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Why is God breaking you down?

Sometimes, when I'm sharing with Christians about tough times, I ask them: 'Why do you think God is breaking you down like this?'

Almost without fail they say something like, 'I know, I know, it's to make me stronger.'

No!  No, no, no, a thousand times no!

He's breaking you down to make you broken.  Don't, whatever you do, toughen up!

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Ps 51:17)

The LORD is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Ps 34:18)

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed. (Luke 20:18)


0 thoughts on “Why is God breaking you down?

  1. codepoke

    I've been around the teaching of brokenness before, and I've seen it horribly misused. I'll be hard to persuade on this one.

    Your first verse refers to God respecting a broken heart after sinning.
    Your second refers to God saving the broken from their brokenness.
    Your third refers to breaking God's enemies because they reject Christ.

    Can you find me a verse that says God decides to break his children?

  2. glenscriv

    Hi Codepoke,

    Good to be challenged! Even if I fail your challenge let me say that the point I'm interested in for this post is not who does the breaking but what our response to broken-ness is. Even if we come to the conclusion that God does not break His children, the point is that when we find ourselves broken our response is not to toughen up but to embrace our condition as broken-hearted, poor in spirit, humbled, little children with our heavenly Father. Unfortunately many people take the opposite route and see it as a sign they need to 'toughen up.'

    But on the question of whether God 'breaks' His children - let me cut right to the chase:

    "It was the LORD's will to crush Him and to cause Him to
    suffer." (Isaiah 53:10)

    "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man who is close to Me!" declares the LORD Almighty. "Strike the Shepherd..." (Zech 13:7)

    Was it specifically the word 'broken' you were interested in?

    I'd be interested to hear about the broken-ness teaching you've heard. To be honest I haven't heard much/any. Perhaps I've wandered into a minefield unwittingly?


  3. Bobby Grow


    excellent post!

    Here are a few more passages for codepoke to consider, by the way code, I am sorry that you heard teaching on brokeness that was abusive or misused; but since you recognize it was misapplied teaching--then hopefully you are open to hearing sound teaching on this. Anyway here are some passages to consider:

    Heb. 12:7-12: God disciplining us, his children, through hardship.

    II Cor. 4:10: We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. In fact just start in II Cor. 4:6, and work to vs. 10

    II Cor. 1:1-11 provides some of the best balance on this issue that I know of.

    Philippians 1:29:For to you it has been granted not to only believe in Him, but to suffer for His sake.

    The book of Job

    But I think II Cor. 1:1-11 provides the most clairvoyant reason for suffering, so that we don't rely on ourselves--but Christ. The cool thing is that because of the resurrection, "having the sentence of death" on us; is not the end! In fact what appears to be the end, because of suffering, is actually the beginning for Christ (cf. Gal 2:20, II Cor. 2:12-14). Anyway there are many many more passages on this, and I think the balance on this is as we focus on the person of Christ in us.

    Oh yeah lets not forget the prophets, and the "suffering servant motif" that Glen highlights.

    Anyway hope this helps "Code" . . . lets also not forget I Cor. 1:17-25 and Martin Luther's "Theology of the Cross" (which if you want I could discuss further).

  4. Rob Hines

    Excellent post. I might suggest that a synonym for "being broken" is "being refined". Certainly the process of taking raw ore, and "breaking it down" to remove the dross and seperate the pure elements.

    May I ever find myself "broken", in the hands of the loving Craftsman who has already made me whole, though I've yet to fully realize it.

  5. codepoke

    Aargh! No time. I will be back, though. Thank you for your thoughtful responses.

    Yes, the Father intentionally broke Him Who needed no breaking, specifically so that He would not have to break us who could not endure it.

    I agree with your goal to educate our response to our suffering. We should rest and embrace our God and Father through it all.

    The difference between "breaking" and "disciplining" is one of not semantics, but impressions.

    Discipline: When I have allowed my feet to stray from the path, even because of the hardness of my heart, God disciplines me with the rod of love. He restores me to my heart's true desire.

    Breaking: I am bitterly opposed to God, and He can only have His way with me by bringing violence into my life. He will shatter my will, and any way in which I fail to bow the neck is an act of opposition to Him, and will postpone my final breaking.

    The difference between the two is that one is scriptural, and the other is not. The doctrine of breaking comes from taking God's description of His way with His enemies and applying it to His children. God has laid our stripes on His Son, and the sin we now endure is not done "by me, but by the flesh that dwells within me."

    God's discipline is always kind toward us. When we bring pain on ourselves, He disciplines us kindly and restores us to a place of peace as quickly as possible. The teaching of breaking reverses this order, and makes God into an implacable foe - to our flesh, yes, but to us as well.

