Isaiah 61:3 To grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
I was out repotting some plants awhile back, and I broke one of my clay pots by accident. Though it was disappointing, I threw away the old pottery shards and found a new planting pot to use. As I was cleaning up, I noticed a few of the broken pieces that I had missed in my initial trashing of the broken pot. They were curiously arranged with a curved piece of the shattered pot and two other little chips of the broken pottery, looking much like one of those emojis of a face winking at me. Also, some of the dirt had strategically fallen above the two pottery pieces that looked like eyes, it looked a little like hair. I laughed and smiled and thought out loud, “How fun, a little joy from the disappointment of my broken pot.”
As I swept up the remaining debris, my mind went to some of the beautiful art I have seen made from broken pieces of glass, pottery, and stones. These mosaics are examples of beauty from brokenness. I admire those artists. They don’t see a damaged item as useless or of no value, but they see the potential of intentionally placed pieces of ruined goods not as weakness, but strength.
The Apostle Paul had that view of weak and damaged areas of his life. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-11 he describes this broken area of his life as a “thorn in the flesh.” We are not told what this “thorn in the flesh” is. Some have said it was a physical issue with his eyes, or a relationship issue with someone, or an emotional issue dealing with his past since he had people killed who believed in Jesus. Whatever it was, it was troubling, hurtful, distracting, and made him feel weak. Many people in our world are going through so much these days with war, trauma from the pandemic, financial issues due to inflation, emotional issues from anxiety, a sickness, a relational issue, or just life…there can be a lot broken pieces in life.
Paul prayed for his ‘thorn,’ his issue, to be fixed, removed from him. He prayed a lot. But God chose not to remove this thorn, this issue. Instead, God choose to take these broken pieces and make something beautiful, a beautiful picture of God’s grace and an amazing display of godly character. See, Paul knew his potential to be conceited. Paul understood he was powerful, and outside of Jesus, he has been the most prominent person in Christianity. This broken area kept him humble and away from the pitfalls of pride.
2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.
This blessed thorn was a gift from God keeping Paul humble but also dependent on God’s strength, not his own.
2 Corinthians 12:9 But He (God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Paul concludes talking about his brokenness by saying, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” In other words, there is beauty in brokenness.
When we come to Him, God has a way of taking the brokenness of our lives and arranging it into something beautiful. The key is to approach Him. Jesus said it this way…
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The Apostle Peter encouraged us to…
1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your anxieties on Him (Jesus), because He cares for you.
Sure, it will not be easy. Good godly character is often built through the crucible of trials and brokenness. Paul had to endure. God will walk with us, and soon we will see the beauty.
Church is a great place not only to be encouraged but to come to Jesus in our brokenness. If you don’t regularly attend a church, we would like to invite you to view or visit Neighborhood Church. Our website has all the information you need for times and locations of all our Sunday gatherings. We would love for you to join in. You can also find us online at neighborhoodchurch.com. As well, if you would like to view any of our past worship gatherings or videos, visit our YouTube channel, or just search Neighborhood Church Cypress or Neighborhood Church Los Alamitos on their YouTube site.
Seeking discover the beauty in brokenness along with you,
Mike McKay, Lead Pastor Neighborhood Church