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Mosaic Spokane

Going for Broke

Going for Broke

So, I’m in the locker room the other week and there’s guy a few benches down and he’s really yoked, really muscular, looks like an MMA fighter and he’s all tattooed. So, of course, I judge in my heart. “Bet he think he’s tough guy or something.” There’s another guy in the room, ROTC guy. He says to MMA, “what’s the writing on your arm?” And MMA says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

Of course! I’m feeling king of stupid. ROTC says, “is that from Proverbs? I like proverbs.” Then ROTC goes on talks about his favorite proverb. And so I chime in because that’s what naked men do in a locker room, talk about their favorite Bible verses. So, being the nerd that I am, “so is that your life verse?”

ROTC “My what? Oh naw dude, just you know inspirational, you know.”

And that’s true. I cling a certain verse and called my life verse. Maybe you have, too at some point. Does anybody here have a life verse that they would share? We cling to it because it usually is inspirational. There are a lot inspirational verses out there that can spur you on to live a Godly life and leave behind a spiritual legacy.

But then, there are other verses that aren’t really that inspirational. We wouldn’t want to use them as our life verse?

Leviticus 24:16

Whoever utters the name of the Lord must be put to death. The whole community must stone him, whether alien or native. If he utters the name, he must be put to death.

 

Acts 1:18 (NIV84)

18 (With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.

John 8:21 (NIV84)

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”

 

Those verses are true but we don’t want to take them out of context but they’re not verses we would choose to impel us to lead a more godly life. And then there others that do have value different than inspiration or making us feel good.

They’re true and profitable but not really inspiring or comforting. And they’re not meant to be. Here’s one.

Luke 14:25–28 (NIV84)

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?

Wow. You look at it and you know what the cost is, it’s everything he said in the preceding verse. I mean, if you’re a loner and you don’t have any family and nobody likes you anyway, maybe this verse is vindicating, but if you’re like most everybody else, you’re like, “hate my wife, hate my kids, hate my life, what does that really mean.” I’m going come back to that one.

Here’s another one:

James 1:2–3 (NIV84)

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

 

OK, there’s truth there and maybe you can find comfort there when you’re not in the middle the pain or trial. Can you really imagine sharing this verse with someone when their experiencing a very hard time in their life? “Cheer up! It’s for your own good!” Smack.

We all have those trials of many kinds and most of us who have come to know God, know His character and we know His word. We may even have a firm grasp of the why of our trial but in that moment we don’t know what to do.Jimmy and Godzilla

My friend Jimmy. That’s what I’ll call him for now. He’s an actor friend of mine, known him for years. Back in 1998, he was sitting a movie theater watching “Godzilla”
It was a remake of the classic sci fi horror but this one is starring Matthew Broderick as a radiologist trying to track down the mystery of this giant dinosaur type lizard. There’s this cute blonde reporter who just happens to be Nick’s ex-girlfriend who walked away when Nick proposed.

And my friend Jimmy, is trying to connect to the story because the girl he loved and thought he was going to marry, has rejected him. Not only did this girl reject Jimmy but she and Jimmy’s co workers are at a party that they’ve asked Jimmy not to be at because she really doesn’t want Jimmy around. That’s why Jimmy is watching Godzilla. He is a Christian but right now he’s looking for a cathartic moment in a movie. In this version of Godzilla there’s a wraparound story, Matthew Broderick plays a scientist named Nick who runs into an old girlfriend reporter who once upon a time spurned his proposal of marriage and she betrays him again by leaking his story about Godzilla. There are themes of betrayal, a need for vindication this film with a monster running loose in New York City. Jimmy isn’t feeling really good right now. He has a lot of questions that he doesn’t feel God is answering. So, maybe he’ll find the answer in the movie. We’ll talk more about Jimmy later.

My point is that sometimes when we’re feeling down a Bible verse just isn’t enough. There needs to be more, the truth of the Bible, the Word of God needs to permeate the soul on deeper level. There are sometimes prolonged periods of time where we feel like God isn’t communicating with us and maybe even it feels like he’s walked away. And the major reason we feel that way to be quite frank is because life isn’t happy. Our dreams of what life should be and maybe even life itself feel broken.

