When Israel had grown hard and stubborn, much like the dried clay of a jar, God decided to break her. But He did so not out of His wrath, or disgust, but because He so very much cared about her well-being. Israel, like you and me, can become spoiled, if you will, in the hands of the Potter. But God does not smash into pieces the hardened clay. He reworks it into another vessel, as seems good to Him. (Jer. 18:4) But to do so He must bend and break and remold us -- uncomfortable means toward our restoration and well-being. Still, we cannot skip the process and expect to be made whole.
I fear that too many of us, myself included, shun being broken and yet expect to be more and more sanctified and conformed to the image of Christ. We forget that even Jesus Himself, even though He is the Son of God, learned obedience through what He suffered. (Heb. 5:8) If Jesus suffered being broken by the Spirit of God, in order to learn obedience to the Father, should we not expect the same? Moreover, since He is the Son of God, how much more brokenness should we expect to endure in order to become a pleasing vessel in the hands of God? What we fear as weakness, i.e., being broken, God views as strength.
In other words, learning how to be obedient through suffering the difficulty of being broken requires great inner strength, and viewing the same as weakness is actually wrong. What is weak is trying to be strong, trying to avoid being broken, because only when we realize and embrace our inherent weakness, when compared to God's sovereignty, can we then be strong. This is how life works in God's kingdom. The greatest is the servant, not the one served. The stalwarts are the humble, not the proud. The mourners are the comforted, not the exuberant. The weak are strengthened, not the strong.
Kingdom living is topsy turvy to our cultural norm. In this life, one has to exalt oneself in order to get noticed or advanced. In God's kingdom the genuinely lowly and humble are exalted. In this life, the perceived strong, brash and bold are looked to as role models. In God's kingdom, the gentle, simple and self-effacing are spiritual examples of godliness. But being humbled, being conformed, and being made holy is a process that is both painful and fearful -- painful, because the process chips away at our ego and self-reliance; fearful, for much the same reason, except that the fear also relates to the breaking away of life-habits with which we have become too familiar. We fear what life would be like without them.
Truth be told, this fear often keeps us from growing in Christlikeness, and so we try to be strong and convince ourselves that this strength pleases the Lord. But whatever inner strength is derived from ourselves, and not the Spirit of God, cannot be pleasing to Him. If Jesus Himself, the Son of God, allowed His own spirit to be broken by the Holy Spirit, we should expect nothing less than the same, but perhaps even more of the same. Do not fear the breaking. Shun the praise lavished upon you by others. You are not great: Jesus is great. Who shall inherit the future kingdom? The meek and humble, not the celebrity, the proud and the strong. Receive the humbling breaking of the Spirit of God as life itself.
This post was written by William Birch. You can find his blog here: http://www.williambirch.net