When is the last time you’ve felt broken and beaten down? Maybe right now you are down and out for the count. Your eyes are swollen………your heart is black and blue and you feel like your legs have given out beneath you. If so, I feel your pain. We have all been there once, twice, perhaps dozens of times in our lives.
Nobody wants to go through the ringer. Nobody wants to suffer. Yet, we do. It is part of the territory when you live alongside Christ. There’s no getting around it. But, when we walk with him, even though our body may break, our spirit is unbroken.
Unbroken: The Story of Louie Zamperini
One of my favorite books is Unbroken, by Lauren Hillenbrand. It is the story of Olympic runner and World War 2 hero Louie Zamperini. His story is nothing short of miraculous. After a bombing mission in 1943, Zamperini and his crew were sent on a mission to search for a lost aircraft. While on this search and rescue mission, Zamperini’s plane suffered mechanical difficulties, causing it to crash in the Pacific Ocean, 850 miles south of Oahu. Eight of the eleven men on board were killed. Zamperini and two others survived, but ended up on a life raft (salvaged from the plane ) in the middle of the ocean. They survived by eating albatrosses and raw fish. They were terrorized by hungry sharks and had to take turns guarding the raft from their constant attacks. They endured storms at sea, which nearly capsized their already mangled raft. They were forced to patch their raft after bullets from enemy fire grazed it. Miraculously, two out of the three survived 47 days at sea. Can you imagine?
Unfortunately they were captured by the Japanese Navy after 47 harrowing days at sea. Louie and his friends were separated. Louie was left to face the wrath of the Japanese guards without his friends. While he was held in captivity he was beaten, mistreated, mocked, starved and worked like an animal. He endured cold winters without proper clothing, and was left to the mercy of biting bugs in the summer. At one point Louie stayed in what one would describe as a hole in the ground, where he had to use the bathroom in the same place where he slept. He was humiliated beyond what most humans could endure. But, he would not let the Japanese break him. He had the will to live- the will to keep going.
Somehow, he made it through two years of torture and was able to return back home to his family. He brought the scars of his experience back home with him. He became an alcoholic and made poor life decisions. The Japanese didn’t break him, but the scars from war did.
Louie Zamperini and Billy Graham
That’s where Jesus came in. Louie’s wife convinced him to go to a Billy Graham crusade. Louie didn’t want to go, but his wife kept urging him. One day he reluctantly made the step to go. That is where Jesus met his brokenness. The one who had been broken on the cross came to save the one broken by the scars of war.
Louie Met Jesus
Once Louie met Jesus, there was no stopping him. He went on a mission to share Jesus around the world. He even traveled back to Japan to forgive his captors. He forgave the very men who had tried to break his body. The very men who had given him scars on his back and face. But, he learned from Jesus that forgiving those who hurt you the most is what truly makes us unbreakable. It gives us that unbreakable spirit. This unbreakable spirit comes from the holy spirit. Even when we give up, the spirit does not. It keeps speaking, loving and fighting.
My son graduated from the Air Force Academy recently and his class exemplar was Louie Zamperini. The class of 2018 made Zamperini their model to follow. He is the hero they aspire to be. His memory lives on in the minds of these brave men and women, who will now be part of something much bigger than themselves. In the years to come it is almost certain the testing times will arrive, and their ability to respond will make all the difference. With Louie as an example, they are sure to succeed.
The Bible is full of broken people. God uses broken people
In the Bible there were lots of people who were broken. The story of Joseph is a well known example of how one man can go from blessed to broken quicker than you can say “coat of many colors.”
How would like to be left for dead by your jealous brothers? How would you like to be sold into slavery in a foreign land? How would you like to rot in a prison cell for two years? Would that break you? I’m not gonna lie- I would have broken when my brothers threw me in the pit and left me for dead. That would be plenty to do me in. I’d be ready to take a nice long siesta FOREVER.
Not Joseph. He kept on keeping on. He did his time with what I’d call grace and charm. Like Louie Zamperini, he was good at putting mind over matter. But Joseph had something Louie didn’t know he had yet. Louie, of course, found this out later. Genesis 39 says, “The Lord was with Joseph.” Throughout the story, while Joseph is going through trials, the Bible makes a point of saying, “The Lord was with Joseph.”
Joseph wasn’t alone at all. People were trying to break him left and right. But the Lord would not let his spirit be completely broken. As the story continues, Joseph ends up finding favor and is eventually put in charge of all the food for the land of Egypt. He becomes second in command to Pharaoh within the kingdom. Eventually, he is reunited with his brothers and family. These are the same brothers that tried to kill him and sold him into slavery! Joseph could have killed them. But like Louie did with his Japanese captors, he forgives them! Reconciliation begins and the broken family becomes unbroken. Like Louie’s story, it didn’t happen overnight. Joseph went through turmoil and tears. But then the man who was broken by his family and the circumstances of life became whole. What’s interesting about Joseph is that he didn’t yet possess the Holy Spirit. His story happened before Jesus died on the cross. But, God was still with him.