Going for Broke

So, I want to talk to you today about brokenness. Sure, we all face trials of many kinds. Some are relational like Jimmy’s, some are physical—injuries, illness, some are times of intense peril, like persecution or being in a country at war, some are internal—depression, mental health issues, some are what we might call spiritual warfare, financial difficulties. Any number of things situations. Some are really just the everyday toils of living but others are really long and hard. And very often it will seem that there is no end in sight and it will also feel that God isn’t there. Brokenness is term that I’m use interchangeably with other terms, stretching, tillering, tuning, honing, etc. But I’m really talking about that same tool that God uses to achieve His best for us.

We can’t count on the truth of God’s Word:

1 Peter 4:12-13

1 Peter 4:12–13 (NIV84)

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

 

Romans 5:3–5 (NIV84)

3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

 

Very misused scripture that people will relate to trials and hardships:

1 Cor 10:13

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV84)

13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

It’s usually summed up in the phrase, “God will not give you more than you can handle.” And that interpretation is a gross mishandling of God’s Word. That scripture is referring to resisting the temptation to sin. What we need to understand is that pain, suffering, and death are viable alternatives to sinning. And we’re not talking about suicide because that is also a sin. But in Hebrews 12:

Hebrews 12:3–4 (NIV84)

3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Oh, that sounds harsh. Jesus isn’t much kinder. What does Jesus say if “your hand causes you to sin?” Cut it off! And no Jesus wasn’t saying it’s OK to cut off or mutilate your body. I don’t think it’s too far off the mark say it this way, “If you’re so dull that you think your hand is actually guilty of causing you to sin, then maybe you should cut it off. That’s how seriously you need to take sin.”

It’s meant to be sobering, not for people to mutilate themselves.

 

That’s rabbit trail but I wanted to eliminate the idea that scripture teaches that God will not give you something that you can’t handle. Of course He will, otherwise you don’t really need Him. And I would challenge those of you who would insist that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, to define what ‘handle’ means. Does it mean that God won’t allow you to die in sickness, loved ones to be taken away, bankruptcy to happen, your life to fall apart at the seams and not turn around before you to go home to Jesus? To believe that God won’t give you something you can’t handle outside of resisting temptation to sin is not scriptural, it’s not truth, it’s Hallmark sentimentality.

So, God will allow trials to come into your life that are so difficult. Why? We know why. God is making us stronger. Why? Good question. I’m going to try to answer that. But what’s important to know is that between that trial and that place of being stronger and developing perseverance, there is the place in the believer’s life that we call brokenness.

What it isn’t. It isn’t about punishment for sin, per se. Sure, there may be an element of that in a time of brokenness because broken people are sinful like everybody else and with the added pain of trial, we lash out at others, are more given to temptation than in the happy times. But that’s not a what a period of brokenness is about.

Brokenness is not about the past so much or about the now, so much as it is about what God is doing in you and for your future. It’s not so much about what you’ve done or what’s been done to you, it’s about what you’re becoming.

Do you remember that song, “Just as I am.” It means we come to Christ not having to change anything about ourselves. But it’s not because we’re good enough, it’s because is good enough. Sometimes when we here the phrase, “come as you are,” “you’re accepted as you are,” etc. we can easily believe or receive the implication that its because we are good enough as are. If you think that is the way it is coming to Christ, you don’t understand the Gospel. Christ accepts you in spite of the fact you’re not good enough.

Philippians 1:3–6 (NIV84)

Thanksgiving and Prayer

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

 

That work that God is doing in you is a process carried on until it’s complete. Hint: it’s not complete yet. Brokenness is a tool in that process that God uses in the life of believer to form in him or her in the image of Christ. That is, by which He makes us more like Christ.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV84)

10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

What works are those? It depends. I mean yes, ultimately is about seeing more and more people come to Christ and we are all instruments for that work. Different instruments have different purposes specifically. Like that piano, there. It was donated. We had one previously that was donated but it wouldn’t hold its tuning beyond one playing. So when we had an expert come out and look at it he said, “you need to get rid of this. I could tune it for you but this won’t hold its tune.” Why? Well someone had tuned the piano with a hammer. Instead of merely checking and tightening the pegs that hold the strings taut, someone had hammered them in and made the holes wider. So, they could be tightened but they wouldn’t hold after a hard playing. And we got rid of that piano.

