(By Theanna Joyce)
Broken is such an ugly word.
I remember crying when my china doll fell from the second-floor balcony and lay broken on the ground. I remember my sister squeezing my hand as tears streamed down her cheeks because her knee was broken. I remember sitting with a friend, aching as she told me how a guy had left her heart broken.
I'm sure you've felt it before, seen it before, because this world we're living in is broken.
We want to point to something external and rage, "Broken!" but if we slow down and really discern the truth, we have to admit that broken is right here within.
It's in the world, yes. It's in my life, yes. It's also in my heart.
What’s your response when you look out and see a shattered world, when you look in and see brokenness?
I have two defense mechanisms I run to: trying to fix things myself and avoidance. I get out my metaphorical hammer and nails and set to work. Building walls, patching holes, going to church, doing all the good things. I try to convince myself and everyone else that I’m thriving.
Or, I throw myself into distractions — sometimes it’s school work, but often it’s Instagram or Netflix and pretending I’m a child. If I ignore it, it’ll go away. But the brokenness is still there.
Search your own heart. Look for what is standing between you and God, what you turn to for protection from the brokenness; only Jesus belongs there.
Sometimes we try to grab hold of God's protection but on our terms, not His. In 1 Samuel 4, right after the call of Samuel, the people of Israel engaged in battle with the Philistines, but were defeated — 4,000 of their men died that day.
The Israelites asked the elders why the Lord allowed them to be defeated, but rather than waiting for a response, they tried to manufacture God's protection by bringing the ark of the covenant with them into battle. The ark was accompanied by both of Eli’s sons, men known for their callous disregard of God’s laws and their flagrant wickedness.
When the ark was brought to the battle field, so great was the courage that the ark gave, the Israelite fighters gave a shout loud enough to shake the earth — and it terrified the Philistines. However, yet again Israel was defeated, and this time their defeat was greater: 30,000 foot soldiers fell that day.
Why were they defeated? Didn't they turn to God? Didn’t they call on His strength to save them?
The ark of the covenant was a wonderful thing, overlaid in gold, housing the tablets of the law, symbolising God's throne, and representing God’s presence among the people! While the ark of the covenant is good and holy, the people turned it into a talisman for their protection instead of turning to Him, and this was their downfall. If I turn to anything, even a good thing, for protection or wholeness in response to the brokenness in my heart and the world around me, then it is no better than an idol.
So often I call on God's strength with my mouth, while I reach for an “ark of the covenant” to protect me. My hands reach for good works, for structure, for more knowledge, for more community, for greater understanding — and while they are positive things, they are not the solution to the brokenness around me!
In Psalm 62:2, David describes the Lord, saying, "He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken." This! This is what we want, what we need!
In another psalm, David expresses what it is that God wants from us, not in exchange for His protection or wholeness, but so that we can experience the good of it. David writes, "For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (Psalm 51:16-17).
Rather than offering the sacrifices, trying to cover up in fig leaves, bringing the ark of the covenant into battle with us, God wants us to take our brokenness to Him.
Let us come before God today, confessing all that we have turned to instead of Him and offer our brokenness up to Him. His loving hands will gently make us whole.