God Can Restore All Things
The story of the Israelites is one of brokenness. Enslaved and beaten, but released from slavery into the wilderness. Freed from Pharaoh, only to wander in the desert for 40 years. From belief to doubt, and from curses to blessings. These people saw and experienced it all. But, like Joseph, they didn’t have the holy spirit yet. That was one of the reasons they had such a hard time. Their flesh wanted to give up- to complain- to throw in the towel. The Holy spirit wasn’t there yet to speak to their hearts. God himself was there, following in a cloud and by fire. They also had a fearless leader named Moses. But it wasn’t the same. The fire wasn’t in their hearts yet. Luckily for them, God was gracious and their children entered the Promised Land with the help of Joshua and Caleb. These fearless, unbroken leaders would not give up- giants or no giants- they were going in.
The Promised Land was conquered and little by little the Israelites secured their land. Time passed and their kingdom grew. They were ruled by Judges and Kings. But, it wasn’t enough. They didn’t have the spirit yet. There was only so much they could do in the flesh. You see, the flesh breaks easily. It cannot endure like the spirit. The Israelites and their kingdoms eventually fell. Foreign invaders broke down walls, temples and hearts. They were scattered to the four ends of the earth- their people were like broken pieces of pottery. Like Louie Zamperini, and Joseph, that’s where God came in.
He sent his son Jesus to die on the cross. His body was broken, but his spirit was not. He died, rose from the grave and defeated sin and death. His victory gave us the gift of an unbroken spirit that will never be broken.
And what about the Israelites today? Well, we see the “Israelites”- the Jewish people- back in their own land. The nation who was broken and scattered has been miraculously revived. On May 14, 1948 the nation was revived and literally born in a day. God never breaks his promises. His covenant is everlasting. God’s covenant to Israel is like a marriage. In biblical days when a Bride was betrothed, it was binding. The couple was legally married at this point. Even though the wedding ceremony had not taken place, the contract was set and binding. The Bride could not break the contract- only the Groom. But God does not break contracts. It is not in his nature to break things.
Yes, Israel has not recognized who her true Bridegroom is- Jesus. But, God has a plan. First, he had to bring the Jewish people back into their covenant land. The Jewish people had been beaten, tortured, and mistreated throughout history from the English and Spanish Inquisitions to the Holocaust (to name a few). They continue to be mistreated by the nations surrounding them- nations that want to break them. But, like Louie Zamperini and Joseph, they refuse to give up.
I love the part in the movie Unbroken when Louie holds the massive plank of wood above his head. The Japanese officer (known as The Bird) forces him to hold a six foot beam of wood. Louie is already worn down from carrying loads of coal on his back all day. The officer tells Louie if he drops the plank he will be shot. The very thin, emaciated Louie grabs the plank and holds it over his head. Louie holds the beam for a total of 37 minutes (though the movie cannot show this amount of time). This act of strength infuriates the officer and he proceeds to jab Louie with his gun. The picture of Louie holding this plank is the perfect picture of the movie’s title- UNBROKEN. This scene reminds me of Jesus- who took the wooden cross on his back and dragged it to Calvary. His broken body was then placed on the cross to die. The Roman soldiers mocked and taunted him, along with the crowd. But Jesus did not falter. Yes, he died, but he did not falter. Instead, his broken body rose from the dead- and then it was unbroken! As I said before, God never breaks his promises. It is not in his nature. He sent his son to fulfill a promise to save the world. He made this promise from the foundation of the world.
There’s another promise God will fulfill. That promise is to restore his covenant people in the land of Israel. They are in the land, but the majority of them do not have the piece that will fix their broken heart and spirit- Jesus is that piece. God is sending his son again to fulfill that promise. He will return on the clouds in glory and they will look on the one that was pierced, and receive a new spirit. The broken will be made whole.
At most Jewish weddings a glass is broken by the Bride and Groom. This broken glass is a reminder of the temple that was destroyed, or broken. Well guess what? God has already taken care of that too. His son became the Temple and the High Priest. The physical temple was broken by man, but is unbroken through Christ.
And what about the United States? It certainly looks like our country is breaking into pieces. I have blogged about the Civil War many times and discussed how many things could be pointing to insurrection, or even war within our borders. How do you fix a broken nation? Fifty states of one nation could be broken apart like shattered puzzle pieces. I believe we are at a crossroads in history where we must realize that as prophecy becomes fulfilled with regards to this broken world, we may have to endure some things that are difficult and disturbing. But, we don’t lose hope. Like Louie, we gotta hold that beam above our head. Like Joseph, we have to be ready to forgive the worst of the worst. And we need to pray! Jesus will do the rest. He died on two planks in the shape of a cross, and he forgave the worst of the worst. But the good news is that he’s coming back with a giant bottle of super glue to put this old broken world back together. It’s supernatural glue of course. We are here waiting on that life raft in the middle of a dark ocean, just like Louie. We may be sitting in that prison like Joseph. But, he’s coming. Maranatha- he’s coming.