Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bitter? Brave? or Broken?

Bitter, brave or broken... I believe those are the choices we have when facing a trial. We can go through a trial being brave, or strong. Or we can go through a trial with bitterness, anger, and resentfulness. Or we can allow ourselves to be broken, humbled and changed as we journey through a trial.

Looking back over my life I have found that I have not taken the bitter road. I'm not trying to sound pious or anything, but there is absolutely nothing good that comes out of bitterness. I've seen bitterness in the hearts of people (family) since I was a child. They live a lonely, sad, depressing, and angry life. Bitterness keeps the injury or offense alive every day. If you so much as ask a person carrying bitterness, "So, whatever happened between you and so-and-so?" The story will pour of out them like water from a pitcher. Every detail of the situation exactly explained. All the quotes sound verbatim, with inflections and emotions as if the argument had happened yesterday. The story is alive in them and very real even though it may have happened years ago.

I remember the extended family split when I was a kid - one Uncle "cut-off" his brother-in-law. From that moment on, every time there was a wedding or funeral they had to sit on the opposite sides of the room from each other. All someone had to say was, "Uncle Johnny why don't you be the bigger person and reconcile?" The next thing you could hear was the complete reenactment of the fight that had happened years ago. It was a sight. And honestly, for my life, I want the opposite. I want to move on from whatever the trial was, forgive, and hopefully forget. I don't even want the 'stink' of the trial on me or around me. Please don't misunderstand me to say that every time someone has hurt me or I've gone through some trial that there hasn't been a negative effect on my heart - there has been, but it's just not been bitterness. I have a lack of trust towards those who have hurt me, but never bitterness.

I will say the road I chose for most of the trials I went through as a young child, teenager, and young adult was that of being brave. I'd weather the storm, ride it to its end and then jump back into life. I didn't hang out in the pain of it all for very long. I was like a charging horse with blinders on. I had to keep moving, keep reaching and working toward my goals.

In the past, choosing bravery as a way to get through a trial I was also like a soldier. Marching forward no matter what grenade was thrown, or what bullets were flying by, I marched on. I 'd see the problem, but wouldn't allow it to slow me down or even take the time to look at the collateral damage. My job was to march and for that time of my life I think that was the right thing to do. There was so much sadness around me that I think if I had stopped for a moment I would not have had the strength to press on. The sadness would have made me sit and cry, and at that time I didn't have the hope of Christ in my life to get me up on my feet again. It was a season of bravery. But as with all soldiers in a battle, if they make it through physically unscathed, and if they've had to march past the bodies of fellow comrades, there is a great deal of pain to be dealt with in their heart when the war is over. So, yes, I made it through trials like a soldier, but once I made it through I had to take time for recovery, that is, after asking Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. Before knowing Jesus I journeyed on as if nothing had happened.

From my mid-twenties and thirties to the present, I have fought against being brave and have chosen the road of being broken. I am now and have been for quite some time in a season of brokenness. When a trial comes, I face it full on. I don't try to go around it, or dodge its bullets. I deal with it and yell, "INCOMING!" but I don't duck. I am not actually choosing to be broken, it is though, what happens when you allow the trial to be used by God to change you. Brokenness and waiting go hand-in-hand, I think. The impulse is to run, to dive, to hide, but also to wait...wait on the Lord to bring the answers. Waiting on Him to bring the healing also brings brokenness. I don't feel like I'm being 'remolded' per se, it's more like a breaking and a rebuilding. As the vase of my life is being broken, God is piecing me back together taking out the parts that are of no use to Him and replacing it with new pieces. I used to like all the 'pieces' that made me, but as God has slowly replaced me for Him, I see how much more of Him I love in me.

Psalm 51:15-17
"Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise."

Psalm 34:17-18
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delievers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 147:3
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.

Being broken isn't easy. It is a decision as is being brave or bitter through a storm of life. But with brokenness there comes a newness, a compassion for others, a deeper love for God, a spirit of gratefulness and a joy that is unspeakable!

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1-3)

*This article was published on the CBN website: Bitter? Brave? or Broken?


  1. well stated, Ellen. I agree with you as I have experienced some of the same circumstances in life. I am thankful that you are allowing this trial to produce the necessary work of God in you. In my most recent trial at the end of 2012, I remember saying, this doesn't feel good, but I welcome God's character refining work in my life! He is faithful, isn't He?

    Can I also encourage you by reminding you that this trial is necessary? The Father knew that you would endure the flames with faith in Him, and He is equipping you for the next chapter. I believe only through this stripping away of the old will your renewed spiritual eyes be able to see His leading you into a realm of kingdom work requiring even greater faith.

    Love and prayers!

  2. Thank you, Renee.
    I am a broken vessel for the Lord.