Do you know when I love that idea? That idea of God making beauty from my brokenness?
I love it when I’m in the beautiful moments of life. When I’m sitting with my Bible open in the early hours of the morning, sun shining through my apartment window, warm coffee in hand, praise music on, and prayers of gratitude pouring from my lips. When I’m sitting by still waters and God’s peace has captured my heart for an hour or two and all I feel is still. When I’m laughing with my husband, caught up in the realization of just how lovely it is to be vulnerable, known, and unconditionally loved by another human being, despite the sin that courses through both of us. I love that idea when work is going well and loving my co-workers is easy and when I see them, I see God and his heart for them. When I’m in a season where the Lord has put all the pieces together and I am so aware of how perfect his plans truly are. When I’m sitting at a coffee shop, words pouring from my heart, and the Holy Spirit is speaking life right into my soul.
In those moments, I love the idea of God making beauty from my brokenness. Because it is so nice to sit in that beautiful place of reflection, thinking of all the ways God acted on my behalf to bring me where I am – to a place of being more free and walking in more victory than I used to.
You know when I don’t love this idea?
I don’t love this idea when it’s early morning, I’m half asleep and the coffee in hand tastes like muddy water because I made it wrong, and I’m staring at that “Wifey” cup I waited over a year to use, and it hits me as I read the verses proclaimed at our wedding, the ones about “walking in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience,” and I realize that I’ve already snapped at my husband three times and the sun isn’t even up yet (Ephesians 4:1-3, ESV).
I don’t love this idea when the gratitude that once fueled peace and joy has turned to bitterness and a constant complaining about what is missing or lacking in my life.
I don’t love the idea of God making beauty out of brokenness when I catch myself midway through an hour of venting to my coworkers about so-and-so, leading the gossip parade about human beings created in the image of our Heavenly Father.
I don’t love this idea when I wake up exhausted, fists clenched, recognizing that before my feet even hit the floor, I’m thinking about how I’m going to control my day, my week, my life. And I wake up tired because it’s exhausting to be in control all the time.
I don’t love this idea when I’m stuck in a battle against pride, and the words I want to write won’t come. And my heart grows cold and defeated because rather than being a humble servant of Christ, I’m a slave to the world’s perception of who I am.
I don’t love the idea of God making beauty out of my brokenness when all I can see is the brokenness. When I’m staring at my sin, unable to see a way out, resisting the refining fire of Christ, refusing to run to the Throne Room, and though I am desperate for grace, I’m unable to believe he can burn away my brokenness.
It’s not that I don’t love the idea of being sanctified, of being made more righteous, or of becoming more and more of the woman who God has designed me to be. And it’s not that I don’t hate my sin, because I do.
But I am attached to my sin and, so often, I feel defined by it. And the process of letting Jesus come in and do his thing sometimes looks harder than just staying in the sin because I walk into most battles already feeling defeated and unwilling to believe the power of his blood really extends to me when I know how guilty I am before him.
And while it is so much easier to appreciate the beautiful after you’ve come from brokenness, it’s hard to choose the process of refinement when you know how painful the process will be, how painful it is to experience the refining fire that births the ashes where beautiful redemption grows. And it’s hard to accept forgiveness when you feel like your next failure is imminent and you are fueled by guilt rather than grace.
And that’s why, it’s easier to lose my patience with my husband. It’s easier to complain about a situation rather than choose gratitude. It’s easier to speak out of frustration at work than choose grace and love for my co-workers. It’s easier to try and control my life than it is to trust. It’s easier to throw in the towel, accept my pride, and forget the calling God’s placed on my life than it is to fight for humility.
When you’re sitting in that place of brokenness, it always looks easier to continue to sit in that sin, rather than embrace conviction, turn your back on habits deeply ingrained in your heart, and silence that emotional side of you that says what you feel justifies how you act.
And isn’t that exactly what the enemy works so very hard to get us to believe? That it all will be too painful, too much loss, too much hurt to give up our ways and exchange them for Christ’s ways. Isn’t it a crafty tactic the enemy uses? When he tells us that to stop thinking those thoughts, to stop saying the first thing that comes to our minds, to stop acting out of our feelings, will just be too hard and it will require too much of us to do so?
And if he can get us to feel like it will be too hard, like we are fighting, but already defeated, then we are in the perfect place for him to strike the next heavy blow. The one where he cripples us with shame and convinces us and that we are somehow the exception to God’s grace. And yes, the Bible does say, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” but it also says that those of us who have chosen to put our faith in Jesus “are justified freely by his grace” (Romans 3:23-34, NIV). Yet, despite this truth, the enemy is still quick to swoop in, bury us under the weight of shame, and get us to forget that we are already justified before God, because that’s how he gets us to throw in the towel before the fight against sin has even begun
I’m the first to admit that this strategy of his has defined most of my battles against sin. So often, I’ve lived the classic “religious” life – the one where you put yourself in the penalty box, feel guilty for a while, and then feel like you are probably forgiven because you’ve felt bad for long enough.
What about you, reader? Do you feel condemned? Are you stuck, trapped in a cycle of sin, feeling defeated and disgusted with not just your sin, but also with yourself? Are you running out of hope, fueled by guilt and not by grace?
