free counters


Joyfully Broken

Greetings All,

This weeks "thought" comes from Larry Crabb in his book: "Shattered Dreams - God's Unexpected Pathway to Joy." It will not appeal to everyone -- especially the happy or content! It may even confuse you if you fit in that category. But that's ok. It is sent out for the struggling one's who have, or are, as the book's title notes, wrestling with "shattered dreams."

It's a thought that speaks of joy, and as the author mentions, "Happy people rarely look for joy. They're quite content with what they have. The foundation of their life consists in the blessings they enjoy... Those satisfied with good health, responsible children, enjoyable marriages, close friendships, interesting jobs and successful ministries, never hunger for God's best."

Happy people are rarely freed to enjoy what he calls the "greater dream" of true joy, because "happiness (the pleasant feelings that pleasant circumstances generate) must be taken away in order to be replaced by joy," and people who cling to things as they are never pass from "happiness through despair to joy;" a cycle that occurs repeatedly throughout the Christian's life.

That cycle and the six lessons that attend it (from Naomi's story in the Old Testament Book of Ruth) are what he speaks of in this thought. Enjoy.

"From the story of Naomi I learned six lessons... They are necessary lessons if we are to develop into people with peace and power and unspeakable joy no matter what our circumstances may be. If we are to become the community of the joyfully broken who reveal by our lives that the gospel is true.

Lesson 1 - Our fondest dreams for this life, the ones we naturally believe are essential to our happiness, must be fully abandoned if we are to know God well. But we cannot abandon them without help. The help we need, most often, is suffering the pain of seeing at least a few of our fondest dreams shattered. Shattered dreams are necessary for spiritual growth. That's the first lesson.

Lesson 2 - Shattered dreams produce excruciating pain, sometimes so extreme that we fear we cannot survive. And that is true. The person we are before the pain cannot survive. We emerge from the experience of shattered dreams as changed people... The pain is not evidence of weak faith. It is evidence we are normal. It's part of a necessary process. The pain is necessary if we're to discover within us an appetite for better dreams, which before, we neither noticed nor appreciated. Something wonderful survives everything terrible, and it surfaces most clearly when we hurt. That's the second lesson.

Lesson 3 - Some cherished dream will crumble in your life. That's inevitable. It happens to all of us before we're through living down here. No one makes it unscathed to the end. Whether we believe that God caused the trial (as Naomi did) or that God merely allowed the trial, one thing is clear: He could have prevented the trial. He could have given us a good time, at least a better time than we had. That fact creates within us a tension with God. Some dreams important to us will shatter, and the realization that God could have fulfilled that dream pushes us into a terrible battle with Him. That's the third lesson.

Lesson 4 - A child always given candy will never learn to like vegetables. A student never required to read Shakespeare or to listen to Beethoven never develops a taste for more than sensational fiction and noisy music. Similarly, when lesser dreams reliably come true, we have a hard time appreciating greater dreams. We neither envision or pursue them. Only an experience of deep pain develops our capacity for recognizing and enjoying true life. That's lesson four.

Lesson 5 - Most people never discover true life. Unbelievers don't possess it. Believers, all of them, do possess it, but not many experience it. Not many Christians drink deeply from the well of living water. As a result, our worship, our community, and our witness are weak. I learn that as the fifth lesson.

Lesson 6 - The past is irreparable; the future is always available. In every case, when good dreams shatter, better ones are there to newly value and pursue. These better dreams are indestructible; they will not be taken away from us either by God (because He is good) or by the forces of evil (because evil has no power to thwart God's highest purposes). No matter what happens in life, a wonderful dream is available, always, that if pursued will generate an unfamiliar, radically new internal experience. That experience, strange at first, will eventually be recognized as joy. That's the sixth lesson...

From happiness through despair to joy - that's the cycle. Then, since joy is never fully settled, that cycle repeats itself. Our lives move again from feeling pretty good, to hurting terribly, to deeper hope, different and richer...

Only a few in any generation believe that the weight of knowing God is a blessing more wonderful than every other. And those who believe it appear to have developed that conviction only through suffering. Happiness must be stripped away, forcibly, before joy can surface, before we will value and pursue dreams whose fulfillment produces true joy. It's a great tragedy when Christian people make it through life without ever discovering that their happiness is no different from the happiness of circumstantially well-off pagans... I doubt whether anyone makes that discovery without enduring the pain of shattered dreams. The experience of despair is the initial movement in the rhythm of hope. That proved true in Naomi's life."

Dr. Crabb's book is well worth the read - especially if you are there.

In Him, Pastor Jeff