Take the example of Gideon in Judges 6:15. Gideon cries to the angel of the Lord, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” Yet God gives him signs, might, strength and military prowess to conquer the land and lead His people in the time of the judges, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6 and Judges 21:25)

Jacob’s experience is another example. Jacob met God in the stillness of night and struggled against him. This wrestling match forced his hip out of socket and left him lame with a limp. See Genesis 22:22-32. Yet he worshipped God leaning on his staff, and God used Jacob, or Israel, to become the father of twelve tribes of Israel. Another example is Paul’s thorn in the flesh that he speaks of in 2 Corinthians 12:9. While we don’t know what exactly this “thorn” was, we know that the Lord’s response to this painful experience was that His “grace is sufficient” and Paul’s “strength is made perfect in weakness.”

A servant who seeks the Holy Spirit sometimes must first experience the breaking process or the “Gethsemane experience” of utter betrayal, loneliness or need. An awareness of our sinfulness is a prerequisite cause for our brokenness. Like Peter when he is called as a disciple from his fishing boat, let us all fall down at Jesus’ feet, acknowledging our sin and proclaim, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8)

Another biblical image of brokenness is that of the anointing oil used by the Levitical priesthood, which enhanced fragrances. Pressing or breaking the plants produced all of these oils. Just as myrrh’s sweet fragrance is only produced as the living juice that lives, flows, and drops through the broken pieces of the plant, many times we bear fruit and grow in our walk with God through this same process of being broken.

Myrrh, like fragrance, should come from the life of a bondservant of God, broken to usefulness for Him. Indeed, real life in the Lord comes through dying, as Jesus illustrates with an image of wheat bearing seeds in John 12:24: “unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds.” This principle speaks of our hopelessness as selfish human beings and is also a message for broken hearts, because God uses broken things for his glory. For instance: broken clouds produce rain, broken soil produces crops, broken seeds yield precious grain, and broken grain transforms into bread, which ultimately gives strength to its recipients. This image parallels our brokenness, in our humanity, being able to bear fruit, grow closer to God, strengthen us in the Word, and encourage others in their faith through this nourishment. Brokenness produces usefulness!

Brokenness often comes during a crisis. Sickness is also used by God to break or humble a person. God will sometimes employ sorrow or the waywardness of family members to humble His people. The Lord was indeed a Man of Sorrows, and understands the kind of grief we experience in this life. It is the mourning through brokenness that God uses to design his superior servant. In Jeremiah 18:1-11, Jeremiah’s potter reshaped the vessel instead of discarding it. The original image was corrected, remodeled and fashioned to something new. What some would have discarded as destroyed was made anew into a masterpiece.

An example of this can be seen in the scars and the beatings, the stigma that marked Paul as a servant of God to the Gentiles and lost Jews. This ultimately brought him both pleasure in the gospel’s truth preached and an eternal profit. The cross of the Lord Jesus, the emblem of suffering and pain, has become the theme of the ransomed throng who cries, “worthy is the Lamb who was slain.” (Revelations 5:11-12) In God’s service we become useful in proportion to the brokenness of our hearts.