Let me start off by asking you this: have you ever felt like you weren’t good enough? Or perhaps that you would never be good enough? Have you ever felt broken? Have you ever felt like a “weak, struggling disciple?” Oh what a forbidden word that seems to be: “struggling.” I don’t think we mean anything by it but the only time I’ve heard that word, other than riding that “struggle bus,” is in the following scenarios: “oh, pray for that sister… she has really been struggling lately.” Or “that brother is about to walk away from God… he’s been struggling for awhile.” Or even the classic “you seem to really be struggling lately, is everything okay?” A negative term, to say the least. Another question then: what happens when you find yourself “struggling” all the time? The word “struggle” became a word that consistently described my life…
I was beginning to question God and my trust and faith were wavering. I had just graduated college and jumped into the next chapter of my life. I moved to a city I didn’t want to move to, found myself in a job that was no where near what I went to school for (and paid half of what I could have been making), my closest friends were all getting engaged and married, and I felt very alone. I entered into an episode of depression and could hardly make sense of it all. I questioned God more, and was completely out of control emotionally. I couldn’t even recognize myself. As an engineer and naturally “logical” person, I found myself being completely ruled by my emotions. I got counseling, which in itself was very humbling to admit that I needed help. I left times with my mentor in the church feeling more and more discouraged. I felt like the “problem case” that no one knew how to deal with. I thought everyone viewed me as weak (and honestly, they would have been right). I came to my breaking point. It was spiritually the darkest time I had ever gone through in my six years as a disciple. I grew up going to church and I always wanted God. I had to fight my pride to become a disciple but I always knew he held the truth. For the first time though, I found myself not just questioning if God exists (which I had done plenty of times before) but questioning if I wanted to follow him. I just couldn’t live up to the standards of being a disciple. I was convinced I wasn’t “cut out for it.” God had tried to call me, but I had failed him too many times. I was a disappointment. Might as well call it quits and stop pretending to be something I can never be… Or so I thought. I wrestled HARD with God. I told him everything I was angry about. I told him how mad I was that I had to struggle. Why didn’t it come easily to me like everyone else? What wasn’t I getting? What if I wasn’t even saved??
That was about a year ago. For the simple truth that I could not escape the fact that everything in the Bible played out to be true in my life, I stayed. I didn’t like it. I was mad at God. But I knew the world had nothing to offer me, and that if I wanted the truth, it would be with God. I began to mend a broken foundation. God worked powerfully through a couple situations that radically softened my hard heart. But the struggle continues even as I write this article. So why tell this part of my story? Because through this time, I have learned some invaluable lessons about brokenness and weakness that I would love to share with you.
1. Brokenness is not just part of the gospel; it IS the gospel.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 is a classic example, but if you are anything like me, it isn’t enough to convince you. So let me challenge your thinking.
Let’s look to the scripture in Luke 7:36-50. Jesus tells this woman that because she was forgiven of much, she loved much. Now, we know that we all fall short of the glory of God (cf. Romans 3:23), so the Pharisee was just as guilty of sin as she was. Yet, Jesus says that he was “forgiven of little.” I have heard it preached before, and I am inclined to agree, that the reason for this was because he was not IN TOUCH with his sin. He was just as broken as she was but he MISSED OUT on the gospel because he was unwilling to come to terms with his brokenness and need for a savior. Ponder that for a moment.
Also take a moment to think about the types of people that flocked to Jesus. The prostitutes and the tax collectors. They were the outcasts. The most sinful people. The ones who would have been labeled as “struggling.” Yet they, more than those with a perfect spiritual record, felt more comfortable around Jesus. Why is that? If we believe we are too broken for Jesus, we believe a gospel that is different from the one he preached 2,000 years ago. On the contrary, if we believe doing well spiritually somehow makes us “better,” I would caution against the mentality in the Pharisees that Jesus so freely rebuked.
2. To be desperate is to be saved.
I once heard a sermon on the beatitudes that drastically changed the way I saw the gospel.
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
What does it mean to be poor? If I am poor financially, it means I lack money. If I am poor in oxygen, it means that I lack it. So if I am poor in spirit, it means that I LACK it. I am in need of it. Are you in need of the spirit? Good news. You are the perfect candidate for inheriting the kingdom of heaven! The NLT version says it this way: “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”
Galatians 2: 21 further illustrates my point. “I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” (NLT)
If there was a way for you to be “spiritual” on your own… Christ died in vain. We are not righteous on our own. We are righteous because of God. If my righteousness truly comes from God, I should not be afraid of “struggling.” Just because I am saved does not mean I am no longer in need of a savior! II would argue I need him even more! For complacency, lukewarmness, and perfectionism threaten my relationship with God every day. Every day I need Jesus. Every day I am struggling. And that is exactly why Jesus came to die. Don’t be so prideful to think that your sin and struggles are the straw that will break the camel’s back of the gospel. Jesus was fully aware of the journey you would go on, and he signed up for it anyways.
3. Weaknesses are valuable.
Whoa! Did I just say that? Yes. I did. Weaknesses are the building blocks God uses to build up his people, and therefore his kingdom. They are the places where light shines through the most. But here’s the tricky part: you won’t get any glory for them. See, I think we sometimes fool ourselves into thinking we are humble because we give God glory when we excel. But the problem with that is it still makes you look good. You’re successful, and you’re even humble too! The cherry on top! Ahem, sarcasm… I say all that because I fall into that trap ALL the time. But when my weaknesses are showing, people don’t tend to think too highly of me. So when God uses me anyways, he gets ALL the glory. I can’t claim that I practiced, and that was why my musical performance was so great. Or that I study my Bible every day for an hour, so that’s why I’m so spiritual. See what I’m saying? We don’t get to take any credit. And oh what a beautiful thing that is. God’s glory gets magnified in our weaknesses. I have witnessed God use my darkest times to minister to other people’s hearts. I have seen him use me in the MIDST of my darkness. He has softened my heart and given me a deep love for the broken. A love that I believe is a wonderful reflection of him. I get to be the extension of God’s love to people that feel rejected by other members of the church because they aren’t “spiritual enough.”
“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2, NLT) We do still need to take our sin seriously. But with that being said: let your weaknesses shine. Be desperate for the spirit and admit how much you need it. And let your brokenness be what you choose to put on display. A stained glass masterpiece only came to exist because the glass was broken first. Let God break you. Let him use you. Let him mold you into his masterpiece. Amen and may God get the glory.