We are all born broken.
There's a crack, a fissure running down the middle of each one of us even when we can't have done anything to cause it - a fracture which originates in Eden and marks us all with death and defeat.
And every day of our lives in this world wedges the crack a little deeper, a little wider.
In the beginning, all we can do is absorb the blows while our worldview is pounded into shape by the sledgehammer of a flawed reality. With each endless, methodical thud, we are learning what we are, what life is about, what matters, and who God is. We haven't yet developed the ability to pick and choose which blows will hit us square, and which we will deflect; whether it's sharp words from a parent or a simplistic retelling of a Bible story, there is no critical filtration system. We simply intake it all - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
The split down our core being grows and expands, reaching spidery fingers of brokenness into every sacred portion of our lives - our work, our relationships, our religion, our health - and it all begins to break down. It's all about to shatter.
We are all broken (and maybe still breaking)
By the time we reach an age where our brains have developed enough to understand that we don't have to accept every thought or belief or idea or emotion that life offers to slam us with, we are all but destroyed - fundamentally crippled.
Some of us believe we have no worth, because the people that mattered most never told us otherwise.
Some of us live to people-please and impress, because we were taught that someone else's happiness was our responsibility.
Some of us dwell under the constant shadow of guilt, because we have projected the standards and demands of our parents onto the nature of God.
And here in our crippled and broken state - whatever it may look like - come the well-meant platitudes: "God loves you." "Jesus is all you need." "Just choose joy!" "You are already victorious."
Every one of those statements (and likely the many others we all hear on a weekly basis) is true, but after the lifelong beating we've all taken, it feels a bit like someone is trying to put a bandaid over the top of the Grand Canyon.
It doesn't work.
Reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ isn't a bandaid. It doesn't just cover up our wounds so we can pretend they never happened.
No, reconciliation with God is a cure. Beginning from the very foundation of our disease - having exchanged our sin nature and its Eden-founded fissure for something new and whole - we've been made victorious, gifted with abundant life. Healing is ours for the taking. We can live whole.
So why don't we see it (or feel it) happening?
Faith is the victory
The old hymn borrows its words from the first epistle of John:
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith.
1 John 5:4
As the chorus goes, "Faith is the victory, faith is the victory - O, glorious victory, that overcomes the world!"
But the verse is a bit meatier than that.
For whatever is born of God - This is us, the redeemed, the reconciled. Our broken nature has been exchanged - but we probably still live every day shaped by a lifetime of broken experiences. We're still wounded.
overcomes the world; - And we, the still-wounded redeemed, overcome: the Greek word nikao, which is "to conquer." Conquer what? "The world" - which John self-defines earlier in the letter as "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life" (1 John 2:16). In other words, we overcome the whole system of brokenness to which we've been enslaved!
and this is the victory that has overcomes the world - our faith. - The power we claim in order to bring off this almost-inconceivable triumph? Faith. But it's not the passive "believe as hard as you can" faith that we tend to imagine, which usually just paralyzes us in guilt or fear. No, this faith is a choice - a decision to see all things the way God says they are, instead of the way we experience them through our senses or our feelings.
It is the choice to throw our weight upon the truth even when the arms of the lies are more comfortable, more familiar.
We have spent our lives letting other broken people and our broken experiences shape our worldview - but healing comes when we choose God's worldview, and let Him re-shape us.
This is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith.
But there's still a problem...
Back to our definition of faith:
Faith is a decision to see all things the way God says they are, instead of the way we experience them through our senses and feelings.
But the problem is that many of us don't actually know what things look like from God's perspective - so we can't possibly replace ours accurately.
Because while we were being battered and broken day in and day out, while our relationships and our identities and our values were being hammered and crumbled and broken down, our most important relationship was not immune: the effects of the fracture reach into our knowledge of God, too.
And they have done so ever since Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves away in the Garden.
We've all heard of (and, realistically, most of us probably experience) "daddy issues" - deep emotional wounds that originate from an all-important relationship, stereotypically that of a father and child. These wounds can run deep enough to shatter us and cause us to live like a pitiful shard of our whole selves. And yet still they are only a shadow of the real tragedy, which is our wounded perception of God.
