Some may find this graphic that I chose to be a bit confusing, because it contrasts something beautiful and full of life behind broken glass. I hope your curiosity will cause you to read to the end where it will likely make more sense.
Have you ever felt broken? If you have lived long enough, the answer to that question is likely, “Yes!” The depths of our individual brokenness vary, and the circumstances that bring us to that state are unique, but the result is often the same.
For me personally, I came face to face with that state of brokenness while I was driving to the airport early in the morning back in March of this year. The Lord interrupted me with a statement that shook me to my core. It sounded as if He was riding along in the passenger side of my car speaking to me as if I had a friend riding with me, but the words that He said surprised me.
He said, “I can’t turn you loose because you are too fragile. It would destroy you!” Now that may seem like an insignificant statement to you, but it sent my mind reeling.
After going through security, while sitting at my gate waiting for the time to board, I did what people do on the game show when they are stumped; I chose the “Phone a friend” option! I called a friend and told her what had happened, and she began to cry because she said she totally got it! With that confirmation, I set out that week to try to understand better the meaning of the Lord’s words.
I began to research and study the Word of God about that word fragile, trying to uncover the message the Lord was giving me. The best picture to describe what I sensed and felt when God spoke those words to me was a fragile bowl or vase. This particular verse stood out to me when I was searching.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 NLT
7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
I then began to search and read all the key Scriptures about being strong and courageous because in my natural mind, that seemed like the solution to being too fragile.
God told Joshua in Joshua 1:9 (NASU), “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
I also read in Psalm 27:14 AMP
Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.
I read about David’s instructions to Solomon and Hezekiah’s instruction to the people to be strong and courageous (1 Chronicles 22:13) (2 Chronicles 32:7-8 NLT), I read Paul’s instructions in the New Testament:
Romans 16:25a NLT
Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says….
Ephesians 6:10 NKJV
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
I began to feel that the solution was proximity. I started meditating on Colossians 2:7a NLT
Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong…
I prayed and quoted words that came from the book of Psalms.
“Blessed is the man who delights in the law of the Lord….he is like a tree firmly planted and rooted and fed by streams of water….” (From Psalm 1:1-3)
I told myself that the solution to overcome my fragility was planting myself in close proximity to God and if I rooted myself to His supply, I would receive the nourishment to grow stronger.
All of this is truth! In many cases, this is the solution. However, sometimes when we get in that close proximity to God, we get additional directions. The more time I spent seeking the Lord, the more I knew there was more for me to do and my solution only began in this place. Next, I set out on a mission to try to understand why the Lord would call me personally fragile.
I realized that I had not been feeling quite as strong and courageous as I used to be, but I had not fully realized the state I had allowed the disappointments and challenges of life to bring me to. I knew I didn’t always feel this way, because I remembered many times feeling as if I could do anything I set my mind to do.
I thought if I worked hard enough and long enough, there was no mountain I could not climb. Yet one day I found myself somewhere on the side of Everest! I couldn’t seem to climb anymore and I also couldn’t allow myself to descend, so I was searching for a cave to hide in.
A place of shelter where I would be relieved from the striving and the climbing, but I could at least hold on to ground I had gained below me. The problem was I found myself in a cave much like Elijah was when he ran for his life in the Old Testament.
I could hear God say to me as He did Elijah, “What are you doing here?” (See 1 Kings 19:9-10) Elijah had his excuses just as I did. Elijah told God he was the only one left, I told God everything I tried to do was a failure. In this state of mind, the more I beat myself up for not being strong, the more fragile I became.
While I was in this state, my pastor hit a nerve while preaching one Sunday morning. He described an event from his childhood when his dad was teaching him to sing the scales. One day when he kept messing up his dad spanked him on the leg out of frustration. Pastor said that he looked up at his dad with tear-filled eyes and said, “I don’t want to ever sing again!”
When I heard that statement, I could not hold the tears back! He had described exactly how I felt! I wanted to tell God, “I don’t ever want to ____ again!” I could fill that blank with so many words at that moment.
You see it is in a state of total brokenness, that you are most tempted to quit, especially on the things you are most called to complete! Elijah one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament was here and we can find ourselves in this state at times. I certainly did! I had listened to the enemy tell me that everything I had set out to do in my life and for the kingdom was a failure. If you listen to lies long enough, you begin to believe that they are true!
In my human or soulish realm of thinking, I could have easily responded, as I believe Elijah did. I could have just proceeded with retirement mentality; feeling as if I had run a good race, fought a good fight, won some big battles, so I will take my chariot ride now please!
Somehow, even in this state, my spirit man was stronger than my soulish one and rose up inside me asking, “What is this thing God want to turn me loose to do?” I wanted to know…..and I still do by the way!
It was about this time as I was beating myself up for not being strong enough, two weeks after I had heard the Lord speak the first time that He spoke again. He clearly said, “You feel like I am taking you to the woodshed, but I am actually putting you back on my potter’s wheel!”
