You are a broken individual. This is the message we will be hearing over the next year through 2 Corinthians in our new series called “Stained Glass: Brilliance from Brokenness.” Your immediate reaction to this may be one of two things: (1) I most certainly am not broken, or (2) Wow, this is going to be a depressing year at church. But I want to give you a little insight into these two reactions as this series gets underway.
At first glance, I understand why you may push back a little and declare, “I am not broken.” But if you were willing to say you’ve never been broken or hurt in this life, then I would venture to say you have never loved anything. I would also warn you to hold on, because it’s coming. The truth is life is fragile and frail. We are here one minute and gone the next. This is what chapter 4 of James tells us, at least. “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:13–14 NIV)
And our response to this brokenness is to try to control everything around us. Whether it is through controlling our spouse or children, animals or work environment, we try to put our life back together in the smallest arenas to give us a sense of control over life. So we clean our house or throw our weight around at work, but deep down we still know life is broken and temporal. As James said on Sunday, any attempt to put our “broken vase” back together is futile in the end. Scripture says it this way: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13 NIV)
The other gut reaction you may have to this concept is, “What a depressing thought!” But the truth is this is the most freeing thought you can have when you look at the life of Christ. Some of us look at the pieces of our shattered life and become a skeptic, giving up on God and His ability to make something new out of our broken lives. But it was Jesus that said life can only come through death. In the wake his dear friend, Lazarus, dying and being raised back to life, a frenzy begins to break out around Jesus because of his power over death. And in the midst of this frenzy he tells this crowd, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24–25 NIV) Most of us, just like this crowd following Jesus, want to reap a harvest of abundant life without experiencing a painful death, but Christ says this is impossible. And if you trust God that there is truly life that come through death, then Jesus says you will be able to see the brilliance that comes through your brokenness. “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12:26 NIV)
In April Wess Stafford, the President and CEO of Compassion International, is going to be at Harris Creek. I won’t spoil his entire life story for you, but I will tell you that he experienced an extremely painful childhood and was on the wrong end of an extremely broken situation. And what he will tell you is that out of this pain, God gave him an incredible drive to help children all over the world in similar situations. If you read his book or hear him speak, you will understand that this is the type of brilliance that can come through something so broken, but only if give your shattered pieces over to the person that conquered the brokenness of the world through his death on the cross.
I am looking forward to this series in 2 Corinthians because I believe we are going to see the meaning of our suffering and the power of the resurrected Christ through these inspired words written by Paul. But we will only be able to see this brilliance if we are willing to confront our brokenness and are willing to become a servant, even to the point of death.