Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

March 30, 2014

Refusing to let brokenness have the last word

        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 words:

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 failed.

“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. + + +