God doesn’t use a ‘hammer’ on us indiscriminately swinging at us breaking us to the point of uselessness. But that doesn’t mean he is not thorough. Sometimes, often, we have to be ‘broken’ more than once. We had another piano donated to us. It sounds great and maybe it was my imagination, but thought it was a little out of tune. So, I asked the piano guy to come and tune it. I’m worried about hearing the bad news, that it can’t be tuned, etc. Sometimes when we are broken at the hands of others, it can cause us to be afraid of God when needs come in and ‘tune’ us. And sometimes a second tuning is needed.

Sometimes second time of brokenness is needed.

Back to my friend Jimmy in the theater watching Godzilla in 1998. I have permission to tell Jimmy’s story. He does listen to the podcasts. He’s not OK with me using his real name though. So, Jimmy jilted by his girlfriend, becomes distraught, angry at God. Oh, but there’s something amiss here. It wasn’t girlfriend. They never dated, they weren’t even really friends. They just happened to have joined this touring performance ministry at the same time a few years previous. Jimmy believed it was God’s will to marry this girl whom he really didn’t know that well. Which kind of explains why this girl, we’ll call her Mina, didn’t really want him around. Well, it doesn’t completely. See this had been going on for a while, ministry leadership had pulled Jimmy aside and asked him to back off. Jimmy did for a while but at one point had decided to take the van and drive halfway across the country to resubmit his plans of life and ministry to this girl. Fortunately, he relayed this romantic endeavor to one his team members who sensibly instructed Jimmy that his plan could be construed as misappropriation of ministry resources, dereliction of duty, and oh yeah, sexual harassment. Jimmy conceded the point but a warning was issued to the girl. So, when the teams weren’t half a country away, Jimmy asked to drop his team off at specified location and he was to drive away while they had fun. And this wasn’t the first time something like that had happened to Jimmy. Rewind three years previous to that. Jimmy is in a McDonald’s parking lot in Morristown, NJ saying farewell to an ex-girlfriend whom he knows he will never see again. It’s bittersweet moment, tears, its raining, etc. See Jimmy had become a Christian relatively recently to that time period. Before that he had been involved this girl, whom we’ll call Rose. They had been intimately involved living as young adults will apart from God. They broke up and then Jimmy became a Christian. He also wanted to get back together with Rose but Rose didn’t want to get back together with Jimmy especially since he was now a Bible believing Christian. He shouldn’t have wanted to either that’s part of the process isn’t it. So, Jimmy thought he would save her by bringing her to Christ and then of course, they could live happily ever after. Jimmy applied for and was hired by the same company as Rose so he could be near her. Ladies, idn’t that romantic? I mean wouldn’t that like really creep you out? Not only are you mad Jimmy for doing that but also at your boss for hiring him. It didn’t work out. For three months they fought like a divorced couple, she nearly filed sexual harassment charges against him. I won’t tell you why. Very close. God was merciful to Jimmy. Why? Maybe because Jimmy asked for it. Less than a year previous to this adventure. A pastor in church challenged Jimmy to ask God to “break me.” Jimmy did and while explaining it to his roommate, a wind came through the apartment knocking off and breaking a mirror so that Jimmy was looking at cracked images of himself. Neat trick. In recovery we call this step 6, ‘we asked God to remove our defects of character’ I think when God hears that prayer he kind of chuckles, “Oh, I was going to do that anyway, but if you’re in a hurry…”

“See it is about sin! Jimmy obviously led sinful life of fornication, who knows what all.” I certainly thought that. I’m not telling all of Jimmy’s story. But I asked him, what was it about then if not your pre-Christ sinful lifestyle. And says, “Eric, it was about a bunch of things. One of which was a mind set about women that was really objectifying. I didn’t get that from my sinful lifestyle that just cemented in place.” OK, what then? He says, “My dad told me when I was 10 years old, that I was stud. Well I like words and their meaning but I knew that a stud was an animal whose value was it’s ability to mate with other animals. And then my dad left when I was thirteen without teaching me how to hone this ability.” He says, “at ten years old I was looking in mirror wondering who I was, what did that mean, I was a stud?” Eighteen years later he found out who was, he was Godzilla, a fire breathing dragon, causing havoc in lives around him.