We see Him as cold, distant, and unconcerned - maybe because we have never felt worthy of anyone's genuine love and care.
Or we see Him as hot-tempered, volatile, and scary - maybe because we have never felt safe to make a mistake without being torn apart.
Or we see Him as critical, calculating, and disapproving - maybe because we have never felt we could fully measure up.
And, more often than not, we take our broken views of God with us to His Word, reading into it what our prejudice expects to find. We listen to our lying experiences and emotions instead of rebuking them with His truth. We don't preach the Good News of the Gospel to ourselves on a daily or hourly basis, because we are not sure how good it really is.
We're not sure how good He really is.
The path to wholeness
I was born broken.
My childhood is full of happy memories and golden hayfields and purple-mountain sunsets, but that doesn't mean I wasn't being sledgehammered every day without even knowing it.
I didn't know that having a relatively undemonstrative family was sending a crack through my ability to give and receive love and affection. I didn't know that the flannel graph Sunday school lessons every week were limiting my view of the Bible. I didn't know that having an unpredictable and highly manipulative "best friend" was teaching me to distrust the love and goodness of God. And I could go on.
Like you, like all of us, a split ran down my core, and every part of my life was affected, even though I have followed Jesus since my earliest memory.
My broken nature was freely exchanged, but I still live every day shaped by my broken experiences - as do we all.
Only by God's grace, I've spent the last half-decade or more facing off with how my brokenness has wounded my relationship with Him - learning to study the Bible for myself and find the truth of who He is, so that I can choose faith accordingly, and live in the victory that is already a reality.
I will be fighting this battle until the day I die, and it has become my greatest passion, my highest calling, and my heaviest burden to empower others to do the same.
If the means to victorious living is faith, then our path to wholeness must be in the character of God - the only absolute and unchanging Truth.
Who God is changes everything - everything - about who I am, and who I believe myself to be.
It's through Him alone that my broken perspective can be deconstructed and rebuilt into real, healing, victorious faith.
O, Glorious Victory!
When Simon Peter famously confessed in Matthew 16, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus responded,
Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
When we let God reveal Himself to us for who He really is, He simultaneously teaches us who we really are.
Peter knew himself to be Simon, the son of Jonah - just a Hebrew fisherman from a poor fishing family and with a loud, impulsive nature. In the very next scene he would make a fool of himself by rebuking Jesus to His face, and he would later deny the Christ three times just as brazenly as he had confessed Him.
Yet in this moment, Jesus tells Peter who he really is: a boulder in the immovable rock mass which would become the Church.
And for all his failings, all his brokenness, still Peter chooses to live in THAT identity - the identity of a leader in the Gospel, a pillar in the history of Christianity. We remember him not for his screw-ups, not as a man who dwelt in guilt and brokenness, but as a man of victory who charged forward whole.
I think this is God's question to all of us: "Who do you say that I am?"
We can choose to answer with what we've seen and felt from other broken people in this broken world - with our doubts about His love because someone else failed to love us, or with our assessment of His goodness based on the not-so-goodness we've been through - or we can choose to rest in His Word and boldly declare, "You are who You say You are."
And He will say, "Blessed are you, because I Myself have revealed this to you. And this is who you are: Radically loved. Mercifully freed. Graciously redeemed. Beautiful, whole, clean, set free - forgiven, precious, holy, and worthy. You are a son or daughter of God, a co-heir to the throne of Christ, and your life is hidden in heaven with Me."
O, glorious victory that overcomes the world!
So where can we begin?
The most healing thing I have ever done to exchange my broken perspective for God's has been to study His Word.
And I don't mean study it in bits and pieces, like we tend to do on Sundays in church - I mean study it as a whole, as a story. The story of who God is.
If you've never had the chance to read and understand the Bible in this way, I invite you to join our Bible180 reading plan - a challenge to read through the whole Bible chronologically in 180 days.
It sounds daunting, but believe me, it's worth it.
When you sign up, you'll receive the complete printable 180-day reading schedule, a handy progress tracker, and a weekly accountability email to help you stay on track. I'll also send you some of my very favorite study resources in case you ever feel lost or stuck!
God is ready and delighted to tell you who He is and who you are in Him - so if you're ready, too, sign up below!