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Dooley Noted: The beauty of brokenness

It was not my best sermon.

After being away from my congregation for six weeks, the induction phase of my son’s chemotherapy ended, and we returned home from the Memphis Ronald McDonald House. Though he was now in remission, 128 consecutive weeks of treatment remained in order to prevent him from relapsing with leukemia. We were tired, emotionally spent, and fearful of what lay ahead of us.

With my pastoral duties resuming, I decided to preach through the Old Testament book of Job. What I did not anticipate, however, was the uncontrollable emotion I felt when I opened my Bible and began to speak. As an active participant in the story, the passage I read was neither theoretical nor flat. Each verse struck a different emotive cord as I shared about the inevitability of trials in a fallen world. And with every insight I explained, it seemed as though God was speaking directly to me through His Word.

That’s when the tears began to flow. At first, I was embarrassed. The vulnerability of the message left me exposed like never before, and frankly, I did not like it. The more I tried to pull it together the less composure I seemed to have. Yet, as God carried me through the message, His strength was perfected through my weakness in an obvious way. I realized, perhaps for the first time, that God usually breaks us before He uses us.

Then, in a moment of spiritual clarity, I felt unexplainable joy. Joy because the Holy Spirit was so obviously present and active. Joy because others were benefitting from my hardship. Joy because of the manifest power of God’s Word. And joy because, unlike anything before or since, I needed the realities that I dared to proclaim. Don’t get me wrong, I never really doubted any of the doctrines in Scripture, but my son’s trial forced me to lean on the Lord’s promises like I had not previously. When we move from merely explaining Scripture for the benefit of others to experiencing the same truth for ourselves, life change occurs.

Such is the beauty of brokenness.

Earthly pain is often God’s chosen method to help live out the eternal truths we claim to believe (James 1:2-4). He sometimes uses unexpected affliction to add the depth of experience to the width of our knowledge (Psalm 147:3). Tears, as unwelcome as they might be, are a powerful instrument to help us glory more in our Savior than ourselves (Psalm 6:8). The destination of obedience is often at the end of affliction’s road (Psalm 119:67).

So, I no longer run from the tears.

Neither should you. Today’s heartache may become a future pillow with which you can comfort others who are hurting (2 Cor. 1:3-4).  Every trial is a potential platform for your declaring the gospel and demonstrating genuine faith (Phil. 1:12-14). Better still is the hope that our burdens are often doorways that lead to deeper intimacy with Christ as our faith is proven and stretched (1 Peter 1:6-9). No matter how God chooses to enter your suffering and regardless of how many tears you shed, remember that He promises to wipe each one of them away (Rev. 21:4).

Behind every tear we shed and every heartache we carry, God is actively working all things together for good for those who know Him and love Him (Rom. 8:28). Even on our darkest days, we can trust that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5-6). Though life is sometimes too short to heal all our hurts, the hindsight of eternity will make all things clear. Ironically, trials that make us doubt God’s purposes on this earth will lead us to praise His plans in heaven. Tears have a way of keeping our hope anchored to a world to which we’ve never been.

Maybe that sermon wasn’t so bad after all. 

Dr Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at adooley@ebcjackson.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.

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