A Broken Obsession

A Broken Obsession

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In her recent post on Her-Meneutics, Megan Hill discusses "The Very Worst Trend Ever." And, no, it's not using the term YOLO or naming your children after fruit or even wearing leggings as pants. Hill thinks the worst trend in the Christian community right now is non-stop talk about how we are broken. Hill is a mom, so she noted how many mommy bloggers out there have recently made a point of talking about how "awful" they are because their kids eat processed food or aren't reading Shakespeare by age 3. She points out that much of these admissions by moms come as a backlash against a culture that presents a perfect image to others. Moms have decided to get real and be honest with their flaws. But, Hill believes that although some of these anecdotes are funny or light-hearted, there are some theological implications. Hill says that in this backlash against perfection, Christian culture has become a bit obsessed with the idea of brokenness. While she applauds the recognition that we are broken and fail before a holy God, she worries that we can tend to trivialize actual sin. 

"But these online confessions tend to underestimate sin. We read about spilled milk and overflowing laundry baskets and call it brokenness. We applaud the authors for being messy and raw. But sin is serious, and such posts can blur our understanding of what failure actually is."

I am not a mother, so I really don't have any insight into mommy blogs (although from what I hear, a lot of moms do feel cultural pressure to be "perfect.") Also, Hill might consider me guilty of feeding into the worst trend ever, because if you've ever read my personal blog, you'll know that self-deprecating humor is my specialty. However, where Hill's post resonated with me is when she began talking about how dwelling in whatever brokenness we may have experienced does something to deny the redemption that Christ brings through His blood.

All of us are tempted. All of us fail. All of us are broken in one way or another. But I don't think we should dwell there. I've noticed this trend a lot the past few years. We talk about where we fail or how we've been hurt. And sometimes I think this is cathartic. Instead of dwelling in shame or covering things up, which the "perfect" Christian world probably painfully encouraged for a long time, people have started to share truthfully and honestly. I think this is a good thing. But as we share our struggles and failures, we can also rejoice in the fact that God has given us His Holy Spirit to counsel us and lead us toward truth and an actively obedient faith. Because in spite of what we've done, He is making all things new. So what I was grateful for in Hill's post was the reminder that because of God's grace, we can move forward.

"Grace covers. And it covers again and again. Thanks be to God. But if we stop there, as so many writers do, we are only telling half of the story. Titus 2:11-13 says, 'For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age.'

"Grace covers my sin, and then it pushes me to be more like Christ.

"As Pastor Harry Reeder said, 'Brokenness is never an objective in the Christian life.' Instead, because of God's grace—and never apart from it—we press on toward holiness (Phil. 3:12-16). Receiving grace for my failures also includes Christ's help to turn from sin and embrace new obedience."

We are broken. And some have experienced deeper or more painful brokenness than others — sometimes through no fault of their own. But what is so beautiful about the story of the Scripture is that God is bringing all of creation back to Eden. One day, He will return and all will be as it once was. That day has not yet come. But through the incarnation — through Jesus' death and resurrection — the process has begun. God reconciles us to himself and invites us to share His Gospel, His restoration with the rest of the world. He wants to heal our brokenness so that we can live for Him in truth, obedience, justice and love. The brokenness is not where it ends. It is not where we sit. As we accept God's grace, we recognize that He has called His people to a standard so that we can represent Him to the rest of the world. We move from being broken to being restored.

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  • Great post Denise, so true we have become son's and daughter of the most high God by grace and we should live restored lives or how will we be salt and light to the world, we can relate to the world but we also have seen the magnificence of a great God :) and we strive to become like his son Jesus.

  • --After an online conversation earlier this week, I started thinking about all the Christian songs that feature brokenness or self-deprecation. So many came to mind. Also, ever since my youth group days, I've thought that "broken" is used WAY too much. The Christian culture says it as often as some teenagers say "like."  At the very least, we need a few synonyms to express the same idea. :)

    Also, I think there are times when it's better to use phrases like "our challenges" or "our opportunities for growth" (cheesy I know) because brokenness is not always 100% bad. Fighting and overcoming challenges makes us stronger. Our brokenness can teach us a lot about ourselves. We can support and help other people who are going though the same things we have been through. Our brokenness can teach us how to trust God.

    Also, I think it is dangerous to use the term "brokenness" for habitual sins, because it implies that I can never change. It lets me off the hook and could be used as an excuse to avoid the difficult, painful work of pursuing change. In those cases, it is better to say "my choices." Even when I make choices out of brokenness, that is no excuse. Sometimes we even say we sinned because of past brokenness, but we really sinned just because we wanted to sin. I've been reading "tough love" books and articles recently, and it has made me realize this.        

