It seemed as though the crowded auditorium was empty and Steve Green was singing his latest song, In Brokenness You Shine, to me alone.
This sensation began as he introduced the song on that Saturday evening years ago. It was then the Lord spoke to my heart as if to say, "Jonathan, this song is for you!" The lyrics to the song pierced my soul that night and began the process through which the Lord healed the deep wounds of my past.
Here is how my journal entry began the night after hearing In Brokenness You Shine:
Imagine a glass vase broken into hundreds of pieces scattered about on the floor. Humanly speaking, that is my life right now. My hopes and dreams have all been shattered. The person I thought I was or could become is all gone. Everything in my life is broken; I am broken – reduced to emotions I do not understand and a life I do not want. My hopes, dreams, and aspirations are like the pieces of glass from the vase lying on the floor, shattered beyond recognition and any hope of restoration. . .
But last night Steve Green sang a song about the Lord’s beauty shining or showing itself best in our brokenness. How can that be? What can God do with a shattered, despised, and broken vessel? How can He make the scattered pieces shine again?
Something resonated deep in my heart that night in response to the words of the song. The perspective of eternity began overshadowing the past events of my life. Here is how I concluded the entry in my journal after the Steve Green concert:
This is not the path I would have chosen for my life, but then again, God asks us to trust and lean not on our own understanding. He also promises to work everything for “the good” of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
So it comes down to three words: I Still Believe!
Despite the shattering of dreams, I still believe God can work His purposes through me–mine is not to wonder how or why.
Despite my brokenness, I still believe in a God of healing and restoration.
Despite the ugliness of my current situation, I still believe the Lord’s beauty is shining somehow and will shine in the brokenness.
Despite hearing no to many of my prayers, I still believe He hears me and has my absolute best interests at heart.
Despite the loss of all my aspirations, I still believe the Lord has wonders in store for me in this life and especially in eternity that will far exceed all my dreams.
Despite the shame, regrets, and wild emotions, I still believe Christ will one day show off His righteousness in me for all to see.
Despite the rejection I feel, I still believe the God of this universe loves me.
Despite the fear I feel, I still believe I am safe and secure in God’s arms. He is my rock and strong tower.
I STILL BELIEVE!!
The Lord’s complete healing of my past wounds did not immediately follow; I still had much to absorb and learn in the months and years ahead. My declaration of belief did, however, set my heart on another reality, an eternal outlook, which brought a much needed change to my perspective.
As we affirm our hope in the thrilling hope ahead for us, eternity increasingly becomes the lens through which we see our everyday lives. The lyrics to In Brokenness You Shine stress believing the Lord to “bring hope alive” while enduring brokenness and pain in this life. For me, that meant trusting God’s promises of great blessings in eternity, which renewed hope in my heart. A two-world perspective came to life again in my soul that evening as I listened to Steve Green sing.
My hope did not consist of believing my situation at the time would improve. When I wrote in my journal years ago, I doubted my life would ever get better. I found relief, however, in a new perspective that brought my anticipation of eternity into the moment. I connected my hope for eternity with my circumstances. My perspective changed as I gave priority to the unseen eternal realities over the temporal misfortunes of my life.
The heart of this blog, however, is not to focus on my past, but to direct readers to the hope and comfort that comes from a two-world perspective. The second verse of In Brokenness You Shine begins with the words “Let comfort be a living thing” and expresses the desire that through God’s comfort in the midst of pain others can find “their heart’s relief” as well as “freedom and hope.” This is so much more than just having correct theology (although that is essential to my posts), it's about bringing our thrilling hope into the pain of our past and the current struggles of our everyday lives. It's about our thrilling hope coming alive in our hearts as a source of comfort for whatever we face.
My purpose in posting articles on this blog and in writing my book, The Thrill of Hope, is to share the comfort of a two-world perspective with others, to share how the Lord restores souls lost in the frustrations and sufferings of this life.
But how do we develop such a perspective? How do we learn to keep one eye on the present and one eye on eternity as Paul David Tripp encourages us to do (see below)? Such a perspective does not come easily especially since the temporal realities of life confront us every waking moment continually shouting for our attention.
Imagine you are living in poverty barely able to survive working at a terrible job you hate. Add to this scenario the certain hope that in exactly one year’s time you will inherit an enormous fortune worth hundreds of millions of dollars. How would that change the focus of your daily life? What would occupy your thoughts as you go to work each day? How would you respond to financial setbacks in the meantime?
The above contrast actually understates the current reality for each and every believer. Paul said this in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Because of the amazing glory ahead for Paul, he viewed his current troubles as “light momentary affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17). No one else would ever consider of the hardships Paul endured in such a way. Yet the apostle’s comparison was with the glory, joy, and wonder of eternity. For the apostle, this far outweighed all his beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, stoning, and sleepless nights.
Picture a balance scale with one side balanced by the weight on the other side. On one side we see the scale weighed down with the glory ahead for us in eternity while on the other side we see all our suffering and heartaches from this life. The scale is tipped to the extreme with the weight of the joy awaiting us in eternity and no amount of additional troubles from this life can even budge the scale to the smallest degree. That is how Paul viewed his intense suffering in light of eternity and how he invites us to see our affliction as well.
When we live focused on the thought that absolutely nothing can deter our path to unending joy in eternity, not even death, our perspective changes. Our walk becomes confident. Joy increases. This does not represent a conceited way of life resulting from pride or an exclusive focus on self. Quite the opposite. This confidence results from knowing we are secure in our expectation of an amazing and spectacular thrilling hope. We have a secure future in Him that is indescribably good! Such a glorious hope does not depend on us, but on the salvation Jesus purchased for us with His blood on the cross.
This change of perspective does not happen overnight, but over time as the Spirit daily refreshes our hearts with thoughts of eternity. With me, it took much time and is still a work in progress.
(Adapted from my book project, The Thrill of Hope)
Tripp, Paul David, New Morning Mercies – A daily Gospel Devotional (Wheaton: Crossway 2014), June 7: "We were made to live with one eye on now and one eye on eternity."