“Brokenness precedes usefulness.”
Despite our failures, weaknesses, and weariness, despite what was done to us or what we’ve done, and despite hard seasons that feel like we’ve been put in the garage because we’re no longer useful, God uses broken people. In fact, God often walks us through a season of suffering or humility to make us usable.
We think our weakness gets in the way, but it’s actually our own strength and pride that gets in the way. Brokenness leads to desperation and dependence. It strips us of self-sufficiency and self-centered motives for serving. Brokenness precedes usefulness. Darkness, then light. Carry the cross and then receive the crown.
In a sermon on Exodus 2 and the fall of Moses from Pharaoh’s court to Midian’s dusty field, Pastor Mark Vroegop spoke about how our pain is God’s “seminary” to train us through the ground of pain and failure. “I’m sure that you can look back on your life and see that some of the worst moments of your life were actually some of the greatest moments of learning and growth. Some of the darkest days produce the greatest insight.”
God doesn’t just use us despite our brokenness but he often uses us in and through our brokenness. A.W. Tozer said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.”
What if we believed these two things? First, my weakness, brokenness, suffering, and even my failures do not disqualify from being used by God. And second, God may want to use me in the lives of others, not through my gifts and strengths, but through the training ground of my own weaknesses, brokenness, pain, and mistakes.
As we think about ways to serve, how God might “use me,” or how to get involved in people’s lives, consider your “seminary training,” to use Pastor Mark’s words. What are the trials and experiences of pain God has brought you through in life? What are the dark and hard periods of life where you learned of God’s grace and mercy, your insufficiency, the comforts of his presence, the need for biblical community, or a host of other life sustaining truths?
As you think about how God may want to use or how to serve the Church or the world, we should consider several things (spiritual gifts, strengths, character, passions, need, etc.). But, I think we must give heavy emphasis to those experiences and trials God has used and is using to break us and shape us. It’s not just that God loves us and will use us despite our brokenness. The amazing reality in God’s economy of grace is He uses those very things which have broken us to heal others. Sometimes it’s hard circumstances God carries us through. Sometimes it’s a personal failure that’s lead to wisdom, grace, and comfort and how God wants you to help those struggling in similar ways. And sometimes it may even be what has been done to us which at times seems so purposeless and painful. The things we would never choose for ourselves and might wish we could undo, can be redeemed by God for his glory, our growth, and the good of others.
Consider what you have learned in God’s seminary training of suffering, struggles, and brokenness. What are the hard things you walked through and learned of God’s comfort and grace? What are the ways you’ve suffered greatly, even if you’ve not completely recovered from it and you still at times struggle to understand why God allowed it? 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 tells us what God intends to do through us. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (cf. Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:2-4).
What is that area of failure or sin that broke you and led you to Christ for grace? What is it that at times you still struggle to believe you’re forgiven of or that at times brings about shame? Remember the fullness of grace and forgiveness you’ve received in Christ and know that God wants to use our darkest failures to show the bright glory of his overwhelming grace. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (I Tim. 1:15-16).
Sin, suffering, pain, trials, and abuse will often leave scars that never fully heal. Those scars are not meant to shame us or lead us to despair of whether God still wants to use us. Rather, they are meant to be reminders of God’s faithfulness and grace in the past which are promised to us in the future. They are meant to remind us of our insufficiency and our utter reliance upon a good and all-powerful God. They make us desperate for and dependent on God, which, though humbling, is a good spot to be in.
My hope is we as the Church don’t try to hide our hard experiences and failures under the rug and then go serve solely in the areas we are strong or have done well. Yes, God does give us particular gifts and strengths to use for his glory and the good of others. But, we also see that often what God wants to use most is our struggles, our trials, and our failures where they have led to genuine brokenness. Look at your life and see how God has grown and comforted you in these areas, and then look for others going through similar seasons of life and see how God will use you. Brokenness precedes usefulness.
Mark Vroegop, “Who Made You Judge Over Us?”,https://www.yourchurch.com/sermon/who-made-you-judge-over-us/
I also recommend this sermon series our church did on desperation.