  • --This post reminds me of a tweet I posted in May.  "#Testimony: Share what you've been delivered from, but focus more on Who you've been delivered through and what you've been delivered to."  I love hearing people's stories, but let's not camp out solely on the brokenness.  Although the thief came to steal, kill, & destroy, Christ has an abundant life of redemption, grace, & new mercies every morning for us!  I want to hear that side of a person's story too.

  • --Good observation.  The understanding of the unworthiness for Grace and the need for sanctification does not require wallowing in that first state, and, if one continues to remain always how you started, you don't grow as a believer.

    Although "I am empty, fill me" seems to be the worst rendition, "I am broken, fix me" sounds like it is already on the down grade, keeping the old man alive by constant repetition when every believer must kill the old man and put him away.  This was a topic of Letter XIV from CS Lewis's The Screwtape Letters (recall this is written in the voice of an elder demon to a young trickster), with the salient lines:

    "He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long-term policy, I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love - a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own; when they have really learned to love their neighbours as themselves they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours."

    "His whole effort, therefore, will be to get the man's mind off the subject of his own value altogether.  He would rather the man thought himself a great architect or a great poet and then forgot about it, than that he should spend much time and pains trying to think himself a bad one."

    There is nothing new under the sun.

  • --I think it is sad that in many places parenting has turned into a performance competition that one either succeeds or fails at. Even worse, I've seen parents pass on that way of thinking to thier children.

    Parenting should be a relationship and not a performance.  It's about getting to know each other and how each other succeeds and fails.  Having been a sunday school teacher for a while now I have observed that children really take very little notice of my mistakes - what matters to them is the relationship between us.  

    Also, I think that only God is really able to correctly judge us for our shortcomings.  Our heart is so deceitful that we can misjudge ourselves and others when it comes to parenting.  I've seen many cases of parents who were extremely abusive and neglectful towards their children who honestly believed they were good parents.  How delusional we can be.

  • --"I'm just sooooo broken."

    "Oh yeah? Well I'm broken to. I'm even more broken."

    "Well I'm broken, AND I'm messy."

    "Well I'm super messy. Even messier than your kids."

    "Yeah, well my kids are messier than your kids, AND I'm on antidepressants. I struggle with depression. How messy is that?"

    "Oh yeah? Well sometimes I get so depressed I eat too much. I'm overweight AND depressed."

    As Christians, we turn everything into a competition.

  • --"As Christians, we turn everything into a competition."

    Yes. This. Exactly this.

  • --My church has a Christmas outreach program where we're invited to bring all of our friends along, to watch a performance and hear a message.  One year in particular stands out - the message was about how our lives are so broken and how Jesus offers us hope.  If we're down and suffering and things never seem like they're improving, there is a way out.  

    My (unsaved) colleague turned to me after and told me that he got nothing out of the message at all.  "My life is great," he said.  "Why do I need Jesus?"

    I am currently so blessed to be able to say this about my own life too.  In that my life is great (not that I don't need Jesus, I do!)  And so when I hear endless messages about how only God can fix my life, it loses me.  We have so many seasons in life and sometimes we feel very broken and other times we just want to sing praises.  We need balance.  

  • --I was broken because I chose sin. God redeemed me because I chose Christ and repented. I don't even understand a "broken" Christian. How can you be a Christian and broke? God heals the brokenness we created in our lives when we repent and turn away from sin. I was a woman who chose alcohol, drugs, and men over Christ. I am no longer that broken woman, I am a child of God! We should share our valleys with people because it opens doors to sharing the gospel, but you better be sharing the top of the mountain along with that valley. You steal from the glory of God when you dwell in your brokenness because you are not sharing the redemption and gospel. And as a Christian we are called to be fishers of men, not sob stories. People need a savior, as Christian we are to lead them to Most High, agape!

  • --Great topic. Thanks for sharing this point. We are blessed to have a Celebrate Recovery ministry in our church, but what grieves me often is that I hear many who attend, many of whom have been Christians for a whole, make comments like: " I'm dealing with my stuff, and I thank God he accepts me as I am. Once an addict always an addict. But with Christ, I can keep moving forward and not let my guilt and shame keep me from walking with him."   Or, as many others have mentioned, in our church we too have a culture of "brokenness" and proud to admit it. It means we "real."  I get being honest and open about our faults, but often times, those who walk in the victory which Christvhas provided, are often judged as super saints and proud.  It is more glamorous and acceptable to be down trodden and "broken."  I've seen it often where people are made tokens or trophies in testimony videos.  Rarely are those who are walking in wholeness celebrated.  Isn't that what we aspire for?  Inspire of our trials, to walk by faith in Victory, proclaiming freedom and deliverance in Jesus' name?  Believing and speaking His Word over our situations instead of rehearsing out woes?