I’ve felt all those things, deeply. I’ve felt broken over my sin, but I’ve also felt defined by my brokenness.
And that, friend, is how I know the enemy has made a home in my mind. That’s how I know he’s burrowed in deep and built a stronghold called condemnation. That’s how I know he’s the one telling me who I am, the one convincing me that defeat is a guarantee. When I begin to define myself by my brokenness, I know that it is the enemy accusing me, not the Holy Spirit convicting me. Because the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, he doesn’t tell us our sin is who we are. When I start to define myself by my sin, I recognize the enemy’s keeping me on a leash, trying to fog my vision of the cross and keep me knelt under the weight of my sin rather than knelt at the feet of Jesus.
But here’s the thing – God lives within my very soul. And where the Lord is, the enemy cannot be. The enemy might try and make a home in my mind, but God has already made his dwelling place my heart and it is from there that Jesus wages war on my behalf against the enemy (Psalm 91).
See, Jesus didn’t die so that I would live condemned. He didn’t die so I would work harder to get back in his good graces. He didn’t die so I would fight to free myself from the bondage of sin.
Jesus died so that I could come into agreement with him about my sin, realize it is repulsive, see it for its filthiness, and claim that it is wicked. But he also died, so that I could live knowing I am not repulsive, I am not filthy, I am not wicked. I am his.
As Christians, we can agree with Christ that those things, those things that are repulsive and wicked and evil, must be put far away from him and far away from us. But we do not have to be put far away from him. It is our sin and it is the enemy that flees in the presence of the King. Not us.
Yet so often, even though Christ beckons to us saying, Child, come to me. You are weary and you are worn out and you are broken. Come to me. Let me heal you. Let me wash you white as snow, we still choose to run away (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV paraphrase).
We run because the enemy loves to convince us that we must run with our sin, that we must flee with the enemy. He loves to convince us that when the Lord comes in and says, “Be gone, Satan,” he is telling us to flee also. The enemy wants to convince us that we are our sin and that there is no chance of separating the sin from the sinner. He tells us that when Christ comes to destroy the sin in us, he’s coming to destroy us along with it.
And that lie can be enough to keep us from running to and experiencing the waterfall of grace Jesus died to wash us under on a daily basis. That lie can be enough to keep us stuck in a cycle of sin and shame, never experiencing grace and never experiencing freedom.
But it doesn’t have to.
The Bible acknowledges that discipline is difficult and painful. Hebrews 12:11 says, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant,” but oftentimes friend, I think for some of us, it’s more painful than it needs to be and it’s painful for the wrong reasons ((ESV).
Rather than discipline being painful because it is a rejecting of old ways and because it is a daily battle against our sin that we choose to fight with Jesus – it’s painful because we choose to battle apart from him. And the battle we wage is not directed against our sin, but against ourselves. We accuse ourselves and say, “This is who I am. This sin is my identity. I am not worthy of grace.” And we throw fiery darts at our own minds and hearts and we weaken all resolve against the temptation of sin. And then we submit again to our sinful flesh to numb the pain of condemnation. And the cycle starts again, sin and shame, sin and shame.
But that is not the battle we’ve been called to. We’ve been called to join in the fight with our Father against the enemy and against our former selves. We are no longer who we were before Christ took hold of our lives. The Bible says, “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:1-2, NLT). This means when we stand before God, each and every day, he does not see us for who we were or for the sin we committed the day before or the hour before or the minute before we came to him. He looks at us and he sees Jesus.
And he sees his child, worn down and weary, being beaten on by the enemy. And yes, his fury rages. His anger burns. But not against us. Because when we come to Jesus broken over our sin and desperate for grace, he lavishes it on us. Because his heart is warm and big and it beats for his repentant child.
It is against the enemy that his anger burns and his fury rages because he is the one who tries to chain us to our sin and clothe us with condemnation when all the while, Jesus waits to wash us with grace and clothe us with righteousness.
See, discipline is painful because fighting sin and resisting old habits and facing consequences for sin can be difficult and messy. But if you continue that Hebrews 12:11 verse, you see that though refinement seems painful in the moment, “later it yields to the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (ESV).
That is the result of grace that Jesus died for us to experience – the peaceful fruit of righteousness, not the chains of condemnation.
We are called to battle our sin, to join with the Holy Spirit, to submit ourselves to the power of Jesus’s blood, which fuels us to “lift [our] drooping hands and strengthen [our] weak knees” and continue the fight for freedom (Hebrews 12:12, ESV). But notice, as we experience the empowerment to fight our sin and resist the enemy, we experience the peace of righteousness coming to fruition in our lives. Conviction is not accompanied by shame; condemnation is. Conviction from Christ fuels us to run toward freedom, all the while knowing that in our failures and in our successes, we are loved just the same.
And it is with this knowledge of God’s unending love for us, and his ability to take the most broken pieces of ourselves and turn them into offerings of righteousness, that we can step into the battle against sin, day in and day out, and run with abandon to the Throne Room of Grace, to the place where our brokenness is made beautiful by Jesus.
Hebrews 4:16 (NIV) – Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.