Tag Archives: brokenness

“The Two Sides of a Healthy Relationship with God”

When I first started dating my wife Diann nearly 50 years ago we were on our best behavior with each other. Over the next few months, like many couples having newly fallen in love, we viewed each other through starry eyes, which distorted our perception, causing us to see little that annoyed us in each other.

Then we got to know each other better! We discovered aspects and facets of each other that were less than perfect. Then too, we not only had to deal with each other’s imperfection but the imperfection in our self that each of us pointed out to the other.

In any relationship experiencing the stern side of each other isn’t as much fun as experiencing the kind side. However it’s absolutely essential if there’s to be a developing, maturing, and deepening relationship. Of course, a relationship of all sternness is not healthy nor will it survive, it needs much kindness, but neither is a relationship healthy and maturing if it is all kindness but has no sternness.

Just as we need both kindness and sternness in healthy human relationships, so too we need both in a relationship with God. I’ve seen people who have focused on either the kindness of God or the sternness of God at pretty much the exclusion of the other. It makes for an unhealthy, twisted, and distant relationship with God.

Some, for instance, have been deeply wounded by a church or a religious authority figure (which may be a parent, relative, friend). The sternness of God is all they can think of or can picture. It’s all about sin and judgment. They feel they can do no right when it comes to God. There’s no joy.

Others focus only on the kindness of God. They may admit they’re not perfect (the socially acceptable thing to do), but they also don’t think they’ve done anything seriously wrong that would upset God. There’s little or no confronting the fact that God is not always pleased with them. They’re like the archer who shoots an arrow at a blank target, draws a bull’s eye around the arrow, then considers himself an accomplished archer.

A relationship with God needs to be balanced, like any healthy human relationship, with both a kind and stern facet to it. Those that have experienced primarily the sternness of God need to be actively and intentionally open to the fact that God is also kind! Those who have made God into their own comfortable image where He rarely, if ever, confronts them with their own sin need to be intentionally open to the fact that God is also stern!

In reality, most of us swing from one extreme to the other, maybe even several times a day. Sometimes we need to compensate by being more receptive to the kindness of God and sometimes by being more receptive to the sternness of God. A relationship with God, like that with another human being, is not static but always dynamic. This is good and as it should be. We just need to be open to that fact, to the two sides of a healthy relationship with God.

“Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God.” Romans 11:22

Have a great week!

Dave Claassen

When Broken and Weak

The tortilla delivery man rode his motorcycle up the steep road to Refuge Ranch. Alejandra, a cook here at Refuge Ranch, had come out of the kitchen and was buying a stack of tortillas from him. I watched from the bench in the small garden by the house. Recovering from some kind of virus, I was tired and weak and so I just sat and watched this microcosm of Mexican economic activity unfold.

I had been sitting on the bench reading a book, The Broken Way, by Ann Voskamp. The book’s message was very applicable in my present condition of broken health. My wife Diann was dealing with the same illness and was toughing it out teaching the children in the school room nearby. The virus had gone viral here at Refuge Ranch with many of the children taking turns getting sick. I reflected on how brokenness and weakness seemed to be all around. Just an hour earlier, at breakfast, our daughter Julie shared, with tear filled eyes, some major struggles and issues she was facing with the family. She then told her mother and me that she had to focus on the immediate demands of the day. Soon there would be over twenty women arriving at the ranch from a nearby church, and Julie was expected to share something of God’s Word and truth with them.

Chilled by the morning air, I left the park bench and made my way up to the flat concrete roof of the warehouse and laid on my back. Covering my eyes with my arm, I absorbed the morning sun. Some of the women had now arrived and I could hear Julie’s laugh as she conversed with them. I knew it was a struggle for her to rise to this challenge of ministering to these women, given all that she was dealing with, and so I prayed. Lying there on my back in physical weakness I prayed for Julie’s brokenness and weakness, that the good Lord could use her in some mighty way with these women who were also broken and weakened by life’s struggles. As it turned out, the Lord did use her.

So often people picture missionaries in far off places doing God’s work because they are strong people who have their act together. Not so! All missionary work, including the work at Refuge Ranch, is most often done out of human weakness, not strength.

I share this to encourage us all, yes to encourage us! We can get the idea that because of some lack in our life, some past mistakes, some current messed up part of life, or just a general sense of not having our act together, that we are of little value to God. Not so! No great Bible character (other than Jesus) was perfect,and often they’re shown to be far from perfect, but God still loved them, forgave them, and used them!

God doesn’t disqualify us from being His person and being able to do something great for Him, we disqualify ourselves! All you and I need to do is turn over our sinful, imperfect, broken and weak selves to what little we feel we know and understand of God, and He will take it from there. As it turns out, God is really good at embracing broken and weak people who He will gladly help to carry out His wonderful will!

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (Jesus to the apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:9)