  6. Dan Hames

    In my own experience (which of course isn't authoritative in any way!), I think the Lord has smashed my idols; and that's broken me to some extent. It does really kill when your self-built security structures are knocked over, but ultimately it's been for the sake of building Christ even higher in my heart/mind.

  7. glenscriv

    Bobby, good Scriptures. And yes, we always want to hear more about Luther's theology of the cross!

    Rob, refining is a very good way of thinking about it. It's exactly where Zechariah 13 heads - after the Shepherd is struck, the sheep scatter, two thirds are struck, a third are refined in the fire (v7-9). And this dove-tails with some of Codepoke's points - the Father strikes the Son so that we are not struck in the same way. The enemies are struck, the remnant are *refined*. None of this is a pleasant experience! And nobody escapes - not even the Shepherd. Yet, as Codepoke notes, the way in which the Shepherd and the way in which the enemies are affected is different to the way the remnant are.

    Dan, I think that's quite a biblical way of describing 'broken-ness'

    See for e.g. Prov 18:12 "Before his downfall (lit. 'breaking') a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honour."

    Here breaking is basically parallel to 'humbling'. The proud need humbling through breaking. (Note also Daniel 4:37 "Those who walk in pride He is able to humble.")

    And in Jeremiah we have a particular way in which the LORD breaks us - His word:

    Jeremiah 23:9 "Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the LORD and his holy words."

    The Psalms bear witness to this broken-ness being the experience of the believer - especially after acknowledgement of sins (idols).

    Ps 51:17; 147:3. cf also Ps 34:18;

    And building Christ higher in our hearts - yes indeed.

    Deuteronomy 32:39 "See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no-one can deliver out of my hand."

    Notice the Agent (the LORD!) but notice also the order - death then life, wounding then healing. This was the way of the LORD Himself (death then life), it will be the way of His people too. But as it was with Him, so will we be revived and healed to a state 'even higher' than before.

    Codepoke, I agree with two of your concerns:

    "Yes, the Father intentionally broke Him Who needed no breaking, specifically so that He would not have to break us who could not endure it. "

    The reason the Son is crushed is precisely so that His bride will not have to endure that exact same crushing. Hence my comments on Zech 13 to Rob. The point of Isaiah 53 is that the Servant is crushed in our place and on our behalf - 'He was crushed for our iniquities.'

    Sometimes I think of Mark 10 in this regard. The sons of Zebedee both can and can't drink the cup Jesus will drink and be baptized with the baptism He is baptised with. (v38-39). In one sense it is impossible to be baptized with the fire with which Jesus is baptized (He suffers this in our place). In another, it is impossible not to be baptized with fire, for we follow Him and Jesus promises James and John "you will be baptized..." Again, distinction but still continuity.

    Secondly you are concerned to uphold the truth that "His way with His enemies" is not to be applied identically "to His children." Yes indeed. And that again is the point in Zech 13 - two thirds are struck, one third is refined. There is a vital difference. Nonetheless all are affected.

    That was the point of my quotation of Luke 20:18 in the post. There are those on whom Christ falls (I take them to be the enemies) and they are "crushed". And there are those who fall on Christ (I take them to be the believers) and they are "broken to pieces". All are dramatically affected (!) yet there is differentiation between believer and unbeliever.

    So yes it's different for Christ than for us and it's different for non-Christians than for Christians.... nonetheless the Rock is gonna do something painful to everybodyl!! Or, to put it another way, there is fire for all!

    Think of 1 Peter 4:17:

    "For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?"

    Again we see that there is fire for all (cf v12 - the 'fiery trial'). It began with the Head of the house (Christ), for Him it was a substitutionary, purging, punishing fire. For His house it will not be punishing but it will be refining. And as it comes on all the earth 'what will become' of those outside the house?!

    So with all those important distinctions in mind I want to maintain that the LORD does break even His people - but always with the goal of binding up and reviving them higher than they were to begin with.

    Think for instance of the curses and blessings of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. First come the curses (and places like Deut 4 and Deut 30 make it pretty plain that the curses *will* come). Then afterwards the promise of gathering, re-planting, binding up etc. See how this theme is taken up in Is 42:3; 61:1; Ezek 34:16. The LORD will bind up the broken-hearted and make them more prosperous than before when He ruined them!
    See Deut 32:39 which I quoted to Dan.

    Putting it all together I see the believer as someone who hides in the wounds of Christ. We have kissed the Son and taken refuge in Him. We will not be struck the way He was, nor the way He will strike His enemies. But to take refuge in the Suffering Servant is to have 'fellowship in His sufferings' (Phil 3:10). It is to 'carry around the death of Christ' (2 Cor 4:10). It is to be crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20). It is to fall on the Stone (Luke 20:18). It is still a breaking. It is the good breaking, the breaking that heals. But still a breaking.

