For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept. My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart. Psalm 51:18-19
Brokenness is not something people like to talk about. They see it as weakness. Some may view it as a defeat. Most find it unpleasant; many will avoid it at all costs. To be broken in spirit, humbled before God, is seen by the world as offensive. And yet, Scripture tells us that God sees it as desirable, and important in building our faith.
What is Brokenness?
In his article titled “Brokenness” David Wilkerson gives us this definition: “Brokenness is to give up all hope of attaining heaven by any measure of personal goodness. It is to lay down all trust in our own efforts. It is turning wholly to the victory of the Cross of Christ, believing he is the only way. Finally, it is trusting him to empower us through his Spirit to live up to his claim on our lives. That is brokenness, contriteness, humility. And we need such brokenness to keep walking in faith”.
Another word for brokenness is contrite (Psalm 34:19). Nelson’s New Bible Dictionary defines the word “Contrite” as, “the kind of spirit, or heart, pleasing and acceptable to God. People who have a contrite spirit weep over wrongdoing and express genuine sorrow for their sins.”
Brokenness draws us closer to God
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those whose spirit is crushed.” (Psalm 34:19) The King James version reads, “and he saves those with a contrite spirit”. “The Lord does not hear the cry of the proud; but when we live righteously and humbly, He is always near in friendship to receive and console us” (KJV Bible Commentary). This is the beginning of true repentance. To acknowledge our guilt, and feel sorry for our sins.
Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” The KJV Commentary tells us that “The poor in spirit are the opposite of the proud or haughty in spirit. These are those who have been humbled by the grace of God and have acknowledged their sin and therefore their dependence upon God to save them.”
Brokenness leads to repentance
The Bible gives us examples of true repentance. Psalm 51 is an example of David’s acknowledgement of his guilt, and feeling true remorse. Jonah is another example. In fact, in the book “Moby Dick”, father Mapple gives a sermon on Jonah and says, “I do not place Jonah before you to be copied for his sin but I do place him before you as a model for repentance. Sin not; but if you do, take heed to repent of it like Jonah.” R.C. Sproul puts it this way, “We [should] emulate Jonah not in his sin, but in his spirit of penitence, which is marked foremost by his acknowledgement that his punishment is just”. Jonah truly realized his mistakes, and accepted whatever God laid before him. And because of his repentance, he came to lead an entire city to God.
Peter also gives us an example of true remorse. Remember, Peter was told by Jesus that before the cock crowed that very night, he would deny knowing the Christ three times. Peter answered, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you” (Matthew 26:35). And yet, that is exactly what happened. “Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: “Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly.” (Matthew 28:75). In his book “Absolute Surrender” Andrew Murray describes Peter’s transformation. From denying Christ three times, to weeping and mourning over the shame and guilt he felt. “My Lord is gone, my hope is gone, and I denied my Lord. After that life of love, that blessed fellowship of three years, I denied my Lord. God have mercy on me!”[p.53] That was Peter’s turning point. When Christ rose, and met again with his disciples, Jesus asked of Peter, “Do you love me”? And Peter answered, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” (John 21:17)
Paul tries to convey this very same concept when he says, “ In the past I spoke against Christ and persecuted him and did all kinds of things to hurt him. But God showed me mercy, because I did not know what I was doing. I did not believe. But the grace of our Lord was fully given to me, and with that grace came the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. What I say is true, and you should fully accept it: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.”(1 Timothy 1:13-15) Paul was one of the greatest teachers of all time, having an understanding and knowledge of God equal to that of a Harvard education. And yet, even he considered himself a sinner, unworthy of the grace showed to him by Jesus Christ. If Paul saw himself as the worst of sinners, then how much more am I?
Brokenness leads to an understanding of grace
Brokenness should not lead us to dwell in our sin; but rather, to marvel at the mercy and grace of God. Romans 5:20 says, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” In his book titled “Humility” Andrew Murray wrote, “The more abundant the experience of grace, the more intense the consciousness of being a sinner. It is not sin, but God’s grace constantly reminding a man what a sinner he was, that will keep him truly humble.”
Ephesians 3:7-8 says, “By God’s special gift of grace given to me through his power, I became a servant to tell that Good News. I am the least important of all God’s people, but God gave me this gift—to tell those who are not Jews the Good News about the riches of Christ, which are too great to understand fully.” Paul was given great wisdom, great endurance, and great abilities, and yet he considered himself the least of all the apostles. His sin gave him a greater understanding of grace, which greatly humbled him.
What I’ve learned
“The kind of sorrow God wants makes people change their hearts and lives. This leads to salvation, and you cannot be sorry for that.” (2 Corinthians 7:10). God wants us to turn to Him. He wants us to seek Him. He wants us to benefit from His Grace, and mercy, and gift of eternal life. James said, “Be sad, cry, and weep! Change your laughter into crying and your joy into sadness.” (James 4:9) If you are interested in being “happy”, know this: God’s purpose for us is not in mere happiness, but to desire holiness. Holiness comes when we experience humble, genuine sorrow for our sins. And in that, we will experience lasting joy.
“You changed my mourning into dancing; you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. With my whole being I sing endless praise to you. O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.” (Psalm 30:11-12)