There are few entirely unbroken lives in this world. There are few people who fulfill their own hopes and plans without some thwarting or interruption at some point. Now and then, there is one who, in early youth, marks out a course for himself and then moves straight on to its goal; but most people live very differently from their own early dreaming. Many find, at the close of their life, that in scarcely one particular detail have they fulfilled their own life-dreams; at every point, God has simply set aside their plans and substituted His own.
But the Lord can do much with earth’s “broken lives” that are truly consecrated to Him. Sometimes He even seems to break them Himself, so that they may become more largely useful. But He can use broken lives in His service just as well as whole ones! Indeed, it often appears as if people cannot do much for God and for the blessing of the world until they are “broken!”
God seems to do little with earth’s unbroken things; He almost always chooses broken things with which to do his work in this world. It was with broken pitchers that Gideon won his great victory. It was on broken pieces of the ship that Paul and his companions escaped to land after their shipwreck. It was by the breaking of Mary’s alabaster box that the Master was anointed and the world filled with the gracious perfume of love. It was by the breaking of the precious humanity of Jesus that redemption was made for mankind!
It is by the breaking of our hearts that we become acceptable offerings on God’s altar. It is by broken lives – broken by pain, trouble, and sorrow – that God chiefly blesses the world. It is by the shattering of our little human plans that God’s great perfect plan goes on in us and through us. It is by crushing our lives, until their beauty seems entirely destroyed, that God makes us blessings in this world. Not many men or women, without suffering in some form, become largely helpful to others. It seems as if we cannot be fit instruments for God to use, to speak His words, to breathe the songs of His love, and to carry to others the blessings of His grace, until His hand has done its sharp, keen work upon our lives!
A piece of wood once bitterly complained because it was being cut and filled with rifts and holes, but he who held the wood and whose knife was cutting into it so remorselessly did not listen to the sore complaining. He was making a flute out of the wood he held, and he was too wise to desist when entreated to do so. He said, “Oh, you foolish piece of wood! Without these rifts and holes, you would be only a mere stick forever – a bit of hard, black ebony with no power to make music or to be of use in any way. These rifts that I am making in you, which seem to be destroying you, will change you into a flute; and your sweet music then shall charm the souls of men. My cutting you is the making of you, for then you shall be precious and valuable and a blessing in the world.”
This little parable, suggested by a passage in an eloquent sermon, needs no explanation. The flute whose music is so sweet, as we hear its notes in the great orchestra, was made a flute only by the knife that filled the wood with rifts and holes that seemed to be its destruction. Without these merciless cuttings, it would have forever been only a piece of dull wood – silent and musicless.
It is the same with most human lives; it is only when the hand of chastening has cut into them that they begin to yield sweet music. David could never have sung his sweetest songs, if he had not been sorely afflicted; his afflictions made his life an instrument on which God could breathe the music of His love, to charm and soothe the hearts of men. This is the story, too, of all true poetry and true music: not until the life is broken is it ready for the Master’s use. At best, we are only musicless instruments – except when God breathes through us. We cannot be instruments fit for God’s use, until our hearts have been broken by penitence, and our lives torn by suffering.
There ought to be great comfort in this for those who are under God’s chastening hand. His purpose is to prepare them for nobler usefulness – to make them instruments whose keys will respond to the Divine touch, and through whose rifts, the Holy Spirit can breathe strains of holy love. We will be better able to endure pain and suffering when we remember what God is doing with us.
Thus we see that a life is not a failure simply because it may be broken. Broken health is naturally discouraging; but if God is in it, we do not need to be disheartened! He is able to make more of us with our shattered health than we could have made of ourselves with athletic robustness.
Broken life-plans appear to be failures; but when God’s great plan runs on in our life, without hindrance or interruption, through the fragments of our little plans – there is no failure.
We groan over our broken days, when outside interruptions prevent us from accomplishing the tasks which we had set for ourselves in the morning; but if we give our day to God at its beginning, and He chooses to assign us other things to do than those which we had planned – His things instead of our own – then we ought not to say in the evening that we have had a lost day. What we call interruptions are simply God’s plan breaking into ours! There is no doubt that His way is better than ours. Besides, it is necessary for us all to learn our lesson of submission, and there is a need for the discipline of interruption.
Many of God’s children are found among earth’s “unsuccessful people.” This world has no use for broken lives; it casts them aside and hurries on, leaving them behind. Only successful men reach earth’s goals, and are crowned with earth’s crowns. But God is the God of the unsuccessful! Christ takes earth’s “bruised reeds” and deals with them so gently that they get back all their old beauty again. No life is so broken, whether by sorrow or by sin, that it may not – through Divine grace – enter the Kingdom of God and finally be presented faultless, arrayed in heavenly brightness, before the throne of glory! Heaven is being filled with earth’s broken lives; but there, no life will be broken or marred! All will be perfect in their beauty and complete in their blessedness, bearing the image of their Redeemer!
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this article! Feel free to leave your reflections and ask your questions below.
God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for our King’s glory,
photo by Prixel Creative | Lightstock.com
This post is another installment of Miller’s Monday Musings, a weekly series that is published every Monday on my website. The series features selected writings that have been adapted from the works of James Russell Miller (1840-1912), a much-beloved Christian author and pastor who is well-remembered for his practical thoughts on Christian home and family life. Learn more about this weekly series by clicking here.