You never plan on screwing up your life, it just happens. You would never wish to make those mistakes again, but if you’re in the place where you’re trying to make sense of the broken pieces of your life, take heart. There are some hidden benefits of screwing up your life. Now, there’s one major disadvantage to screwing up your life, and it’s why you should never want to make a mess of it all: consequences. The consequences of your actions will follow you long after whatever momentary benefits you experience wear off. But let’s focus on the positive:
You’re Fully Aware of Your Inability to get Life Right on Your Own
Jesus starts the most famous sermon he ever preached with the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3, NIV) The idea of being poor in spirit is embracing your own brokenness. We don’t like to do that as humans. Our default mode is to think of ourselves as good enough, strong enough, smart enough. We know what’s right, we know what’s best, we know how to live our lives. The problem is, the depth of our wisdom is a facade, exposed by the consequences of our own actions. Many people can walk through an entire lifetime convinced of their own moral superiority. Humility is difficult to come by, but humility is essential, because Jesus himself says that humility, embracing your depravity, being ‘poor in spirit,’ is the first step to the kingdom of heaven. Whether you got to a place of humility the easy way or the hard way, rejoice that you’re there, because humility is the first step towards the kingdom of heaven.
Your Brokenness Makes You Dependent
At first glance, this doesn’t seem like a benefit at all. Our society trumpets the ideal of a self-made man or woman, completely self-sufficient and not needing anyone (including God) for anything. The truth of the matter is, we’re all dependent upon other people (including God) to some degree. Please hear me, I’m not advocating a welfare state in any sense. We should utilize the God-given drive within us to produce and provide to care for ourselves and those around us. But we’ll never be fully self-sufficient. We need others. We need the help of others. We need the emotional, intellectual and physical investment of other people for us to reach our full potential. And we desperately need the grace and power of God not just for salvation but for daily living. If you’re self-sufficient, you’re likely to be too proud to ask God for help. If you’re broken because you’ve screwed up your life, you’re much more likely to ask God for help when you desperately need it (which is constantly). Your brokenness makes you dependent, and that’s a good thing.
The Broken Ground of Your Life is Fertile Soil for God to Grow Something Beautiful
Every farmer or gardener knows this. If you want to grow a crop, plant a tree or sow a seed, you have to break the ground first. Go and try it yourself: go outside and lay a seed on top of the soil, and see what happens. (I’ll save you the trouble: nothing will happen). A seed can’t take root and grow into something beautiful unless the ground has been broken and tilled. Breaking something isn’t fun. In fact, it’s messy. But it’s necessary. When you screw up your life, your life is broken. That’s easy enough to see. What’s just as true (although more difficult to see) is that the broken ground of your life is fertile soil for God to do something beautiful in your life. Read the Bible. Read the stories of God doing incredible things through incredibly broken people. If your life is broken, take heart: the hard part is over. Now God can begin to rebuild and restore and make something more beautiful than you could possibly imagine.
The Brilliance of God’s Grace Shines Brightest Against the Backdrop of Your Mistakes
Anyone who’s ever bought a diamond knows this. When you go to a diamond store, you’ll see the diamonds set against a dark backdrop, usually black cloth or velvet. Why is that? Because the jewelers know that the brilliance of the diamond shines brightest against the darkest backdrop. Your screwed up life is that dark backdrop. Against that backdrop, God wants to showcase his mercy and grace in ways you never thought possible. That’s the truth Paul is communicating when he says, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:15-17, NIV) When God saves and redeems you, screwed up as you might be, his grace and mercy shine ever brighter because of your brokenness. That’s a good thing.
God’s Redemption of Your Brokenness is a Lifeline of Hope for those Drowning in their Own Brokenness
This is when life starts to get fun again. This is when you begin to sense a purpose to all the brokenness you’ve endured. Whether you realize it or not, you’re not alone. And as farfetched as it may sound, there’s someone worse off than you. When someone is in the valley, when they’re in that dark place, when they’re drowning in their own brokenness, you become a lifeline of hope to them. If God can redeem you, mess and all, then there’s hope to them. I say this all the time as a pastor to people who are walking through difficult times. Some of the greatest ministry you’ll ever have is helping others walking through similar situations that you have faced. People are desperate for hope, and you can be that hope to them. It won’t take away the consequences of your actions: you still may be divorced or struggle with addiction or not have custody of that child, but when God redeems your brokenness, don’t be surprised when he sends you as a lifeline of hope to others walking through the same thing.
Josh Daffern is pastor of MTVchurch in Columbus MS, and husband and father to an amazing family. You can read more posts and keep up with him by liking his page on Facebook.