" ....he ....broke it (bread) and began to give it to them" (Luke 24:30)
As I grow older each year, I thank God for blessing me with good memories.
It was the year 1975: the classes in my school came to standstill as students packed the school hall to watch the live telecast of the World Heavyweight Boxing match between "The Greatest" Muhammad Ali and Joe Bugner from the UK. The historic match was held in our very own Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur.
A year earlier, I watched the Radio Television Malaysia live telecast of the Ali vs George Foreman fight in Kinshasa, Africa. In the unforgettable "Rumble in the Jungle," Ali reclaimed the world heavyweight title. He was known as one the comeback king.
The Bible also talks about how failures make a comeback in life (and ministry) as well. One striking example is the life of Peter, the disciple who denied Jesus in our Lord's hour of greatest trial.
But there is a difference between Ali's and Peter's comeback. Ali's comeback was due to his boxing's prowess (as he floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee) whereas Peter's comeback was due to God's grace.
In the Bible, Peter learned the lesson of great humility. He started off overconfident and boasted that he would not deny Christ. But he did exactly and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). Then a few days later, Jesus restored him (in John 21). As Peter reflected on his life, he wrote: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5-6). Indeed we see how God transformed Peter's broken life and used him and returned him to greater power and effectiveness than he could have imagined.
Are we broken before God? The Bible says in Isaiah 66:2 of one who is broken: "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word".
Brokenness is what we allow God to make of us and not what we make of ourselves.
M.R.DeHann writes: "We think broken things are a loss, but God turns them to gain. In nature, broken things are cast aside; but in grace, God will never use a man until he is broken".
Today, let us also remember that in our brokenness and suffering, God can turn these things into something beautiful.
My mother had a broken body but God, in His grace, had used her loss of two legs to extend love to others in the midst of her own pain and to bring the family together to care and support one another.
I also think of how the priest Brennan Manning (1934-2013) - whose broken life was wrecked by alcoholism - was led by God to write the message of the gospel of grace in his best seller, The Ragamuffin Gospel.
And I also think about Marva Dawn (theologian, author, educator, teaching fellow in spiritual thelogy at Regent) who wrote: "At times in my loneliest years I wanted to run so far away that no rejection, anguish, or injustice could ever find me. Sometimes I felt so miserable that I would have given up anything simply to drop out of existence..."
Dawn experienced a life of brokenness and suffering in so many ways: the pain from the betrayal of her husband; her debilitating diseases (such as brittle diabetes, a crippled leg, frequent foot wounds and hand surgeries, and constant intestinal pain from nerve dysfunction); a blind eye and the threat of haemorrhages in the other; a deaf ear; cancer; kidney deficiencies, and more.
She had to cope with so many chronic illnesses, and yet God has turned her life of pain into a life of ministry of writing and teaching to bless others. All her writings are rooted deep in Scripture, and a theology of weakness and suffering.
In our discipleship journey today, are we experiencing the God who transforms our brokenness into a useful ministry to bless others and glorify his name?
Lillian and I feel a kind of brokenness and helplessness as we care for our youngest son who has some mental health issues. But because of our struggles, God has graciously and sovereignly opened doors for us to reach out to other struggling parents who are facing similar challenges. So we join the apostle Paul in praising the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (see 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4).
A few years ago, I wrote down this poem. May we ponder and pray these words:
GOD USES BROKEN THINGS BEAUTIFULLY
Broken clouds pour rain,
Broken soil sets as fields,
Broken crop yield seeds,
Broken seeds give life to new plants;
So when you feel
you are broken,
be rest assured that God is planning to utilise you
for something good.