  • --CCarter, a very good friend of mine lost her mother two days ago. She's a Christian, and I'd say she's definitely in a broken place right now.

  • --This is very weird once you think of it, but "broken" in the Christianese sense doesn't really appear in the Bible. After a cursory search it seems to appear in the sense of divine punishment and complete destruction:

    "The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven." 1 Samuel 2:10

    "They were broken in pieces. Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every sort of distress." 2 Chronicles 15:6

    “My spirit is broken; my days are extinct; the graveyard is ready for me." Job 17:1

    "Our heart has not turned back,

       nor have our steps departed from your way;

    yet you have broken us in the place of jackals

       and covered us with the shadow of death." Psalm 44:18-19

    "He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing." Proverbs 29:1

    "But rebels and sinners shall be broken together, and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed." Isaiah 1:28

    "On all the housetops of Moab and in the squares there is nothing but lamentation, for I have broken Moab like a vessel for which no one cares, declares the Lord." Jeremiah 48:38

    "But as for you, you shall be broken and lie among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword." Ezekiel 32:28

    "The stone that the builders rejected

       has become the cornerstone’

    Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” Luke 20:18-19

    This is the only verse I can find that comes close to our modern usage:

    "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:17

    Even in this case, though, David was brokenhearted over the sin he committed--he had undergone a tough punishment, the death of his son with Bathsheba. Brokenness in the Bible seems overwhelmingly to do with God's wrath and punishment, or as a response to God's correction. In the Bible it is very serious indeed.

  • -Not to have antics with semantics, but perhaps there's some muddiness in our understanding and discussion of "brokenness". Seems to me some clarity may be achieved by distinguishing between its different facets.

    First of all (having nothing to do with being broken), though we were originally created as very good creatures, we were created as FINITE creatures. There always were, are now, and always will be limits to what we can accomplish. The old proverb is still true, "There is one omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God. It is not you. It is not me."

    Secondly, we became FALLEN. When we in Adam, in prideful rebellion chose sin, our whole being was separated from God and consequently shattered. I think this is the major focus of what is being talked about here.

    Thirdly, as part of our redemption, we are offered and called to a self-denying HUMILITY, This, as many truths of of the Christian life are, is paradoxical in that therein lies our strength (2 Co.12:1-10; Ja. 4:1-10). This too, as many aspects of the Christian life (as a result of reasons one and two), can be misunderstood and/or corrupted. True humility is seeing ourselves as much as possible as God sees us, namely, in ultimate reality. This is a combination of at least all three aspects (maybe more, since being finite and fallen, we don't know what we don't know).

  • --@52hubcap, yes, there are a lot of nuances to "brokenness." I often hear it used to describe emotional, psychological, or spiritual wounds that people have because of something that happened to them or because they made wrong choices. Out of curiosity, I looked up the word in Merriam Webster, and there were 15 different nuances as follows:

    Definition of BROKEN:    

    1. violently separated into parts : shattered

    2

    : damaged or altered by breaking: as

    a : having undergone or been subjected to fracture <a>

    b of land surfaces : being irregular, interrupted, or full of obstacles

    c : violated by transgression <a>

    d : discontinuous, interrupted

    e : disrupted by change

    f of a tulip flower : having an irregular, streaked, or blotched pattern especially from virus infection

    3

    a : made weak or infirm

    b : subdued completely : crushed, sorrowful <a> <a>

    c : bankrupt

    d : reduced in rank

    4

    a : cut off : disconnected

    b : imperfectly spoken or written

    5

    : not complete or full <a>

    6

    : disunited by divorce, separation, or desertion of one parent  <a>  </a></a></a></a></a></a>

  • --Now I have a youth group song in my head....."brokenness, brokenness is what I long for, brokenness is what I need...."

    It was a good song (it had some other verses that were good).  I get what the song writer was going for, and what some people really mean when they say "brokenness".  It's almost become a synonym for humility in Christian talk.  But it's an interesting point that true repentance brings healing.  Christians who are broken and just stay that way really aren't the best witness to a hurting world!  We wouldn't want to go to a hospital where everyone just stayed broken.

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