He’s doing much better now. He’s married and has kids, the courtship was not marred by his previous mind set. He is still involved in ministry and his actually trying help other men to change their objectifying ways. But to get there he had to be broken. Broken of that mind set, broken of magical thinking (it’s Gods will because I want it to be), and self-reliance. That’s a huge one. Very often, the thing that God will break us of is our independence, independence from God and independence from others. God wants to hone our abilities, we are his instruments, his craftsmanship.

There are other types of instruments though that require a different type of ‘breaking.’ There weapons of warfare. A wooden bow, for instance, is not just a stick cut from a tree. If you try doing that, getting a stick, fastening a bowstring to it, and then bend it to fire an arrow, what’s going to happen? It’s going to be broken to the point of just being useful for kindling.

Bend a bow, a thousand-times-flexed stick, and you get a weapon that can kill any living thing in the world.’ He grinned, and wiped his forehead. ‘Little bits of torture, over and over again, and just when the wood thinks it can’t take any more you draw it back an extra half-inch , increasing the tension and the compression; and the bow finds it can take it after all, and now it’s that little bit stronger and more powerful, until suddenly you realise you’re there and you can draw the bow the length of the arrow. That’s tillering.’ ..‘That’s what you’re doing,’ he said. ‘You’re teaching the bow to be unnatural, after all  Its nature is to break, or give up and take a set; but you’ve got to teach it, by stretching and crushing, to do something it would never have been able to do if it’d just been left to stand around in one place and grow leaves.’

 

That’s from a work of fiction called The Belly of Bow by K. J. Parker who has reputation for her accurate depiction of the fashioning of medieval weaponry. I think good Biblical example of this kind of ‘breaking’ or tillering is King David

He was a man after God’s own heart but we see him broken a lot and we get an earful of it in the psalms.

To sum up his life:

David was a shepherd, the youngest brother of a large family and least esteemed. He’s anointed as the next ruler of Israel even though he’s not related to the king. So in spite of God choosing him over the Saul and his brothers, he in fact has to run for his life, hiding in caves. He writes in the Psalms.

Psalm 54:1–5 (NIV84)

1     Save me, O God, by your name;

vindicate me by your might.

2     Hear my prayer, O God;

listen to the words of my mouth.

3     Strangers are attacking me;

ruthless men seek my life—

men without regard for God.         Selah

4     Surely God is my help;

the Lord is the one who sustains me.

5     Let evil recoil on those who slander me;

in your faithfulness destroy them.

We benefit from David’s artistic side. He was an emotional guy and acted from the heart. If he felt like dancing in his undies in celebration in public that’s what he did. He was a great warrior and he was labeled as man after God’s own heart. But it was still a heart that had a sinful side to it. And acting from a heart that’s good most of the time is great but acting from the sinful part not so much. He was a bit impulsive which on one hand served him well in art and military endeavors. But other times not so much. At one David had it in mind to bring back the Ark of the Covenant, but didn’t really read up on its handling instructions so much.

1 Chronicles 13:9–14 (NIV84)

9 When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. 10 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God.

11 Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.

12 David was afraid of God that day and asked, “How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?” 13 He did not take the ark to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 14 The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house for three months, and the Lord blessed his household and everything he had.

So David pouted for three months. But during that three months David learned some things. He learned the God did want David succeed and be establish. The king of Tyre sent David all the supplies to build palace. During this time David had more wives, had more kids. Then the Philistines came back and David had fight them off but before he did, he inquired of the Lord, “should I do this?” He had never been so hesitant about the Philistines before but he is here. God says, “ do it, I’m with you.” He defeats the Philistines, but they attack again. David inquires again.

