I’m a broken person.
I know that’s obvious—we’re all broken—it’s just that I spend so much time pretending not to be, or trying to fix myself, that I sometimes forget how deep and how painful the brokenness is.
Recently I’ve been reminded. Circumstances in my life have sent me reeling, fearing for the future and regretting the past, asking God why He allows any of it and unsure how to trust Him.
But it’s not just external circumstances that tear at me. I could play the martyr and feel self-righteous if that were true. No, I’m also a selfish, foolish sinner. Every time I pray for repentance, however sincerely, I can’t help thinking I’ll soon be back in the same sin. Like a dog returning to vomit, I come sliding back to patterns I thought I’d left behind years ago. And insecurities foolish but gripping gnaw at my heart and crawl inside my head until I don’t know what to believe.
Monsters I’ve fought a hundred times come back ravenous, and I’m tired of fighting what seems a losing battle. I’m broken by discovering, again, that my heart is far more sick and twisted than I knew, that I can’t parse my own motives. I’m tired of feeling washed clean by Christ, only to find a new layer of filth in my heart. I’m sick of the same hateful sins.
I pull their tendrils out of my heart, leaving deep tears, but I can never remove every last tentacle. I ask God, I beg God, to take away my sin, to give me strength to serve Him fully, to increase my love for Him so I never want to disobey. I ask Him to root my heart in Him so I never feel insecure and always believe the truth about myself. I pray sweeping prayers unsure if I mean them.
I rise from my knees determined that this time will be different, but before I know it, I’m back on my knees, wondering what went wrong. Why wouldn’t He cleanse me from sin? Doesn’t He hate it? Doesn’t it honor Him when I obey His law? Frustrated that God won’t mend me now, knowing I’m the problem, I try to do it myself.
Recently I landed on my knees again. Fear squeezed my stomach and insecurities strangled me. Hugging my pillow and crying, I asked God again why I had to feel this way, why He couldn’t just heal the doubts and pain.
What possible reason could He have?
As I sat there, I caught a glimpse of His answer, a sliver of the understanding we’ll one day have.
My sorrow and weariness and foolishness had sent me running back to Christ. When I’m content with my circumstances and myself, I quickly forget. I always need Him, but I don’t remember. But when I cannot scrub my sin away, when in despair I climb onto His lap, He has used even my sin for His glory. He has brought me from knowing about Him to knowing Him.
This is nothing new; it’s written all over the Bible. Psalm 34:18 reminds me that “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit,” and Psalm 147:3 says “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” David knew the crushing pain of circumstance and sin, but he also knew the gentle hands of the Physician. In his writings, I see how to weep and question and hurt, and cling to God who catches every tear (Ps. 56:8).
And while Revelation 21:4 promises that He will wipe every tear from our eye in the end, here on earth 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all our troubles on Him, “because He cares for you.”
I am saved by the God who wept for His friend Lazarus and the grieving sisters. Isaiah calls Jesus “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3). He knows the happy ending but feels the pang. So, with David “I pour out my complaint before Him,” and Isaiah reminds me that “I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand” (Ps. 142:2, Is. 41:13).
Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
He doesn’t promise to skirt the floods or quench the fire, but He does promise to be with me, and keep me from being overcome.
I serve the God who considers my life precious (Ps. 116:15), and I can trust Him with my pain. Though I don’t understand the reasons why, though I’m still impatient for death to be swallowed up in victory, with David I say, “From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Ps. 61:2). For now, with my limited vision, I’m grateful that pain and even sin can bring me back to the Lover of my soul. Though He has many purposes for all He does, I’m grateful for this one, for knowing Him a little more.