We all long for hope. We just don’t like the packaging it comes in.
In the Gospel, hope and brokenness flow together as one. They would seem to be opposites to most at first glance, not having anything to do with one another. Our ability to see brokenness and humility as gifts, allows us to truly grasp and understand hope. Let me give you a few pictures of this.
Jonathan Edwards, in his writing “The Religious Affections” says, “
Christian affections [fruits] are like Mary’s precious ointment that she poured on Christ’s head, that filled the whole house with a sweet odor…until the box was broken, the ointment could not flow, nor diffuse its odor; so gracious affections flow out of a broken heart…A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble broken-hearted love.”
We see this as well throughout Scripture in 2 Corinthians 4 and Psalm 51:7 just to name a few. “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”
If we are vessels of Christ, then indeed we must be broken so that others might experience what we hold inside. We see this again clearly in the life of Mother Teresa. A Roman Catholic nun who devoted her life to help the destitute around the world, Mother Teresa embodied this understanding. Many were unaware of her deep suffering. In a very personal letter, she writes:
“He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy. When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes—He is the one who always accepts you. My children, you don’t have to be different for Jesus to love you. Only believe—You are precious to Him. Bring all you are suffering to His feet—only open your heart to be loved by Him as your are. He will do the rest. You all know in your mind that Jesus loves you…”
Many people were shocked to learn that Mother Teresa experienced very real and tangible ache and brokenness as described in the posthumous book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta. I think it was so shocking because she was such a blessing to all, but it was out of her brokenness that God was able to work.
The essence of humility is found in the life of Jesus. Paul exhorts believers to mimic Christ:
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2:3-8
Three times in this passage we see the word “humble.” Why is humility of such importance? Because anything else stands in the way between us and Jesus. If we are to give witness to the Light and Hope that has come into the world, we must not cast our own shadows to distract from its brilliance.
This is not a humility of thinking less of ourselves, but as Tim Keller says, a thinking of ourselves less. He says, “the thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”
C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, “As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on thing and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”
If I can stop anchoring every experience and every conversation back to myself, and instead look upward to Christ – I can then experience the hope, the peace, the joy that otherwise evades me.
There are a few stories I don’t normally share, but I want to share one that will shed light on this. Working with at-risk kids in my life, there have been a few instances where I have been falsely accused of something. I have been placed on administrative leave as an investigation is done. I cannot even begin to express the hardship associated with such investigations – it is painful in every way.
Each of these situations ultimately revealed things about myself and my calling and purpose in my life that, although difficult to walk through, has helped shape me in becoming the man and leader I am today. If I tied all of the painful events in my life, without Christ, I could arrive at the wrong conclusions and arrive at the ends of these experiences with bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness. My hope is not in how I arrive at the end of my destination. My hope is that I will arrive at the same conclusion Mother Teresa did: “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
I cannot know true hope if I do not humble myself. I cannot humble myself if I don’t understand that brokenness and suffering are gifts and the pathway to humility and ultimately hope. For me, it requires me to take on the behaviors of a beggar. It is to take on the attitudes of Christ himself.
The only way I can truly express this thought of knowing hope is to see “the gospel is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread,”…and continues to find bread.
There are many themes at work in this scene. We see the one beggar as owning nothing, carrying little, and yet having a great treasure to share: the location of bread. We see in the midst of this seeming poverty, something entirely different than we would expect – generosity, joy, and hope. And why? Because in his brokenness and humility he wants to share the joy of knowing where the bread is. His current condition does not define him, it is the bread itself that does. Knowing where the bread is doesn’t change his condition, but it does give him hope and reliance upon the one who supplies him the bread.
A beggar without hope and pride hoards his treasure. He does not believe his store will be replenished and growls at anyone who would beg from him a crumb. He resents anyone who also finds the bread.
And yet this generous beggar shares. Because this beggar is one who has confronted his own brokenness and responded in humility. He knows he is not his own, and in finding a deep well of hope, wants to share it with others. He has found a bread that will never run out.
Sharing the hope of the Gospel is not telling other beggars where I found the bread once. It’s where I continue to find the bread. Once a beggar, always a beggar. And the challenge for those of us who have found the bread (Jesus Christ), is that the bread cart keeps moving. If I want to know the joy and satisfaction and the hope of the Living Bread, I have to daily pursue the bread cart. I must acknowledge my need (my brokenness) on a daily basis.
In Exodus 16, we are given the story of the manna and quail that the Lord sent to the Israelites to feed them. That food was only supplied for the day (and for two days the day before the Sabbath). If people tried to gather food for more than that day, it spoiled and turned bad and was full of bugs. Each day they had to wait upon the Lord to supply their needs. And He did not fail.
Nothing in Scripture describes this thought better that 2 Corinthians 4:5-10, 13-18. I have put my thoughts in the parenthesis to help give context to this line of thinking:
“You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. (HUMILITY) We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, (THE GOSPEL) and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. (BEGGARS) 6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. (GOSPEL)
7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. (BEGGARS)
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” (BROKENNESS) …
…But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke. (BEGGARS) 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. (BEGGARS OF HOPE)
16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. (BROKENNESS TO HOPE) 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! (HUMILITY TO HOPE) 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (KNOW HOPE)
I hope you truly know the one who gives us hope and you pursue Him with complete abandonment. I also hope that as we pursue that Living Bread daily, we will tell each other where we found it.