It was true! I felt like I was a failure at everything God had asked me to do. I felt like if I had worked harder, prayed longer, studied smarter, wrote better, and handled trials and disappointments appropriately, I could have been what He expected me to be, but I felt that I wasn’t.
With His new words, I went back to the Bible looking for direction. I read
Isaiah 64:8 AMP
Yet, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our Potter, and we all are the work of Your hand.
Then I turned to the most familiar passage about the potter’s wheel found in Jeremiah 18:2-4 NLT. I read it from some newer versions and I saw something I had never seen in this passage I had read so many times before.
2 “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” 3 So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. 4 But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.
Then I saw a version I had never read before, the Expanded Bible, it read this way,
“He was using his hands to make a pot from clay, but something went wrong with it, so he used that clay to make another pot the way he wanted it to be.” Jeremiah 18: 2-4 EXB
As I stated earlier, people get to a broken and fragile state for many different reasons. In my life it wasn’t one thing, it was a perfect storm of things that had happened over a long period of time, which brought me to this place of feeling as if I could shatter into a million pieces.
The turning point was the realization that it wasn’t something I did or didn’t do, it wasn’t my failure or my success, it wasn’t my could haves or should haves, I had a realization that I was feeling crushed, but it was a perfect opportunity for the potter to make me the way he wants me to be!
I am not here to tell you that this was an easy process. It took some very intense work, some pain, and tears along the way.
- I had to allow God to help me see all the lies and replace them with the truth.
- I had to allow God to heal my broken heart and help me forgive those people and situations that had hurt me so deeply.
- I had to process my pain and disappointments and find purpose for those situations.
IT WAS A PLACE OF FULL SURRENDER! Too often, we say we surrender ALL, but the reality is we surrender SOME! Too often, we say we give God our pain, but we pick it back up. Too often, we say we trust God, but we still do it in our own strength in our own way.
I want you to think about it this way. When you get a brand new computer, it will come with certain programs and software loaded to make it run efficiently the way it is created to run.
Over time as you use that computer it is exposed to things that cause it to begin to work less optimally. Sometimes that happens because we overload it. We try to do too much with it, add too many programs and files to it and it can’t handle the volume.
Maybe you do not have the appropriate protection, so over time you go to places on the internet where you pick up viruses and adware and other threats that attack the operating system and cause it to slow down or stop working properly.
Perhaps you open emails that you think are important because you are trying to do the right thing and you thought it was a responsibility of yours you needed to address, but it was actually a cybersecurity risk attempting to steal your identity.
When these things happen and you find that your computer just cannot function, as you need it to anymore, there is a solution…..it is called “RESTORE”. Have you had to do this to your computer? It is painful! You have to back up all the good things like your pictures and files you will need so you can dump all the bad things and start all over at the beginning.
Using the “RESTORE” function will take your computer back to where it was when you purchased it. Let me take that analogy now and put that in context of this teaching.
When you receive Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are a new creation. You are like that brand new computer with a clean operating system. Over time, you are exposed to things that can also cause you to function less optimally. Just like the computer, sometimes it is because we are overloaded. There is always a temptation to try to do more; there are many demands on our lives and all kinds of expectations and obligations.
Maybe you have been exposed to threats like the computer, which is what has left you in a broken or fragile state. Perhaps you have walked through relationship, health, or financial crisis. Maybe it was loss, the loss of a loved one or a job, or something important to you. Regardless of the cause, it has damaged your operating system.
The last example I gave with the computer was about opening harmful emails thinking you have a responsibility you need to address. The point I am making with this one is this, sometimes the right thing seems like the wrong thing and often the hard thing. Sometimes the right thing is to say “No” and the hard thing is to strive to meet God’s expectations more than everyone else’s expectations including your own.
There are many good things we can do, but the question we must answer is if it is a “God” thing for us to do. If you are all wrapped up in doing “good” things God never asked you to do, ask yourself this question, “Who am I keeping from doing this, and what am I missing that I am supposed to be doing?”
This is why God’s statement to me shook me to my core; I want to know what He wants to turn me loose to do! It is worth the painful process of going to the “RESTORE” point! Backing up all the good things and being willing to allow all the bad things to be removed!
A very familiar passage reads like this:
Psalm 23:1-3a NASU
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul…
One of my favorite commentators says this about that last verse:
“[He restoreth my soul] literally, “He causes my life to return.” (DeWette,) “He quickens me,” or causes me to live. The word soul” here means life, or spirit, and not the soul in the strict sense in which the term is now used. It refers to the spirit when exhausted, weary, or sad; and the meaning is, that God quickens or vivifies the spirit when thus exhausted. The reference is not to the soul as wandering or backsliding from God, but to the life or spirit as exhausted, wearied, troubled, anxious, worn down with care and toil. the heart, thus exhausted, He re-animates. He brings back its vigor. He encourages it; excites it to new effort; fills it with new joy.” 1
Recently my computer was doing some strange things. I opened my software protection program and told it to do a cleanup, optimization, and identify and treat any security threats. It ran the program for a few hours and then gave me a report about how many thousands of unneeded temporary files were deleted, and how many threats were identified and destroyed. I was amazed that all that was needed since the last tune up. After it was done, my computer was working correctly again.
