I recently returned from a wonderful trip to Texas with my family, where my mom presented numerous living history programs and I did some chalk drawings. It was truly an amazing experience! The most meaningful location we were able to speak at was First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Last November, a rampaging shooter killed 26 people at the church and injured 20 others. The pain from this tragic experience still resounds in the community. However, it is amazing to see how the church members have allowed God to use the event in their lives.
In my last post, I explored the fact that we are all broken in some way. In this article, I will explain some ways we can allow our brokenness to remold us into something better.
First of all, I fully acknowledge that I do not know everything about dealing with brokenness. Many people have endured much more that I ever will! My goal is simply to share some truths that have helped me and, hopefully, can help you.
In addressing our brokenness, it is important that we do three things:
Preparing for Brokenness
The most often neglected, and yet, in my experience (for whatever that is worth) the most helpful way to address brokenness is to prepare for it. We should expect heartache and hardship.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 2:13).
As we all “know,” but perhaps do not yet understand, God uses the fiery trials of life to refine us into a what He knows we must become.
Sometimes it seems that we have an impossible ladder to climb while other people get a free elevator ride to the top. This is nothing new. In the Bible, Joseph suffered rejection, exile, slavery, false conviction, and even prison time. Yet he was able to stay close to God and eventually rise out of his suffering (Genesis 39-41). We too can rise above our setbacks if we remember that God may have a steeper road for us because he wants us to go higher.
Even though we all have hardships, remember that we also have far better lives than we deserve.
For starters, as sinners we don’t even deserve to live, and many times hardships are the result of our sin (Romans 6:23, 1 Corinthians 11:30). Yet, everyone reading this is alive!
Lamentations is a poem chronicling the laments of God’s people after the fall of Jerusalem. The author (probably Jeremiah) notes that the destruction of the city was justified because the people had sinned (Lamentations 3:39-40). Yet he also remembers, “It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23). We shouldn’t blame God for the consequences of our sin. Instead, we should thank him that each new day brings a beautiful sunrise (Matthew 5:45) and a fresh start. As I have written before, simply being thankful is the easiest way to be happy.
Another way to prepare for suffering is to rest in God’s omniscience. God knows what is best for our lives—we don’t. Within a few days of learning that my father had cancer, I remember going upstairs to my room and praying to God, explaining to him how I felt. Eventually I acknowledged to Him that He knew what was best, and I would accept whatever He planned. Over the next few months, and in the years since then, a firm acknowledgement of God’s omniscience has kept me resilient.
I still do not know why my father died. That’s okay. There is Someone who does, and He has a very good reason--just one my three-pound brain isn’t able to fathom.
At Summit this past summer, one of the most moving experiences happened during the talent show. One girl stood out far above the other performers. She sang a song titled, “Not my Will, but Thine” while accompanying herself on the piano. She sang and played with all her heart, obviously believing every word. Everyone in the audience gave her a standing ovation that lasted much longer than anyone else’s applause. But she could not see us stand. She was blind.
I am sure her attitude was the result of a long, hard struggle. She showed true faith. Christian faith is not some superficial hope in an unlikely outcome. It is a resilient trust in God. If we think of faith as trusting the wisdom of an all-knowing God above the shrouded notions of mortal humans, faith is perfectly reasonable. In his classic book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explains, “Faith… is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods change… That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be a sound Christian.”
In order to prepare for inevitable hardships, we have to eventually come to acknowledge that our all-knowing God knows best.
Then comes the hardest part: dealing with suffering when it strikes.
Expressing Your Grief
Some people seem to think that the aforementioned word about faith means that we should hide any doubts or questions we have about the tragedies we face. We pass around nice-sounding cliches and expect people to magicly overcome their struggles. That idea is both harmful and unscriptural.
