There is a painful blessing that provides depth for Christians. Those of us who have experienced the blessing never would have volunteered for it. If we could go back in time, we wouldn’t change it, either.
The painful blessing is brokenness.
In the Western world, brokenness almost always has negative connotations.
- Broken relationships are considered failed relationships.
- Broken glass scatters in dangerously sharp shards.
- Broken contracts result in lawsuits.
- Broken links won’t open web pages.
- A broken-down car goes nowhere.
“Brokenness” for people is reaching the point of powerlessness. It means moving past the point of trying to save ourselves, past negotiating with God for help. It even means going past the point of crying out for help. Either God restores us, or we’re done.
Brokenness is not, in itself, a blessing. The blessing comes when God intervenes in the midst of our brokenness. In restoring us, God also transforms us. We emerge from the darkness as different people.
The Benefits of Brokenness for Clergy
My experiences with brokenness are far too personal and painful for a blog post. However, I can share how it affected me as a pastor.
As clergy, we can give entire treatises on grace. We’ve extolled grace in every worship service. As God restores our brokenness, we understand grace experientially. My experience of grace in brokenness impacted every area of ministry, from preaching to visitation, from discipling leaders to leading worship.
In my earlier years in ministry, members listed my strengths in such terms as “outreach” and “leadership.” It wasn’t until I experienced brokenness that words like “caring” or “concerned” were apt descriptions of my service. This kind of change is often experienced by pastors who experience brokenness.
Clergy who have experienced restoration often start casting a wider net. These pastors make their church buildings more accessible for addiction recovery groups. They are more active in promoting outreach to people who do not yet know Jesus. Before brokenness, I never would have embraced my role in regional disaster relief and recovery the way I do today.
Pastors Who Haven’t Experienced Brokenness and Restoration
At times, young pastors remind me of the newly minted Civil War officers who had not yet experienced battle. They entered the battlefield with hopes of glory and honor. They often left the battlefield in shock, hoping for a quick end to the war.
Young pastors are not seeking glory, but do have a glorified view of ministry. The first season of brokenness can steal the joy of ministry. It’s also true that, after restoration, pastors preach on passages such as James 1:2-4 or 1 Peter 1:6-9 with greater depth and passion.
There are also pastors who refuse to admit brokenness. From time to time they near rock bottom, only to claw their way a little higher in the pit. There is a very fine line between fighting off brokenness and fighting against God. It is much better to experience powerlessness in God’s embrace than vainly continue the struggle by one’s own power.
Finally, there are pastors passing through the dark night for the first time now. If this is your current state, my heart goes out to you. As much as I appreciate what God has done for me through brokenness, I remember too well the sense of powerlessness.
Know this. No matter how dark, God is with you. The Lord will not leave you (Hebrews 13:5). No matter what you feel, even if you can’t feel anything, God has promised His presence. Restoration is coming.
Because God restores us, brokenness is a painful blessing. What blessings do you see in brokenness and restoration? Leave your thoughts in the comments or send me an email.