  8. codepoke

    Very good. Your defenses and clarifications are all constructive and valuable. I am much more comfortable now with your meaning. I would only urge you to define brokenness very carefully to your readers.

    A horse can be "broken" profitably, but a political prisoner can be broken too, and he will never be whole again. A muscle can be broken down profitably by a hard exercise session, but a mind can be broken and never return to sanity. In English, the word "broken" might stir any number of connotations that you may not be able to predict. And only in Christianity and horse training is the word positive - and it's getting more and more negative in horse training.

    I very much understand the Lord's fearless use of the rod. I don't need to be told how deep and long his wounds can last, nor how valuable His discipline. These are honest teachings, and it is necessary to teach every believer not to resist that which we should embrace.

    Just know that when you use the word, "brokenness," you're going to hit buttons in some of us, and risk confusing others who have not grown up under Christian dogma.

  9. glenscriv

    Yes, important clarifications, I agree. shabar in the Hebrew is the word for breaking bones, teeth, bars, yokes, rocks - but also for hearts and spirits. I maintain that it's right to use the word and that it can also be more pastorally sensitive to do so - simply because being broken hurts! It's great to know that the bible acknowledges how violent it can feel to be crushed in spirit etc.

    But, yes, it's been good to add in these clarifications too. Hopefully my latest post will also show that the 'breaking' the Lord does is not at a distance - but that He joins us in the refining fire.

    I've really appreciated the interactions, thanks Codepoke.

  10. Pingback: Trusting God’s Sovereignty - Trusting God’s Son « Christ the Truth

  11. matt

    i think broken doesn't have to have violence or perhaps even anything negative. When breaking a horse, the purpose is to make the horse realize that although it is much bigger and stronger than the rider, it must harness it's strength and become gentle. Not to say we are stronger and more powerful than God because we definitely are not!! Being broken simply means to have your eyes opened to something different that you're used to seeing. In the relationship to Christ I would say being able to let God open our eyes to those around us less fortunate and being able to notice the needy. Brokenness is allowing God to take away anything not of Him that hinders us from seeing his true purpose.

  12. Aaron

    I can relate with this... Through 10 years of marriage... I've been what you would call a "pretender" in Christ... Well during my 2nd separation, because of the emptiness I felt, I asked God to "kick my rear end" so to speak... When I said those words, strangely enough I understood the weight of them... And actually regretted it... It was like a storm cloud rolled in over me... And ever since I've been broken, beaten, felt pain that I cannot describe, my wife has distanced herself from me, and because of my erratic emotional behavior, has said that she is thinking about moving herself and the kids to another state... I have NEVER felt anything like this in my life... I am lost socially, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally... So much that I feel as if I'm going nuts... But I'm starting to realize (slowly but surely) that God is doing this because he loves me... And he wants to renew me... I just hope that I don't ruin that with my selfish flesh and free will... I am a very selfish man... It's always been about me... And I think that's why this is happening... And I FEAR IT! FEAR GOD! So much so that I am "censoring" everything I do and say for fear of his wrath... For anybody that's going through this type of spiritual cleansing... Understand that God is doing this because he loves you... And trust me, there will be times that you will take that bible, throw it across the room, curse him, complain... So that will be very hard to keep in mind... But always remember that... And if you ARE going through this... Just know there is light at the end of the tunnel if you stay close to God... Trust me, there will be times where it will "hurt" to pray, for fear of more pain.... But hang in there... God loves us!

  13. Glen

    Hi Aaron,

    So sorry life has been tough. We have a Father who loves us unconditionally, we have Jesus as our Companion in all suffering and the Spirit who comforts us. The point is not the desert trial, the point is the Lord who *will* bring us home. It just sucks that the path is always the desert! Hope you know the fellowship and strengthening of Jesus today.


  14. Bobbie

    Goodmorning, I just wanted to say is beyond being GOOD!!! And He exactly what we need when when we need it... This was this first time I have ever been on this web page. Anyway, from the first post to the last one, I needed. Thanks, Gentlemen for your words of reassurance and encouragement to continue this race little while longer. God bless each and everyone of you. By the way I just wanted to say that I am currently in the fire, being refined and it does not feel good at all. But, today I trust God with my whole heart... I know now that my wilderness will not last forever and hope not too much longer. Anyway, I will stand not by my might but through Christ... Be Blessed!!!

    Your Sister In Christ,

  15. Ken

    Bobbie, what you wrote reminded me of this; But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.(2 Cor.12:9) Have a great Day !!!

  16. Glen

    Dear Bobbie, when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fire they had their nearest and dearest experience of the Son of God (Daniel 3). I pray that you will know Jesus closer than a Brother at this fiery time.

    God bless,

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