Ring the bells that still can ring,Leonard Cohen, Anthem
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.
The world is broken. Systems are broken. The government is broken. The environment is broken. We are broken. And with it, we are brokenhearted.
Amazingly—given how universal brokenness is—we never seem to make our peace with brokenness. It continues to outrage us, even though we’ve never known anything different. But our hearts break for our brokenness. We feel there’s something wrong with all the wrongness out there. Ironically there is hope for the brokenhearted. Because we feel what is broken, so we are made to seek what is whole. And, wonderfully, the One who is whole seeks us:
The LORD is close to the brokenheartedPsalm 34:18
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The God who is everything makes people who are, comparatively nothing, so he can share his everything with us. The Light who has no trace of a shadow shines into our darkness so that he might enlighten us. The Fountain of Living Waters, who is full, flows to the empty (and only the empty) to fill us. Our brokenness is not a barrier to the God of peace, it’s precisely where he works. As Jesus says:
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,Isaiah 61:1-3
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners.
What does Jesus say to people like us? Wonderfully, we are not condemned for being weak or afraid. Instead he offers us a hope that is unlike any other. This hope comes through darkness.
The 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon puts it like this:
There is the sun; I do not know how many thousands of times the sun is bigger than the earth, and yet the sun can come into a little room. And what is more, the sun can get in through a chink. So Christ can come in through a little faith, a mere chink of confidence.
Brokenness in itself isn’t godly, but there’s a holy brokenness that comes when we see and own our sickness and sin. All our efforts are useless. We say it and try another strategy; but again and again we fail. And in this failure is our redemption. We die to the person we thought we were and to the life we thought we wanted. But the further we feel from God’s comfort, the more He longs to pour it out upon us. When we’re battered and empty, then He can fill us with Himself. As our power runs out we are stirred to run to Him for mercy and grace. As we see our own weakness and ugliness, we look up and His beauty blinds us. He brings us low, so that He can raise us up. He says, ‘I will not break you’, which frees us to say, “I will no longer break myself — with self-hatred or despair or contempt or comparisons. God Himself has set His heart upon me and in Christ I am whole!’