We’ve looked at God’s definition of success, what our purpose is, what God’s purpose is, and what hinders all of these. Now we can begin to look at what we can expect in our lives experientially as God begins to bring us into dependence on His Life alone.
What Is The Breaking Process?
One of God’s goals is to give Himself to us and reveal how our needs have already been met by Him and in Him. In order to do that, He must bring us to the realization that what we have been relying on, whatever it is, has failed, and can never succeed. This is not just a head knowledge, or agreement by the will, or even an emotional response to His revealing, but something actually happens as our attachment to our “self” is broken. God uses the breaking process to make our co-crucifixion, co-resurrection and co-ascension with Jesus experientially real on a personal, individual basis.
What is brokenness? Our flesh, or our “self” apart from God, has been able to get its needs met its way over time by being hidden. If we truly saw our flesh we would be repelled by it, reject it and easily depend on Christ’s life alone. The breaking process does just that: it cracks the shell of the hiddenness of the flesh and exposes it for what it really is — death, decay and directly opposed to our new nature which is holy, righteous and eternal. Coming to the realization of the chasm between depending on our flesh and depending on God is the process of being broken.
The purpose of the breaking process is to make us able to receive His life in our soul (our mind, will and emotions). As long as we rely on our self-strength, we will continue to build flesh, which separates our soul from God and keeps us from depending on Him. Continuing to live after the flesh prevents us from being able to receive the life, the healing, the experience of God’s love that He intends for us to have in our entire being now.
Our flesh gets its needs met through two avenues, inward resources and outward resources. Inwardly, flesh seeks to make us feel good about ourselves, or at least to control how we feel about ourselves. Outwardly, the flesh attempts to control others and our circumstances through various means in order to get its needs met. Like an iceberg, what we see of our flesh is often “just the tip.” So the breaking process also proceeds on these two levels — the inward and the outward — in order to expose the flesh for what it is.
Inwardly, one of the greatest helps our flesh has been to us is to help us to feel good, or at least feel in control. As the flesh is broken, we lose that sense of control, and our emotions often struggle to regain a sense of control. Confusion and dis-connectedness often surface, as we have never NOT depended on our flesh to make us feel good and in control. As God breaks our inward reliance on the flesh, our emotions are no longer the determiner of our state of being, or identity. Remember, your emotions, though important, don’t MEAN anything…just because you’re feeling sad or depressed doesn’t mean you are sad or depressed. If you are a Christian, your new nature, your identity is always victorious, confident, and content. That doesn’t mean you’ll always feel victorious, confident and content. Before we can depend on God, our dependence on feeling “in control” must be broken.
The breaking process usually, though not always, occurs in response to pressure from our outward circumstances. Stressful situations, crises, or an inundation of demands can force us to come to the end of our strength, which is God’s goal. (This is all in God’s timing, and doesn’t necessarily need to occur.) However, when we are overwhelmed by outward circumstances, it’s important that we not focus on getting out of the crisis, but that we respond by depending on God for whatever is needed, even if the situation gets worse. By overwhelming us on the outside, He drives us to our innermost being to see that there’s nothing left to rely on BUT Him. What we have been relying on outwardly is also exposed — where we have been trying to get our needs met through controlling our outward circumstances, like our finances, people, or reputation.
What It Is Not
The breaking process is not simply going through a crisis or experiencing negative emotions. Becoming broken is a work of God designed to expose our flesh. Just because we have gone through tragedy in our lives doesn’t mean we’ve been broken. And though we may have struggled with and even overcome depression or another negative flesh pattern, it doesn’t mean we’ve been through the breaking process. As we learn to know the ways in which God works, we will become more able to recognize His activity in our lives and realize what He is doing and how to respond. This is part of the process of learning to depend, and if we can learn and then instruct others in recognizing the ways of the Lord in reality, we can more readily (though not necessarily more easily or more quickly) help others enter into the breaking process and come out on the other side.
Who Does The Breaking?
An essential aspect of the breaking process is to recognize the source of the breaking. Though our outward circumstances (our boss, family, health), our inner feelings, and even the enemy may all be involved, it is the Lord alone Who is orchestrating the process, merely using these elements to bring us to brokenness. As we proceed through the breaking process, it’s important to remember to not blame anyone — those around us, ourselves, those who may have hurt us in the past, Satan, or even God. If we can remember that this is about building a dependent relationship between ourselves and God, and that it is ALL under His control, we can endure the process with a measure of confidence, and perhaps with a bit less emotional and circumstantial upheaval.
