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Every morning since he was about 8, my son Dauntless goes out to the chicken coop to collect the eggs. But, this morning was different. He came into the house with a bowl of eggs, shell, and runny yellow yolks all mixed together in a slimy mess, with bits of egg running down his trembling hands. He tripped on the way back to the house.
Brokenness isn’t beautiful. Broken things aren’t beautiful. And, a broken heart definitely isn’t beautiful.
We feel the searing pain of every false smile, faithless friend, disappointment in a spouse, and the hard injustice we see on every side. Life is filled with broken things and, if we’re honest, most of them are on the inside of that person we see in the mirror every morning.
Instinctively, we know there is something better, something whole that life was intended to deliver, but somewhere those plans were destroyed and we live in the aftermath, piecing together disparate parts that don’t fit together so well. And where is the purpose in all that?
Some people speak as if brokenness is beautiful, as if life was intended to be a cubist painting – identifiable as “life” but chunked up, chipped and badly distorted, like a basket of eggs handled by a carless child. A basket of fresh eggs smashed to pieces from a fall is not a good thing. Any child will tell you that.
“You have cancer”, “Your child is severely brain damaged”, “He was killed in a car accident” “Your husband has been cheating on you”, “Your unmarried daughter is pregnant”…. Brokenness is not beautiful. It’s ugly, lonely, disfigured, painful, and perverse.
The mistake is to believe there is no purpose in our pain – that broken things can have no value.
The Creator of all that was right and good (before it was corrupted by sin) says that the worst thing that has happened to you He will use for good. . . . if you let Him. Romans 8:28 assures us of God’s use of our broken places – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Our journey is our own but the human experience is universal, which is why the next time you encounter someone, you can rest assured they are filled with broken places, too, and the good that God brought into existence from the pain you’ve suffered just might be the grace and understanding heart you have for your fellow traveller.
There’s more room in a broken heart and sometimes God has to break our hearts to make room for others.
Brokenness hurts, sending shards of pain throughout our life. Who could want that? Brokenness exacts a high cost but it can also be of great worth in God’s hands. The value of our own brokenness is seen in God’s use of it in the lives of others.
Life has forced you to pay a heavy price but will you receive the value of your brokenness? Will you receive what God has in store for the worst things that have happened to you, allowing Him to bring peace to your heart and good to the lives of others from all the pain, shame, ugliness, and heartache?
. . . . Casting all your care upon Him; for he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
His feet thumped across the lawn and pounded up the steps as I instinctively glanced at the time. 5:50 am. (we’re early risers!) Why is he making such a racket? He’s sure to wake Lisa. A split second passed before Dauntless, our 12 yr. old, crashed through the front door on his race from Grandpa’s place across the driveway, but I was ready. A half-second was all the time I needed to prepare a stern lecture on respecting Mommy by being quiet early in the morning.
But Dauntless didn’t wait for me to draw a breath to begin.
“Daddy!” he gasped, a wild look in his eye, “Grandpa fell!”
He turned to race back, knowing I was hot on his heels. Yes, Dad had fallen, laying unconscious as I arrived – a heart attack – the nurse later explained.
Good Friday hadn’t started out so good. And about 24 hours ago, I stroked my mother’s hair, whispered into her ear that she was deeply loved, and kissed her cheek as she gasped for her final breaths, passing into eternity a few hours later.
And my truck slouches in the driveway with the flat tire our daughter got driving home a day and a half ago – haven’t even looked at it.
Whether its the big or small stuff, for most of us, life comes fast and hard – I like to say . . . with the speed of a fighter jet and the chaos of a riot. Can you identify with that? In the morning, we get things headed in the right direction but before noon there are five left turns in the road ahead. What’s next, Lord?
Have you ever felt like Phillip when Jesus looked over the crowd of 5,000 (not counting women and children) and asked, “Okay, Philip, where are we going to buy food to feed these people?” (MLJV).
Philip knew it was impossible.The disciples had only a little money between them. But Jesus knew it was impossible, too. So why was he asking? Was he setting up Philip for failure?
Sometimes it’s easy to forget, God knows what we know. He knows about the insurmountable mountain you’re facing right now because He gave it to you to face. But He also knows something we don’t know, and this is the part we tend to overlook completely. He doesn’t merely know what we know. He also knows what He intends to do. While we fret about next moves, God would have us remember that our steps, in the moment, were ordered by Him and He has a plan. The next verse says Jesus asked Philip about feeding all those people for a reason . . . to test him. (John 6:6)
God wants to know how we’ll respond when faced with circumstances that only He can handle. Will we trust Him with the impossible and respond in faith? Jesus had a plan for Philip and for that huge crowd, and God has a plan for you, today, right now.