Have you noticed that you are not functioning as optimally as you should be? Do you find yourself feeling bitter, angry, overwhelmed, fragile, irritable, sad, depressed, sick, tired, and sick and tired of feeling all these ways?
God wants to restore you. He wants to restore your soul.
Psalm 23 NASU
1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
This passage is saying that it doesn’t matter what kind of circumstances you find yourself in, you can be still and know that He is your God! That He is with you wherever you go! He will never leave you or forsake you! You are not alone! His staff comforts you! He will feed you and anoint you even in the presence of your enemies! Goodness and loving kindness are your companions! He is your shepherd, you shall not want! He restores your soul!
Too often, we think we will be better or we will feel differently when our circumstances change. Certainly we all prefer the mountain verses the valley, but the Word tells us that in this life we will have tribulation, so the key is to find a resting place in God, to be willing to surrender ALL not SOME, and trust that He has you and He has your life and your situation in His hands.
A place of rest is not a complacent place. Just because you are still in your spirit does not necessarily mean you are physically still. You are still in your spirit because you are in a place of trust and faith. He may give you additional directions, He may guide you, direct you for what activities you need to do or stop doing, but then you have to respond with obedience.
I posted this picture on Facebook recently and I said that I had a completely new perspective of what this verse means. If you do not have this revelation, I want you to experience it!
Earlier I told about the story of my pastor and his dad. In that state, I told God, “I don’t want to _____ anymore!” To a degree on this side of the potter’s wheel, I still feel that way, but for a different reason. I don’t want to do ____ anymore for the sake of meeting anyone else’s expectations or mine. I don’t want to do _____ anymore out of sheer obligation. I want to be still long enough for God to provide answers and direction for every aspect of my life, and then I want to respond in radical obedience!
When you get still long enough, you will be surprised what you notice, you will be surprised what He says, but we are going at such break neck speed all the time that He can’t get our attention.
It reminds me of a home video that we have. My daughter was only about 9 months old and her dad was busy helping her open her gifts at Christmas while I was videotaping. My son who was a little over 2 years old was trying to get his dad’s attention to tell him about his gift he had just opened. He kept saying, “Look daddy, I got Legos! Look daddy, I got Legos! Look daddy, I got Legos!” Finally, he got right in his face and says, “Look daddy, I got Legos!” His daddy finally responded, “That’s awesome son!” He couldn’t hear him because he was so preoccupied.
You would be amazed if you will get in His face, and be still what you will see, how He will direct you, and what you will know all around you that you need to do. He will show you not only good things to do, but also “God” things to do!
Look at that confusing graphic I chose with one slight modification. You will notice now that “Rest” is underlined. I want to share from a devotional I have been using in my study time.
“Do you find it difficult to rest? Are you always working or engaging in some type of ministry activity? As you step into the promise God has for you, remember how important rest is.
There is a place of rest in the heart of God. In this place, we learn to trust Him in the midst of chaos and difficulties. As we lean upon Him and hear His heartbeat, we discover its rhythm – when to run, when to rest, and when to release. As we contend to enter into the rest He has prepared for us, we ourselves become resting places where He can come and dwell in greater fullness.
We can enter into the storms of life and release love only when we have learned how to rest in God. Hebrews 4:1-3 tells us to be careful not to fall short of His rest. Also we will not achieve rest through the merits of our works, so that no one should boast. (See Ephesians 2:9) Rather, we need to rest in the promises of God. We will be safe in the King’s arms. Indeed, we must learn to live there.” 2
I stated earlier that I felt like if I had worked harder, prayed longer, studied smarter, wrote better, and handled trials and disappointments appropriately, I could have been what He expected me to be. Do you hear the works mentality here?
“We will not achieve rest through the merits of our works….we need to rest in the promises of God.”2
It is in this place that He restores your soul, takes you and molds you and makes you into what He wants you to be. In this place of FULL surrender to His will and His way in your life, you will find the place where He will restore your soul and prepare you to start new in Him again.
Some need to allow God to do what we do to some computers. You need to back up the good things, but allow Him to run an optimization, delete all the bad corrupted files, all the doubts, the pain, the questions and take you back to the “RESTORE” point. I can tell you, on this side of the potter’s wheel, I am so thankful that God shook me that day on the way to the airport….it caused me to be willing to submit to the process of restoration. I have never known this level of stillness and rest in God. I want you to have that too! Let God make you beautiful and full of life on the other side of your brokenness!
Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. Psalm 23:3
Heidi Baker, Daily Insights to Birthing the Miraculous (Charisma House 2016) 316-317