1 Chronicles 14:14–16 (NIV84)

14 so David inquired of God again, and God answered him, “Do not go straight up, but circle around them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. 15 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move out to battle, because that will mean God has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” 16 So David did as God commanded him, and they struck down the Philistine army, all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.

 

Interesting. We don’t read that David inquired of the Lord a few years previous when went to collect 200 foreskins from the Philistines as dowry for his wife. But after the fiasco with the ark, we see it. Right after all this, he sees that God isn’t his enemy or particularly mad at him, he sees the need to not be self-reliant. He looks at a few YouTube videos on how transport the Ark of the Covenant. In all likelihood, he either already knew that before or he asked somebody or read it in the book of the law.

1 Chronicles 15:1–2 (NIV84)

The Ark Brought to Jerusalem

15  After David had constructed buildings for himself in the City of David, he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. 2 Then David said, “No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, because the Lord chose them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister before him forever.”

 

Now think back to when it says that David was afraid of God. Now, when the Philistines, all of a sudden attacked, what might David have been thinking? “Game over. God’s hand can’t be with me. I just saw that whole Ark thing. I’m not jumping until I know God is with me.” God’s purpose in allowing the Philistines to come up against David wasn’t punishment or persecution, it was an opportunity for David to not rely on his self but to inquire of the Lord and be careful to follow instructions. And that’s another thing about David, is that he learned from his brokenness. There were other occasions for David to be broken and lot of it was chastisement Bathsheba, the census, etc. I like this passage because I connect to it. I’m a person who often gets upset because things don’t work out and I think God’s hand must be against me it’s not that at all, it’s an opportunity to practice more of what God wants me to be.

It took some time and circumstance before David realized that. And the process of brokenness is not merely a chastisement. Chastisement has to do with a sin whereas brokenness has to do with heart transformation, a way of thinking. Moses, He was rich kid from a life of privilege who could never be aristocracy because of his adoptive heritage but he saw an opportunity to be a savior to struggling masses whom he really didn’t know and he failed. I think that maybe God did plant the seed of being a deliverer for his people in Egypt but Moses wasn’t reliant on God when he killed an Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

Exodus 2:15 (NASB95)

Moses Escapes to Midian

15       When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.

This all takes place in less than chapter. What was it like to have to flee a life of privilege where he was educated, clothed, and well fed? How long did this journey to Midian take? Oh, know Eric you got it all wrong about Moses. He was connected with his people, he shunned the Egyptian lifestyle. His own mother Jochebed weaned him you know. Really? Is that why the daughters of the priest of Midian referred to Moses as an Egyptian? He was probably still wearing the clothes. No, I think it took him a while to shed that Egyptian lifestyle and mindset, like maybe 40 years. What mindset might that have been? The one that suggested that he could take a life at whim, was above law because of privileged status, not looking to God for answers, the one that needed to learn that people, like sheep, only readily trust your leadership when they don’t feel threatened by it, God ordained or not.

I said this earlier but the process of brokenness involves time of intense adversity, AND overlapping into time of strength is the time of brokenness. And things are happening during this time.

The other week I was cleaning our Bunn coffee maker in the back, you know that one that says, don’t turn off or unplug, yeah that one. Well, after a while and lots of use, minerals from the water gum up the works a bit and so the brewing slows down it takes longer and longer to produce that tasty brown beverage. To clean this thing you have to pour a quart of vinegar into it. By the way, anyone here enjoy a nice tall glass of vinegar today? No? Why not? Because it’s bitter and it stinks. But to clean all that gook out of the coffee maker without corroding the inner parts of the machine I need to use it. And then I do unplug the machine and let it cool down without any activity happening. I just let that vinegar sit in there for two hours while it works away at the hardening that’s been settling in the machine for a long time.

I guess you could think of the bitter vinegar the way you might a long and bitter time of adversity. It seems to go on forever, certainly more than two hours. In the meantime there’s no activity or at least very limited and toilsome activity like tending sheep, or frying donuts while you learn about a career in school, or maybe like the Apostle Paul who a took at least a three year break from ministry to retrain his brain to study the Scriptures. We’re certainly not bearing a lot of observable sweet tasting fruit during that time.