Faith is merely the journey of life lived in the context of belief that God is surprised by nothing, is with us in the midst of every circumstance, and has a purpose for everything we face. Your worst circumstances are God’s invitation to trust Him.
This is what it means to have faith. He was reminding me of this, early this morning, when I read these words from the Sermon on the Mount: The Father knows what you need before you ask, Matthew 6:8. He knew what Philip needed. He knew what Job needed. And, He knows what you and I need . . . before we even ask.
So, we must ask ourselves: Do I trust God? Do I have faith, today? Do we have faith for the little and the life-changing challenges we face? Are you tempted to be overcome with anxiety and fret about the trial you face? None of it is a surprise to God who is just giving you an opportunity to put your trust in Him. He already has a plan for how it will all unfold.
Be still and know that I am God, Psalms 46:10
He knows what we need and He has a plan.
Will you trust Him with that impossible challenge, today?
But, God’s not fair . . . not by our human reasoning.
Paul and Silas were faithfully preaching the Gospel but, what happened to them? Beaten until their back bled and then were put in stocks to spend the night in excruciating pain. Not fair.
Stephen is singled out for ministry to the early Church because he was full of the Spirit and of wisdom. He boldly proclaims the truth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. And what does he get for his boldness and faithfulness? He is stoned for it, and killed. Not fair.
Our flesh wants to scream it sometimes: NOT FAIR!
This is how how my flesh was tempted to respond when I first read Jennifer Ebenhack’s newly-released memoir – a true story of her and her husband’s hopeful idealism, obediently answering God’s call to Haiti to adopt children only to collide for eight years with excruciating trials that to the human understanding will never make sense.
Setbacks, betrayals, money stolen, and then, the criminals – breaking into the Ebenhack’s compound at night, Jennifer coming face to face with a woman’s worst fear and her husband armed with only a bat, pepper spray, and a can of gasoline. Resources completely exhausted, eight years of paying and trying and still government officials prevent them from adopting. All they came to do was love the children. And, then the massive earthquake that devastated the country and sent everything into further chaos, sweeping Jennifer and her family along with it.
Faithful missionaries who want to care for children.
How could You do this to them?
It’s just not . . . fair.
But, God’s ways and thoughts are far above our own.
When will God move and glorify Himself in this sweltering, sun-scorched land?
Check out Jennifer’s new book . . .
This is a gripping, true story that takes Jennifer to the very end of her capacity as a wife, as a mother, as a missionary . . . the very place that God does His best, most miraculous work. He specializes in redeeming the worst things we face.
Faith and hope – that’s the journey God takes us on if we keep our eyes on Him in the darkest times and places. And this is why Jennifer’s story is so powerful – and so good for you and me. God is a redeemer. He gives hope, even in the worst trial, even in the darkest night of a sun-scorched land.
And, where are those beautiful kids that all Hell mobilized to prevent from being adopted into a loving family?
This is an awesome book. Get your copy and be amazed at the God Who carries us through the nightmare of our trials and really does do miracles today.
In a Sun-Scorched Land: A memoir of adoption, faith, and the moving of Haiti’s mountains by Jennifer Ebenhack
An Excerpt . . .
How Will This End?
March 6, 2006
Cape Haitian, Haiti
Jesus, help. It was the most eloquent prayer I could manage.
“Jen!” Jarod whispered. “I’m going to wake Sarah!”
Fear had been no stranger the past four years in Haiti, but this . . . this was terror. A gang of criminals had scaled the wall and dropped into our backyard. A thousand desperate thoughts flooded into my head. I’d professed faith for over two decades, but this night moved trust past theory, past churchy conversations.
I changed out of my pajamas while Jarod raced down the tiled stairs to our intern’s apartment. Moments later, Sarah scrambled up the stairs, followed by Jarod, who toted a five-gallon jug of gasoline he’d snatched from the porch.
Jarod padlocked and dead-bolted the metal door between the stairs and our entryway.
“What about the kids? Should I bring them to our room?” I was trembling, longing to gather and protect my brood—the five munchkins I’d been exasperated with only a few hours before.
“I don’t think we should.” Jarod kept his voice low. His steadiness surprised me. “Better for them to sleep and know nothing.”
