Why is brokenness so painful?
I realize that is a dumb question. When something breaks, it hurts. Maybe the question that should be asked is, Why is brokenness so necessary?
Yesterday afternoon, I had one of those “I wonder whatever happened to . . .” moments. I turned to the magic of Google and searched for a former classmate. I knew he had been a pastor in Pennsylvania which helped narrow my search. But when I got to the church website, he was not listed among the staff. I once again googled his name and came across a blog with the right name, picture, and background. I discovered that after two decades of church ministry, he was now teaching at a school in New Zealand. As I continued to skim through his postings over the past several months, I read of several surgeries–some successful and some not, the pain of leaving friends as well as adult children and moving to the other side of the world. His blog tells of brokenness and the lessons God has taught him through the pain.
While I am encouraged by his story and challenged by his faith, his experience puts mine to shame. Yes, I have left family behind to follow God, but we still live in the same time zone and on the same coast. I know the pain of losing my father to cancer, my brother to an industrial accident, and and my step-father and my mother to the ravages of dementia and old age respectively, but it seems to pale compared to my friend’s experience. Yes, I live with nagging middle-age health issues, but I don’t walk with a limp due to nerve damage like he does. Yes, I have moved cross-country after being forced out of a church, but it was a welcome relief to get away from a difficult situation, not a tearful good-bye after two decades and fruitful ministry.
I wrestle with why brokenness is so necessary. Oh, I can find intellectual answers in the Scriptures. I can turn to 2 Corinthians 12 and read of Paul’s thorn in the flesh and the promise that God’s pours his strength into weak people. I know that God’s plan has always been to use the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27). I know that our trials are light and temporary in comparison to the glory of God and the rewards that await us (2 Corinthians 4:17). I know that God uses trials as a catalyst to produce greater endurance and proven character in our lives (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-5). I know that God has to prune both bad and good from the vine in order to produce greater fruit (John 15:1-11).
While I know that the Scriptures are true and that God can be trusted, it doesn’t change the fact that brokenness hurts. Maybe that is the crux of the matter. While I want the benefits of proven character and more fruitful ministry, I don’t want the pain of trials and brokenness to get there. I’d rather learn vicariously from someone else’s pain than experience it myself.
And yet, I am confronted with the fact that God only uses broken people. And so I reluctantly, and with great fear and trepidation, say, “Lord, I belong to you. You have permission to do with my life whatever you want. Please do whatever it takes to make me holy. Please produce your character in my life. Please allow me to live a fruitful life.”