But we can’t leave the vinegar in the coffee maker because it will affect the taste of the coffee. We need to clean that vinegar out, all the way out. To do that we need to pour in cool water to push that vinegar out and not just one quart but gallons of it, seven gallons of it. And the water isn’t just sitting there, its cycling through the whole system cleaning out the bitter taste. Water goes in and comes out. You can’t have any trace of that bitterness when you heat up the machine and start brewing the coffee again.

And like I said earlier the bitterness of our adversity must also be completely washed away before the fruit of our labors isn’t tainted by it.

How do we do that in real life? Obviously drinking a lot of water isn’t going to make your bitterness go away. But water is a useful symbol

Hebrews 10:22 (NIV84)

22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

 

Ephesians 5:25–27 (NIV84)

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

 

Ephesians 4:31 (NIV84)

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

 

Ezekiel 36:25 (NIV84)

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.

 

Practically, that means during a time of brokenness you’re not walking away from God, like David, you continue to inquire of him, read the Word, speak the word, and do the word. Remember the water goes in and it needs to come out. And it’s going to be tainted by bitterness. Let it flow and be around people you can trust and will give a lot of grace and forgiveness. Meditate on God’s Word, let it do its job even though it may not always be comforting, share the word, be in community with other believers, don’t isolate yourself. Sometimes when we’re not in a happy circumstance we just want to curl up and lick our wounds, medicate with substances that numb pain and delay the process that God has set in motion. We want to seek to forget as a substitute for God’s process in our lives.

Sometimes God uses brokenness in our lives rid us of our notions of independence and other times He allows in our lives to help us recalibrate what we value. Let’s read a little of Hannah’s story.

1 Samuel 1:6–11 (NIV84)

6 And because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival (her husband’s other wife) kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 Elkanah her husband would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

9 Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s temple. 10 In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

 

In that culture producing offspring, particularly male offspring was very valuable. It also answers the question of why a man might think he needed two wives back then. The wife he loved wasn’t producing offspring perhaps another would. I’m not saying it’s right nor implying that God loved this arrangement. It’s just what it was. This is descriptive truth, what happened. What we draw from the this story about God is why God closed Hannah’s womb. He wanted brokenness in her life. How do we know she was broken?

1 Samuel 1:15–16 (NIV84)

15 “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

 

Just a guess. Why though? It wasn’t that she had a shallow value in wanted a child, it was that she didn’t value it enough. God had spectacular plans for this child, her child would be a prophet who would judge the nation and anoint kings. He gets two books of the Bible. God knew this and wanted her on the same page. He kept her womb closed until she dedicated her unborn child to the Lord. The rest is history.

Another example of brokenness from the Bible is the story of Naomi and Ruth

Ruth 1:3–5 (NIV84)

3 Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

 

Naomi was not only a widow, but now a mother in law of widows. No offspring, no family legacy. Someone of that day would be judgmental of her and say she got what she deserved because she raised her sons to marry foreign women. That was cultural no-no, especially Moabites. So she goes back to Israel, to Bethlehem with her Moabite daughter-in-law and she isn’t very welcome, caused quite a stir. If Naomi wasn’t broken over the famine and the loss of her husband, sons, and legacy, this was the final straw. How do I know?

Ruth 1:19–21 (NIV84)

19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

 

What good can come of this? If you know the story, you know that while the Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth is gleaning barley she meets a guy named single guy named Boaz who just happens to be in a position to redeem Naomi’s legacy by marrying Ruth. He was a relative of Elimmelech and in their culture a man could, in fact was obligated to marry his brother’s widow or close relatives widow not for his own benefit but for the benefit of the deceased so that the deceased would have a legacy, in this case Ruth but also Naomi.

So, in reality, Naomi left full and came back fuller. Her life would not end up the bitter end that she feared.

 

God’s plan for Naomi was better not bitter.

There are seasons of bitterness and trial but God is bringing us to better place.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV84)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

The context of this interesting. God, through Jeremiah, is trying to convince people of Judah to make the best of being taken away to Babylon, a place they don’t want to go.