You can read the rest by clicking the download below:
In A Sun-Scorched Land
- Paperback: 306 pages
- Publisher: Loyal Arts Media (September 12, 2015)
- Author: Jennifer Ebenhack
Jennifer Ebenhack knows what it is to be broken down by circumstances. She and her husband Jarod had no idea their decision to adopt twins from Haiti would turn into eight years of life in that literal sun-scorched land. While those years of ministry involved joys and sorrows, life-threatening dangers and divine interventions, none of those years included any progress on their children’s adoptions.
But God saw it all. The exhaustion, anxiety, and especially the disintegration of all human hope in the wake of the 2010 Port-au-Prince earthquake.
In a Sun-Scorched Land is a story of dead-ends turned to miracles; of desperation turned to peace. Though your story may differ, this is the story of all our lives: reaching the end of ourselves to find that God alone is our hope and the mover of mountains.
Now available for purchase in both paperback and in digital form:
We can usually respond correctly in those circumstances, can’t we? It’s not rocket science, it’s it’s just human nature. You be good to me and I’ll be good to you.
What about when your husband or wife isn’t being good to you . . . isn’t doing what is right?
Much, much tougher.
And, if we’re honest, we often cut ourselves a little slack when this happens, listening to the voice that says, “I’m justified in responding the way I did because of what he/she did.”
“My Marriage is being damaged. How do you expect me to respond?”
It is justice, of a kind . . . but not the New Covenant, biblical kind. It may feel right in the moment, to our flesh. Sin always initially feels right to our flesh.
God doesn’t draw such distinctions and make provisional allowances for our sin based on the difficult time we are having with our spouse. Instead, He says, “Be holy as I am holy.”
All the time, Lord?
Even when that person I’m married to does things that make me really angry?
Even when I am passed over?
When I feel uncared for and unloved?
Our flesh could never respond with a resolute “yes” to these questions. There’s just too much at stake, humanly speaking, unless . . .
Unless you are walking in the Spirit, yielding your heart to God in that moment and you give a soft answer from a humble heart, receiving from The Vine (Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches) the very life-force sustaining power to respond in holiness.
But that was a moment, one circumstance. What about the long-term challenge? What follows from a prolonged loveless relationship?
A dry, lonely place.
Is God’s sustaining Spirit enough for your holiness there? We know the correct answer.
Even there, God wants your faithfulness.
And, it’s not just wives.
Many husbands write to me, telling of the empty, solitary life they lead with their sinful spouse. And, still, from them, too, God wants faithfulness.
He wants our faithfulness when being faithful comes at a serious cost to the flesh.
In the quietness of the lonely hour, God’s message is unchanged, “Be holy as I am holy.”
It’s easy to love someone who is returning love. This is the point Jesus was making in The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:46 – even “publicans” (the worst sort of person in 1st Century Jewish society) do that.
God’s call to true believers is not for faithfulness only when things are going well but in the hard times every couple eventually faces. The mettle of our faith is revealed – is proven out – in the crucible of difficult relationships.
Someone else’s sin (your spouse’s, for instance) does not prevent you from walking in holiness before God.
What Holiness In Marriage Doesn’t Mean
Being holy does not mean not becoming angry. The Word says, “Be angry but don’t sin.” Ephesians 4:26. Don’t strike out in bitter, harmful words or deeds (or vengeful thoughts) when angry.
Being holy does not mean looking the other way in the face of ongoing sin. If you have a spouse who is walking in sin, apply the steps outlined in Matthew 18.
Being holy does not mean denying who you are and stuffing your feelings until you’re ready to explode. Involve others – godly, older mentors who can shine biblical light on the path before you. Don’t ‘go it’ alone.
Being holy does not mean continuing to live in physically abusive circumstances. Get out and away ASAP and reach out to godly brothers & sisters who will help protect and walk the path of healing with you.
But, being holy does mean not responding in sin when you are sinned against. And, you can do it because the Spirit of God indwells you, has empowered you, and because sin doesn’t have dominion over you. Galatians 5:16 says if you walk in the Spirit you won’t fulfill the desires of the flesh.
Romans 6 says, . . .Consider your selves dead to sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof. . . . . For sin shall not have dominion over you . . . Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness.
You are not a servant of sin. You are not under it’s dominion. You don’t have to do it’s bidding.
You are the servant of righteousness – even (especially) in life’s most challenging moments. God has given us the Spirit, the power, and the authority to say “no” to our impulse to respond in sin.
Will you embrace who you are in Christ and God’s call on your life to “Be holy as I am holy”— in this moment, during this day, in this pilgrimage He has not only called you to walk but is walking with you, right now?