Why It’s Necessary
The breaking process is necessary for many important reasons:
The breaking process reveals and convicts us of our flesh.
Flesh is most evident when we are under stress, so the breaking process is most readily identifiable in overwhelming circumstances or tragic crisis. During the breaking process, what we have been depending upon is exposed for what it is — corrupt, selfish, controlling, and totally opposed to Who God is and who we are now. Without this revelation we cannot truly repent of the flesh, agreeing with God that our flesh cannot be tolerated, and giving Him permission to do with it what He will. (We also agree with Him that the flesh is NOT us, but something we created to protect ourselves.)
The breaking process reveals and convinces us of our new nature/identity.
As the power of the flesh is broken, the rest of our being — our soul and body — comes into alignment with our new spiritual nature. And the more freedom and oneness we experience, the more we embrace the truth about who and what we now are. Our confidence grows, based not on head knowledge but personal experience, and we are more able to enjoy eternal life now.
The breaking process teaches us dependence on Christ alone.
The breaking process breaks our independence, which is simply self-dependence, or reliance on our own strength. During the process we will grasp at those things that used to provide stability and comfort. When these fail, which they will, we will likely resort to beliefs and control methods that others use, or even those we think up ourselves. We will read books, go for counseling, repent, fast, pray, anything we can think of in order to bring us “back” to the place we were before the current crisis began. Yet “back” is the last place the Lord wants us to go, so He actually retreats, waiting for us to expend our energy and acquiesce to His sovereignty not only in theory but also in reality. When we have been separated from that which we once relied on, God begins the process of bringing our soul and body into the same dependence our spirit is already experiencing.
The breaking process proves God’s love, faithfulness and persistence toward us.
We can say we know God is all these things — faithful, loving, long-suffering — but until we experience the lengths He goes to in bringing us into a dependent relationship with Him, we do not have a clear understanding of what these words mean. It is through the breaking process that our soul is stripped and we stand naked before God. Instead of condemning us for being naked, God clothes us with His own robe, from His own closet, even putting His signet ring of authority on our finger. At last we recognize that we have been changed from being friends, servants, bond-slaves and forgiven sinners into His beloved sons.
The breaking process exposes the lies we believe and clarifies the truth.
Even the dimmest of the Lord’s light shines bright in the darkness of the breaking. He will almost seem ruthless at times, as He exposes the variety and magnitude of the lies we have not only believed, but have been substituting for His life. But with a breath of His grace the lies are discarded, and His simple truths — that He loves us, we are His, and that eternal life is simply knowing Him — become real to us in a way no mere teaching ever could accomplish.
The breaking process makes us able to receive what God wants to give us.
God’s goal for the breaking process is not to crush us or make us conform to His demands, but to make us able to receive in our soul the life, love, acceptance and honor which He has already given to us in our spirit. It is only through the breaking process that we truly become who and what God designed us to be. As we are broken, we become whole; as we are shaken, we become stable; as we are separated from that which brings death, we are joined into life.
What It Looks Like To Others
It may or may not be evident to those around us that we are going through this process, depending on the methods God is using in our lives and how our flesh and temperament react under stress. What is important is that we don’t rely on others to tell us how we’re doing; this work is strictly between us and God. Because God often uses outward circumstances, our family or anyone we spend a lot of time with may be involved in the process. Sometimes there will be flesh flying all over the place, perhaps more than ever, as the breaking exposes what we’ve been relying on. Don’t look to the outward appearances as an indicator of how you’re doing…the Lord is often willing for us to lose our job, strain relationships, and even endanger our health, in order to bring us to brokenness. This is how important this is, so let the breaking process have its way.
Once you’ve experienced brokenness yourself, you’re likely to be able to recognize when others are going through it as well. It’s important to not interfere, either in helping another to get through the experience or to try to shorten or make your own experience easier. The best thing you can do for others and for yourself is to be patient and encouraging: God knows what He is doing, and it will be worth the wait.
How We Respond
Reading about this process, even understanding or expecting it will not give you any control over it. God alone controls when and how it occurs, how long it lasts, and what it looks and feels like for each and every one of us. It is an extremely individualized experience. So get off your own back, and give yourself a break! As time passes, you will see where you over-reacted, or tried to manipulate the process, or took a couple of “wrong turns.” It is partly through this process that the blaming, griping, self-condemnation and accusation is exposed, so don’t be surprised as it comes out! So what! There is no “right” way of doing it — because there is no standard! However you get through it, that’s the way it “should” be done. So as you go through this, don’t try to understand or compare your experience, but simply endure in confidence, knowing that God intends for us only our ultimate good, and we will be grateful that He did things His way.
