Do you hear a lot of conversation these days involving the word ‘broken’ and ‘brokenness’? I do. It is the newest trendy word.
Words matter. They present reality, create meaning, knit a cultural understanding. Words matter.
The Lord revealed Himself to us by His Word. He IS the Word made flesh. He could have revealed Himself to us in pictures, symbols, or any other method. He chose the Word.
We will be judged by our words. Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36).
In Genesis 11:1 we read, “Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.” In Genesis 11:7 God said, “Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” [Literally, ‘one lip’].
How did the LORD choose to restrain man? By confusing their languages. He will reverse that on His Day. Zephaniah 3:9 has the prophecy-
“For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord.” [literally, “one lip”].
Christians speak the one language of faith. Or we are supposed to, anyway. The Bible clearly explains the important concepts by which we live and construct meaning. They are in words, and the words are: sin, wrath, grace, sanctification, justification, imputation, atonement, good, evil … & etc. When we speak them to each other the meanings of these words should be clear to Christians. When we say, “I am a sinner” we know what we mean. When we say “God is good” we know what is meant by it. “I’m a depraved sinner” is understood. We should be ‘of one lip.’ But we’re not. By dropping and substituting words commonly understood for millennia, we are creating new understandings of the basics of the faith.
Brokenness the way it’s used nowadays does not mean what you think it means. In this piece by The Gospel Coalition, the opening paragraph succinctly describes my concerns with the increasing use of the word ‘brokenness.’ Unfortunately, the rest of the essay goes on to state the exact opposite of my point here today, so I don’t endorse the article.
In Christian circles, much has been made of brokenness, vulnerability, and authenticity in recent years. Some have expressed concern that these ideas have been overemphasized while holiness has taken a backseat. Brokenness in this context has tended to be of a faux variety. Much of it amounts to a confession of socially acceptable sins and mommy bloggers making messiness cool.
How does using brokenness the trendy way it is being used in Christian circles underestimate sin’s power? Brokenness evokes minor imperfections, not depravity. It removes the impetus from the sinner as the one performing the sin. We’ve gone from ‘I am a depraved sinner in need of grace’ to ‘I’m broken through no fault of my own and I need a heavenly butler to fix me’.
These mommy bloggers with messy lives authentically telling you about their brokenness are no different from the Pharisees who lengthen their tassels or make long prayers with long faces in order to show they are good.
Showing you are ‘bad/broken’ is no different than the Pharisees showing they were ‘good’. It’s still ‘look at me’. The result is the same also – hypocrisy.
“Maybe wholeness is embracing brokenness as part of your life.” Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way.
Maybe NOT. When we display our shining faces and our heavenly glow, we are demonstrating His victory to the world. Embracing brokenness is not displaying a victorious life.
And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:16).
I do not know where these women are getting all this brokenness from, because before we’re saved, we’re not broken and in need of a little fix, as Lysa Terkeurst seems to think-
Brokenness where we are split open. Redemption where God knits us back together. Lysa TerKeurst
Before salvation, we are whole. Wholly evil, wholly depraved. We function unbroken and unabated in a cursed world where we fit in perfectly fine. After salvation, we are not fixed (as is the opposite of broken.) We are made a new creation. It’s not that our thoroughly depraved soul is dented and needs pounding out and fixing like a car mechanic doing body work on a bumper or a little knitting and voila, we’re fixed. We are so thoroughly evil that we must be made a new creation. So after salvation, nothing is broken then, either.
We’re not supposed to promote our brokenness by mooning around with a long face, writing endlessly about how broken we are. Personally, I believe doing so is an insult to Jesus, who saved us perfectly. Lest someone think I am being heartless, I do know that both before salvation and after salvation, we grieve, are bereft, lonely, sad, melancholy, stricken, and all the rest. Life hurts. It really does.
If ever there was anyone who had cause to call himself “broken” it was Paul. He was betrayed, abandoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, beaten, lonely and even at one point “despaired of life”! He wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:8,
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.
Broken! For sure! But did he write anywhere in the Bible that we should dwell in our griefs? Wallow in brokenness? Embrace it? Never! What a ghastly thought! He wrote,
But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. (Philippians 2:18).
In whatever circumstance Paul found himself in, he urged rejoicing in the Lord. He never urged his people to wallow in brokenness. He never even said that as grief-stricken as he was at times that he himself was ‘broken.’
Sisters, we are not broken. If the current trendsetters using the word mean broken as in prior to salvation, well, before salvation we’re evil and depraved sinners who have no chance to please God, not broken. After salvation, we are a new creature, not broken.
If the trendsetters using the word broken to indicate a certain emotional state, well, call it what it is. Grief, broken-hearted, depression, melancholy, annoyance, overwhelmed. That’s OK, we all feel those things at times. But again, that’s not being broken. And in any case, as Paul said, rejoice, sisters, rejoice! Mooning around with a long face as a broken individual doesn’t earn you any points with Jesus. He said as much regarding the Pharisees, as I stated above.
If you’re sad, depressed, rejected, melancholy, whatever it is, rejoice! I know it’s hard. I’m not making light. But watch the words you say (and sing, and write). Saying that you’re broken is insulting to Jesus and unnecessarily transforming the Christian vocabulary into something trendy and indistinct.
I’m not broken. Are you?