Summary: This series examines some of the emotional holes we fall into and how to crawl out.
March 10, 2002
“Crawling Out of the Brokenness Hole”
Alan Nelson, the pastor of the Scottsdale Family Church chronicles a time in his life that is very familiar to me. His story is much like my own. Every church I have pastored has done well. We have always grown, not always spectacularly but we always seen positive movement. There has never been a year where we did not receive more in offerings than we spent. Most of the time the budget has been exceeded. I have pastored two churches that won Church of the Year honors in the ABC. As you are already aware I seem to get my share of newsprint and media attention. Pats on the back have been many, praise has been consistent and positive attributions have almost been routine. However, in the past, it seems I have always been able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In the times I felt that I should be receiving the strongest sense of affirmation from God what I seemed to get was a cold shoulder and even rebuke.
I am not alone. Many of my friends in ministry have felt much the same way. In fact, many of my parishioners have reported the same emotions and feelings that I experienced in these times. Alan Nelson writes that there are three dominant emotions that present themselves at these times. There is a feeling of impotence. Desired results do not come, everything done seems ineffective. Each situation seems out of control and no matter how hard you work or how well you do, your best just never seems good enough.
The second emotion is anger. You get angry at self, angry at life, angry at everyone around you and ultimately, angry at God. You begin to ask questions that stem from a vision that sees God far away from the circumstance. You are serving God and obeying God, now where is the loving Father that is portrayed in the parable of the Prodigal Son? You are far away, can’t he see you coming over the hill and run to greet you? This type of anger nearly always leads to depression and a sense of defeat.
The third prevailing emotion is a sense of abandonment. Like Job, whom we have covered the last two weeks, in his trough or Jesus on the cross when he cries, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” We have all felt it and in times where we work hard, study hard, we’re doing all the right things, yet we feel all the wrong stuff. We know our scriptures well enough to know the promise that he has given, “I will neither leave you nor forsake you.” So where is he? Our mind still tells us that he loves and cares for us, so why don’t we feel his love and care?
What you need to know is that when you feel these three emotions regardless of circumstance, results or acclaim you have already descended into the hole called brokenness. The wonderful thing about this hole however, is that the descent into it, the time spent at the bottom of it and the struggle to climb out of it is always used by God to grow his people. God uses brokenness to prove to us that what we have and what we rely upon for our life and work is not enough. For some like the Apostle Paul or a Charles Colson, brokenness is a way to get your attention and His desired result is the surrender of your will. Yes Paul, you are a great student, zealous in your faith, sincere in your practice but there is something you lack, something that prevents you from seeing Me in my fullness. Yes, Chuck Colson, you may sit in the seat of power in the greatest nation on the face of the earth but you need to see MY power, not your own. Friends, Is God trying to get your attention today?
God also uses brokenness to get those of you who already know him to let go of what ever prevents you from experiencing him more fully. It might be a respected pastor, a cherished memory, a loved building, a convenient time or perhaps a reliance upon your own way instead of a different way. Often times it is control, God must take enough control away from you until we realize that he is in control or has placed others in our lives to control lesser things we want to control so that he can prepare us to control and handle greater things.
There is a little story that I have always liked about a wealthy man who had a pet monkey. One day the man found the monkey with his hand caught in a priceless vase. Try as he might he could not pull or pry the monkey’s hand from the vase. He ran water in it. He greased the monkey’s arm and forced grease around the rim of the vase but to no avail. Finally, he took a hammer and broke the vase. As the pieces of the vase fell from the monkey’s arm, he could see that the monkey had his hand closed around something. He pried the monkey’s hand open and in the monkey’s hand was a shiny penny that had been at the bottom of the vase. If the monkey had just let go of the shiny penny the vase would have been saved and the monkey’s owner would have rewarded him well. The penny would have been his as well. What lesser thing are you clutching so tightly that God cannot give you something greater.