Broken In Christ

He’s a broken man.

What comes to your mind when you read those words? For most people, it conjures up the image of a man who has suffered some traumatic emotional pain. The carnage they witness on the battlefield often breaks soldiers. Violence and torture will break a hostage. The death of a child or a wife may break a man. Whatever the circumstances, a broken man is viewed as sad and forlorn, a waste of a life that could have been.

Google “broken man” and you’ll get hits like: Signs of an Emotionally Broken Man; When a Broken Man is Using a Woman; 3 Ways Broken Men Never Recover; and even Broken Man Syndrome.

In fiction, sometimes writers depict the broken man as a dark hero, rising from the ashes of some tragedy to become the avenging hero. Think of Batman, who turned the trauma of witnessing the murder of his parents into this brooding, reluctant superhero, unleashing his pain on the evil that exists in Gotham City.

Really?

I’m not diminishing the legitimate grief, trauma, and horror that we can experience living in this fallen world. All too often, the emotional and physical pain we experience can indeed be debilitating. But are many men really broken or are they just having a bad day?

Listen to Paul as he speaks about his bad day.

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.  In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.

2 Corinthians 1:8-10 NLT

As Christian men, do we really know what it means to be empty and broken? I would argue that if we truly desire or expect to communicate with a holy God on an intimate and personal level, we need to understand and take brokenness very seriously.

James, the brother of Jesus in his very practical letter to the church in Jerusalem reminded his readers that God gives the gift of grace to men who have truly been broken in service of His Kingdom, while also warning his readers that God opposes the arrogant man who seeks to do everything in his own strength.

In fact, God treats us with even greater kindness, just as the Scriptures say, “God opposes everyone who is proud, but he blesses all who are humble [lowly, broken] with undeserved grace.”

James 4:6

Brokenness is an important but often misunderstood concept. Many Christians still struggle with Jesus’ words from the sermon on the mount when he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are those who are persecuted.” We all know what it means to be full of pride, but very few understand what it means to be broken.

All those Google results relate the concept of brokenness with a feeling.

  • Feeling bad about something we did or should have done;
  • Feeling pity for ourselves;
  • Feeling shame and guilt about our sins, especially those sins we keep repeating;
  • Feeling depressed, mixed up, confused about our situation;
  • Feeling separated from God or un-loved by Him;
  • Feeling we’ve disappointed God or let him down.

Men who experience this aren’t really broken, they’re just experiencing a very regretful moment, day, week, month, or season in their life.

True brokenness isn’t a feeling, it’s a condition of the heart.

Dr Joe Martin

It is our nature as men to rely on ourselves, our wits, our talents, our strength. We have been raised to identify with the strong, independent, self-made man image. John Wayne and songs like I Did It My Way have become the iconic images of manhood. Asking for help or relying on others are signs of weakness. 

But the bible takes a different view:

God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. James 4:6

A broken spirit and a contrite heart, You (God) will not despise. Psalms 51:17

He mocks proud mockers but shows favour to the humble and oppressed. Prov 3:34

When Paul speaks about the difficulties he endured in Asia, he isn’t talking only about what happened, he is also talking about how he had to rely on God to save him. He was broken to the point where there was nothing he could do but seek God for rescue.

Brokenness is about seeing ourselves for what we are in the presence of a Holy and almighty God—men in need of a Saviour. “We all have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23 AMP

Brokenness always requires humility, pride is always fuelled by selfishness.

God promises to heal our brokenness, and He warns us that He hates our pride. He promises to always receive and respond to the cries and prayers of the broken, but He says He will always resist and reject the prayers and whining of the prideful.

Just ask King Saul.

He took it upon himself to act as a priest in place of God’s anointed priest, Samuel. He blatantly disobeyed a command from the Lord (1 Sam 15). Still, he sought to justify his disobedience by saying he purposed to sacrifice to the Lord, while placing his will ahead of God’s. He was consumed with jealousy. Rather than rejoicing in David’s victories as Jonathan had done, Saul could only see David as a threat. Rather than repent of his many wrongs and seek the help of the Lord, Saul sought the guidance of a spiritual medium. (1 Sam 28) As a result, his kingdom did not endure and his subjects suffered as well.

David on the other hand possessed humility. A broken man on the run. Living in caves and begging for food for his men. On several occasions while be pursued by his enemies, he refused to take the opportunity to kill his adversary, Saul. Instead, he turned it over to God, relying on God’s grace to protect him and God’s justice to deal with Saul.

The question then is: are you a broken man? Do you possess a humble and broken spirit like King David or are you just suffering from broken pride like King Saul?