Godliness, holiness, in the face of being wronged in marriage is not natural. It’s supernatural. It’s the work of the Spirit in your life and is a powerful testimony of God’s grace – a testimony others are observing and your spouse is experiencing. It’s the testimony God desires for your life.
Will you let Him do that work in you?
P.S. If you could use a fresh perspective on loving your spouse, these books can have a major positive impact if wives and husbands not only read them but follow through with what they say. Check them out HERE
Our first several years of marriage were pretty much free of serious hardship – oh, things happened that we thought were difficult but the first real challenge? That would be the birth of our Little Sparrow.
Few aspirations match the hopes parents have for a soon-to-be born child. We were no exception. Even though this child would bring the running total to five, we were eager to see who this unique little creation of God would be . . . and then a flurry of medical gowns and Lisa was hastily prepped for an emergency C Section.
Everything’s okay, isn’t it? . . . Just like the first four . . . Why would anything be different, this time?
How do you cope when the Dr. tells you your new baby is severely brain-damaged and is, in so many words, a vegetable? I kept it together while he was there but could feel a growing fire in my chest, as if the sinews of my heart were being ripped apart.
Daddy wants to protect.
Daddy wants to fight.
But, there’s not one thing Daddy can do to stop what was happening . . . what had already happened.
When the door clicked shut behind the good Dr., I turned to Lisa – my lover, my friend and oh, how we cried.
In one moment all the hopes, dreams, and aspirations for a new little life, for our little girl, vanished.
Have you been there, too? Or maybe you’re living there right now – searching for understanding and the strength to carry on in the face of deepest sorrow, or a bitter challenge.
In times like these, we need to remember Job’s life and response to God . . . God listened but then powerfully reminded him that He is sovereign God, almighty – in the stillness and in the storm.
God knows every detail about you including the worst thing you are facing right now. The book of Job gives us a “peek behind the curtain.” Satan is at work – in every trauma, trouble, and trial we face – but so is God.
There’s a line in an old hymn I love that goes like this: He will sanctify to you your deepest distress. You see, God never gives you the grace for someone else’s trials but He always gives you the grace for what He calls you to walk through.
Will you receive it?
He will take that trial your Enemy meant as dark and dirty and sanctify it – literally make it clean – if you trust and yield to His light in the midst of your troubles.
In that hospital room, I knelt (fell to my knees) beside the bed, desperately grasping Lisa’s hand . . .
“Oh God, I don’t understand why our little girl has to be hurt like this . . . it makes no sense to me . . .
but I still trust you . . .
we still believe that you are good, even though we don’t see or understand.”
Then we cried a lot more.
Our faith is only real if it can weather the storm. In the midst of the storm, God calls us to believe the Truth – that He will never leave us or forsake us. Matthew 28:20 says ” . . . I am with you alway . . .”
Circumstances often make us feel that this isn’t the case, that we’re on our own, but facts don’t change regardless of how we feel. God is with us.
He is there, in your deepest struggle. Do we truly believe what we’ve been telling everyone we believe? Do we believe that God is good in the shadows of life, or only in the sunshine?
But, don’t get the wrong idea. From time to time, I still get emotional over what might have been. Sorry – maybe a super Christian would just forge ahead in total strength and conviction and smiles, but this Daddy? I have my moments.
Like the other day when some kids were visiting, running all over the yard and Little Sparrow leaned over to me and whispered in my ear, “I wish I could run,” or when I’m at some event like we were, recently, where there’s a little country dancing and I see Little Sparrow in her wheel chair, her longing eyes watching the other kids laughing and playing . . . yeah, I still cry.
Little Sparrow’s heart was made for dancing, too.
It’s times like these that we have to remind ourselves we have a great hope, and hold fast to it. The Bible teaches that Little Sparrow is going to receive a new, redeemed body, like the resurrected body of the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:23). We have a hope, and God is asking you in the midst of your trial to hold fast to the hope He has given through the promises in His word.
Romans 15:13 says, “Now the god of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”
We don’t have to ‘go it alone’. For those who will trust Him and believe, He makes available the power of the Holy Spirit so even in the midst of trials, heartache, and trouble of every kind, we can abound in hope. That’s an encouraging thought.
God knows my precious little girl’s heart was made for dancing. He created her for His glory which is why following the The Great Marriage Supper of The Lamb, I’m thinking there’s going to be a big dance and I’m pretty sure I’ll have to stand in line to dance with Little Sparrow . . . just behind Jesus.
Welcome home Little Sparrow . . . may I have this dance?