Are you one of the fortunate few who have never endured heartache, loss, misery, loneliness, guilt, or shame? I'm not either.
If most people are broken, needing God's help and healing, why do we act like we're fine even when we're not?
Despite the command in Galatians 6:2, to “share in each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (NLT), we tend to avoid sharing our burdens and hurts with others. Instead we allow fear, insecurity, and pride to hold us back.
But maybe we should be afraid. People are mean. Sometimes telling others could risk our safety or someone else's. Sometimes we are judged or rejected. And sometimes our secrets are shocking—disgusting even. It's scary but if we don't seek help and confront our pain, we risk being chained to our past and our relationship with God and others could suffer.
Tamar's story begins as a fairy tale—as a beautiful princess (2 Samuel 13:1)—but certainly doesn't end happily ever after. The last time we hear about her she's described as a “desolate woman,” (2 Samuel 13:20). What happened in those 20 verses?
Simply and bluntly, her half-brother rapes her and casts her out, refusing to right his wrong. She then tears her clothes, puts ashes on her head, and goes away crying. She was abused, rejected, and shamed.
It's a disturbing story, but I can't get the torn clothing and ashes out of my mind—a public announcement of Tamar's shame. We deal with brokenness so differently today!
I don't know anyone who publically airs his or her dirty laundry as Tamar did (at least not by choice). Often we are humiliated and embarrassed, and don't want to think about it. To cope we ignore the bad feelings, and pursue the good ones. We ask God to take away the negative and strive to make ourselves feel good again.
Larry Crabb's book Shattered Dreams explains how many of us believe—consciously or not—that God made us to be happy. Then, when bad things happen and we don't feel good, we find ourselves wondering if God really cares about us, or if He's even there. We begin to lose faith.
Crabb says we have much to learn in the midst of our pain and offers three lessons about brokenness and faith from Ruth 4:11-12:
- The journey to God will always, at some point, take us through darkness where life makes no sense. Life isn't easy; it's hard, sometimes very hard
- The felt absence of God is a gift to gratefully receive. During those seasons of darkness He is doing His deepest work in us
- Feeling good is not the goal. When we feel bad, we have the opportunity to do battle against the enemy within that keeps us from entering the Presence of God with no greater passion than to glorify Him1
Maybe your life is a huge mess right now. Give it to God. Trust Him to bring good out of your situation. Don't know what to say? Romans 8:26-27 says the Holy Spirit will help you pray. Don't think God can possibly make your situation good? Romans 8:28 says He can and will.
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:26-28).
We live in a sinful world, not a good one. And we are sinners, not saints. We make mistakes and we do things we regret. Sometimes bad things happen that aren't our fault but we have to live with the consequences anyway. It's not fair, but it doesn't mean God isn't good. We need to stop trusting in ourselves to put things back together and give control to God.
Hebrews 12:1 tells us to get rid of every weight slowing us down and to keep moving forward. How do we accomplish this? “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Accept the challenge to allow God to use your brokenness to increase your faith.
“Life is not an opportunity for things to go well so we can feel good. Life is an opportunity for us to be forgiven for requiring God to make us feel good and for turning from Him when He doesn't” (Crabb, 145). Are you ready to come out from the ashes?
1Crabb, Larry. Shattered Dreams: God's Unexpected Pathway to Joy. Colorado: WaterBrook Press, 2001 (160-161).