Returning to the story of Sutherland Springs, one of the affected church members, Frank Pomeroy, explained that cliches such as “God won’t give you any more than you can handle” are not really helpful. In an article by the Southern Baptist Texas Magazine, Frank’s wife, Sherri explained, “I was mad at God. All of those Christian cliches would sometimes make me very angry.” Mr. Pomeroy further described, “God knows our hearts. We can be angry and sin not. God knew Sherri’s heart. She was angry. Her heart was broken.”
Yes, the cliches are true (for the most part), but mindlessly declaring them weakens the truth in them. My pastor often says, “Nothing is real until it is personal.” Truth, while itself unchanging, becomes real to us through experience. That experience is often filled with uncertainty and frustration.
The book of Lamentations, the discourses in Job, and several of the Psalms (known as the Psalms of Lament) record the age-old struggle of dealing with brokenness. In them, the writers are expressing their frustration--even anger--at God. “WHY?” they ask.
In times of heartache, “why?” is a perfectly valid question. There is nothing wrong with expressing your brokenness to God. It is part of having an actual relationship with God. Furthermore, if we let our anger and frustration steam without letting any of it out, it can eventually boil over into bitterness or depression. Thus it is valid, even critical, to talk to God about your feelings. Remember, He understands what is like to suffer loss and rejection.
Even Jesus, suffering on the cross, asked, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
We all innately know there MUST be a “why.” If there was no purpose in the universe, we would not have an unconquerable desire to look for it.
Don’t keep your feelings inside or try to completely suppress them. There is nothing wrong with being human. Maybe you are barely hanging on to your faith by a thread, but you hang on because it is the only thing you have to hang on to. Just remember to keep holding on to that thread--that, somehow, in ways you may never know, God knows what He’s doing.
Reviving After Brokenness
At least in my experience, the most quantifiably helpful activity in recovering from a hardship is open community. Join a small group of like-minded, humble friends in which you can express your feelings and doubts in an environment of honest openness and genuine care. I am thankful for every small group I’ve been a part of, and I’ve never regretted sharing what I've gone through.
Additionally, make sure to be open about the real you, but don’t mope about “as those who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) We have a glorious hope in Christ! We can look forward to the day in which we will one day look back and see God’s hand in everything we went through (Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
Some of us will have to wait until heaven to see the purpose in our experiences. Others will get a glimpse of the silver lining in this life. After years of only having a handful of church members, the church in Sutherland Springs now welcomes up to 200 people per week. Sherri Pomeroy said, “The church is supposed to be the center of the community and now I think it is.”
God can use our brokenness to create a beautiful thing, if we can only see it. We should search for the silver lining, but we shouldn’t rest our faith on finding it. Our faith should be in what God knows, not what we know.
Finally, on a related, but somewhat opposite note, it is important not to become a whiner about your problems. Be honest, but try not to complain. Don’t be a wimp about small problems considering that other people have it worse than you. A lady once came through our drive through at Chick-fil-a who could barely speak or even breath because she had a hole in her neck from a medical procedure. Some of our other guests cannot speak at all because they are deaf. Many people in other countries face dire poverty and experience horrific living conditions every day. Most of us are far too quick to complain about our “first world problems.” We should be thankful for the good in life and maintain a proper perspective.
Many of us, however, do experience real, deep suffering. Our brokenness can either bind us and keep us from doing all we are meant to do, or it can make us stronger and more resilient. Dealing with our struggles requires preparing our minds, expressing our hearts, and reviving our souls. Growing through our trials requires a firm grasp on the truth, honest expression of our feelings, and proper perspective of what we are facing.
Overcoming our brokenness starts with acknowledging the fact that we don’t know everything, so we must rest in the fact that God does.
About Nathaniel Hendry
I blog on common social issues from a reasoned, conservative Christian perspective in easy to understand writing. I am committed to academic excellence in writing and supported by solid reasoning and research.
About A Worthy Word
The Worthy Word isn't mine, but God's. I just try to explain the truly Worthy Word and encourage you from it.