Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
March 30, 2014
Refusing to let brokenness have the last
Many friends offered
congratulations last Monday when I turned 82. One asked me to make a speech
about the great lessons I had learned about life. I smiled but declined to answer,
feeling I had nothing profound to share.
Having given the question
some thought I want to share one important lesson I have learned. That lesson
has to do with the brokenness and pain that comes eventually to everyone. Each
of us must find a way to handle hardship. How we deal with it determines
whether we shall live well or poorly.
While brokenness does color
my life, I can choose the color. That is the great lesson for me. I can refuse
to allow hardship to paint my life black, the color of gloom and despair. I can
work my way through tears and heartache and choose blue or yellow, red or
green, colors of hope and joy.
I love the Gloria and Bill
Gaither song, “Something Beautiful.” It offers profound truth in very few
Something beautiful, something good;
all my confusion he understood;
all I had to offer him was brokenness and strife,
but he made something beautiful of my life.
Everything depends on how I
respond to the failure, pain or brokenness of my life. If I choose to pity
myself I allow my hardship to defeat me. Hardship also ruins me if I choose the
route of cynicism or stoicism.
The key to victory lies in
my understanding of God. It matters greatly what I believe about God’s attitude
toward me. I am on the road to victory if I believe that God cares about my
plight, that he “understands.” This is a matter of faith; I can choose to
believe that God cares for me even though my hardship may be the result of my
own poor decisions.
The next step involves the
word “offer.” I can sit in the ashes of my brokenness and whine or I can
“offer” my hardship to God in the hope that he can create beauty with the mess
I have made. It cheers me to remember that many people have overcome their
brokenness by “offering” it to God, letting him take over.
Fanny Crosby and George
Matheson are two good examples. They were both blind but refused to complain.
Both offered their blindness to God and received the strength to compose
beautiful songs which millions enjoy singing. They refused to let their
brokenness "blind" them to their opportunity to live useful lives.
The singer Steven Curtis
Chapman once wrote about a dry spell in his life when he was desperate for a
breakthrough in his spirit. Wanting God to do something, just to show up, he
went out in the woods to pray. There he stacked some rocks to symbolize an
altar and began to pray. As he was praying, he began to smell cedar. It was so
strong that it distracted him from praying.
He opened his eyes and
began looking around. Soon he saw a little cedar tree which he had snapped in
half by stepping on it. The smell was coming from that small, broken tree.
Chapman saw it as a sign of God's coming to him. He wrote down these words,
"The fragrance of the broken."
God does provide a
"fragrance" which we may learn to cherish as we deal with our own
brokenness and that of our loved ones. Like the little cedar tree, it may not
be obvious. We have to look for it as Chapman did. Finding it, we begin to
enjoy the "aroma of grace."
My friend "Miss
Jimmy" was a poet who became blind as an adult. But she also declined to
complain. She even chose to believe that her blindness was a blessing. It
helped her to discover blessings she would not have known had her sight not
“I had not bothered to read
the Bible very much," she said, "but when I became blind, I began to
listen to the Bible on cassette tapes. Only then did I understand why it is
considered the greatest book ever written."
Brokenness and pain comes
soon or late to us all. Whining about it or asking "Why me?" only
increases our misery. As we face the pain with honesty and hope, something
wonderful can occur. Character can happen. We can become finer people because
we have faced our troubles with courage. We can become better instead of bitter.
Courage is contagious. Deal
with your brokenness bravely, with a positive spirit, and your example will
encourage someone else. The challenge is to find a way to smell the "aroma
of grace" in our pain and allow the fragrance of our brokenness to sweeten
the atmosphere of our lives. While pain is inevitable, misery is optional.
The great lesson I have learned about
handling hardship is this: God understands my pain and is willing to help me
refuse to let brokenness have the last word. He has a great track record for
making something beautiful out of brokenness. + + +