In Ernest Hemingway’s, A Farewell to Arms, there is a quote that has always struck a chord with me,
“The world breaks everyone, and afterwards many are strong in the broken places.”
There is nothing romantic about brokenness. No poetry or fancy words can dress it’s ugliness up to an acceptable level. We fight against it with every fiber of our being and we pray that it never reaches our door. But it does.
In 2015 new research on the brain revealed that people who go through tragedy and crisis in life can actually come out on the other side stronger as a result of their situation. (http://berkeleysciencereview.com/adversity-a-path-to-vulnerability-or-resiliency-depends-on-how-much/) But we really didn’t need this new research to tell us what God’s Word has already taught us about brokenness.
Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet — he understood a lot about brokenness. During his lifetime, God’s chosen people rebelled against the Lord and his ways. They were worshipping other gods and were evil in almost every way imaginable. God used Jeremiah to speak to Israel on his behalf and Jeremiah had some tough words to deliver. But in the midst of all this brokenness, God took Jeremiah on a field trip to a potter’s house.
As Jeremiah entered the workshop he saw the potter sitting by the wheel throwing a vessel from the clay. Slowly he crafted the vessel to just the right shape and size. But suddenly as the wheel was spinning the clay gave way and the form of the vessel was lost. The potter only smiled and pulled the clay back together on the wheel and started over. God then reminded Jeremiah that Israel was like that clay on the wheel and that He was like the potter. God could take them and mold them into something of great beauty even in their brokenness.
Unfortunately for Israel, they only hardened their hearts toward God and refused to allow Him to remold them for His glory. Their example stands out to us as a reminder of how not to respond in times where our lives are falling apart. But how do we respond?
The visual God gave Jeremiah of the potter is a powerful image of who He is and what He can do with our lives. Keeping this image in mind will help us remember how to get through times when the world breaks us. Remember the goal is not a weak vessel that is pitiful but a strong vessel that is perfectly formed by God.
When you think of the potter and the clay remember:
• The Potter is calling the shots. God is not shocked by crisis or tragedy. He is not stunned at the impact of evil. His touch is overpowering. His ways are
perfect. You are safe in His hands.
• Every vessel has a purpose. Our purpose is to glorify God with our lives, just like the finished vessel brings glory to the potter. We often talk about the concept of the Refiner’s fire in our lives. We are forged by walking through the fire and coming out stronger and better. This is why God allows these difficulties access to our lives. The devil may think he is really winning until we rise up from our brokenness stronger than ever before.
God heals the broken places. In fact, Isaiah said that God would take our ashes and give us beauty in return. He would take our sadness and grief and give us gladness. He would take the weak and weary and make them like strong oak trees that last for ages to come. (Isaiah 61:2-4)
God has a vision for our lives that is much greater than anything we could imagine. He is working everything out for our good. (Romans 8:28) If you are staggering in the midst of brokenness — don’t despair — God will make you stronger if you will allow him to do his work in your life today.