 

Some might ask what about God’s Word should I be meditating on? God’s character, God’s good, loving character. It’s so important to remember that God is good and loving and has our best interests at heart. My daughter Kayla has a frame of reference for this.

Now when we adopted Kim and Kayla from Tacoma, it was known to us that Kayla had a genetically inherited condition called neurofibromatosis 1. Shortened, it’s called NF1. I’m not going to go into all the details of the disease but simply put fibromas (fibrous tumors) form on nerve endings. Typically in children born with NF1 these tumors will form around the optic nerves…optic glioma. The donut shaped tumor strangles nerve causing blindness. When Kayla was born she didn’t have obvious symptoms of the disease so, even though her birth mother had it, they thought she was home free. So, when she started losing sight in one of her eyes because of a tumor she didn’t have the speech capability to say, “BTW vision is getting little foggy up in here and I’m feeling some cranial pressure.” No she couldn’t say that so than her getting easily blind sided, what alerted Kayla’s foster parent was that her left her was more pronounced than her right. She became blind in that eye. She still is. Upon further examination it was discovered there was a tumor forming and growing on the optic nerve leading to her right eye. In matter of months maybe a year, she would be blind in both eyes like her birth mother. There was a new treatment out and specialist for that treatment practices at Sacred Heart here in Spokane. The treatment couldn’t restore vision in her blind eye but it could save her good one. So, after relocating from Tacoma to our home in Late November of 2004, three months into this new family, Kayla started chemotherapy. The tumors were not cancerous, they were benign, but there was a 20% chance they would respond chemotherapy. We took that chance.

So as her new father, how do I explain this to a three year old? I’m your new dad. I’m going to take you to a place every Friday where I’m going to hold you down while strangers stick an inch long needle into your chest so we can put some poison inside of you and you’re going to feel sick, you’re going lose a little hair, and you won’t be able run until your five but it’s for your own good, welcome to our family. Even if I could explain the benefits, if it were left up to her, do you think would consent to it.

We started the treatment here in Spokane and then once she got used to the routine, we moved to Japan where they purposely don’t coddle the kids as much as they do at Sacred Heart and more strangers whom couldn’t even understand. End result, it worked. Both tumors shrank as a result. The right eye was saved and it pulled her blind one back. That was just a cosmetic bonus.

Just as I couldn’t explain to Kayla the horrific ordeal I was going to put her through, us through nor the benefits, God doesn’t always explain the adversity he allows in our path. Like Kayla, we would be able to understand and we would run from God.

God has his vinegar, vincristine, and carboplatin for us because he loves us. And we have to remember that.

why doesn't God just take it away? Why can’t everything just go smoothly? I am like Christ when everything is going right. You should see me. but that's the problem because it’s not real. You’re not really like Christ until you can be like that in all situations. A fallen world needs to see Christ in you. They need to see Christ crucified your flesh before they can accept it in the Bible. It’s just a story until they see it played out in your life.

 

My last Biblical example is Job. I’m not to exhaust his story. But God allowed everything to be taken from Job BUT his life. His family, his wealth, and his health. He was miserable. His friends were no help, they told him it was his fault. His wife told him to just curse God and die. What does Job do? He does cry out to God and asks for answers and He also says, “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” To paraphrase, “it’s all God’s and He does what He pleases with it and God is good.” What does that mean? Job was left with nothing good BUT God to help him, and all of us, see that there is nothing really good but God.

Luke 14:26–27 (NIV84)

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

To phrase it another way:

Psalm 73:25 (NIV84)

25   Whom have I in heaven but you?

And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

Brokenness is about God breaking away from us everything that isn’t Christ, not just sin but defects of character and the satisfactions of this World.

What do we do while in a state of Brokenness? Or how do we prepare for it? How do you prepare for an earthquake when it’s a hurricane? There are some principles.

  1. We cry out to God?
  2. We continue to seek Him through the reading, meditation, and sharing of His Word.
  3. We seek the fellowship of trusted believers.
  4. We live in expectation that He who has the power to take away will use His power to give us better.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984). Pr 3:5.

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