Evidence Of Brokenness
So how do you know if you or someone else has gone through the breaking process? There are three major clues that reveal brokenness in an individual. By the way, each person goes through this on their own — no one can do it for you, on your behalf, nor can you claim brokenness because your spouse, parent, or person in authority has been broken.
1. Brokenness is evidenced by a Victorious Mentality.
Where once a person may have bemoaned their present situation or past circumstances, the “victim” or “martyr” mentality has been replaced by a new realization of who they are, gradually changing the language, perception and behavior to line up with the whole person they truly are. The greatest outward change is that they will no longer blame others or pity themselves, or even draw attention to themselves or what they have been through or are going through.
2. Brokenness is evidenced by an Attitude of Gratitude.
Somehow the process develops such a level of acceptance of the ways of the Lord that even those circumstances that were once dreaded become embraced, and everything around them, all things, people, circumstances, their past, present, and future, are all appreciated as gifts from God, and allowed to be whatever He decides they were, are, or are becoming. As we experience the freedom that is the result of brokenness, we allow others to be where they’re at as well, gratefully. This is not the saccharin-sweet attitude of blind denial, but the experiential knowledge of having been through the darkness, and now knowing by experience that truly all things are lovely, wonderful, and from God.
3. Brokenness is evidenced by Graciousness.
The final proof of being broken is a willingness to accept what God gives. We have been freed from our selves in order to be made whole, to be healed, set free. We are given a contentment in our present circumstances, an expectation and a hope for our future, and a redemption of our past. He makes us able to accept His boundless love, unconditional acceptance and approval, and His pride and excitement for each of us as individuals.
Hindrances To Brokenness
Though the process of being broken is completely in God’s hands, there are things that we do that extend the length of the process or make it harder than it needs to be. We can even delay going through the process, putting it off until God gathers the circumstances together again. These hindrances are also under God’s control; the fact that you are reading this was known by Him, and what effect it may or may not have on your life is under His control as well.
1. Brokenness can be hindered by trying to understand.
We often think that if we could just understand what is going on it would be easier to cooperate, or we could help in some way. But God doesn’t need us to understand, or even cooperate! What the desire to understand is often really exposing is that we want to control what and how God moves in our lives. The strength of our mind is still self-strength, which is flesh. Answers to your questions will not make it easier — nothing will make it easier! Now of course, we all want to understand what God is doing, that’s why you’re reading this, but there will come a point in time where you will have to give up the notion that understanding will make a difference. The Lord may give you understanding — but it won’t change a thing!
2. Brokenness can be hindered by the strength of our self-resources (flesh).
All of us have developed flesh as a survival method of getting our needs met. But some of us, for reasons only God knows, have more and/or stronger flesh than others. Or we could say, some are better at using their self-resources than others. The point of the breaking process is to reveal such flesh; if we insist on continuing to rely on our own strengths (or weaknesses) we can hinder the breaking process, though this, again, is completely under God’s control, and comes as no surprise to Him.
3. Brokenness can be hindered by the interference of other people.
The phrase co-dependency has become quite popular in recent years and describes the cycle of caregiver, rescuer, and victim as roles that help give meaning and a sense of order and control to peoples’ lives. Allowing people to function in these roles to manipulate us into playing complementary roles hinders the breaking process in our lives. For instance, allowing someone to rescue you in some way from a breaking-circumstance in your life hinders the process, as does playing the role of rescuer for someone else. But as the process continues, we learn to recognize these roles, reject them, and gain dependence on Christ. It is only then that His life, through us, can help other people, if and how He chooses.
When we talk about being broken, we are mainly referring to the initial breaking of the self-life, which initiates the process of the bonding of our three parts — spirit, soul and body — together. This is not to say that there are not subsequent breakings, only that once this initial breaking is accomplished, the remainder of the process is less intense. Subsequent breakings will involve specific aspects of the soul (and to a lesser extent the body), dealing with a breaking of the mind, will and emotions. These smaller breakings are “easier” not because there may be more understanding, but because there will be a greater acceptance and experience of dependence.
Understanding His Plan
Be aware ahead of time that there is a breaking process that all Christians must go through in order to enter into a dependent relationship with God. In order to receive His strength, control and life, ours must be broken. A major way the Lord does this is to require of us that we give up, relinquish our rights to run our own lives, make our own decisions, or even decide what God’s rights are. We will be looking at this part of the process in detail next.
Adapted from Practical Christianity by Dianne Thomas