One of my favourite Kintsugi quotes comes from Ernest Hemingway: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
We looked earlier this week at how some positive things that can come from brokenness are humility and empathy and compassion for others. Today our focus is on a third benefit- strength in the areas where we were broken. When we look at Kintsugi, the golden lines are where our eyes are drawn because of their beauty, but there is also a strength.
Jesus’ disciple, Peter, is a great example of this. Since his calling to be a disciple, he has been a faithful follower of Jesus- sometimes not completely understanding, often opening his mouth and putting his foot in it, but always enthusiastic and devoted to his master.
Then Jesus is arrested and the pressure gets to Peter. In his fear and his confusion, he ends up doing the thing he swore he would never do- denying even knowing Jesus- and he does this not once, but three times.
He is left utterly broken: “Suddenly Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.” (Matthew 21:75 NLT)
Fortunately this isn’t the end of the story for Peter, and at the end of John’s Gospel, there is that beautiful conversation where Jesus restores him- giving him the opportunity to declare his love three times to counter the three denials.
The next time we see Peter is at Pentecost, and it is as if he is a different person. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he confidently steps out before the crowd of thousands to tell them who Jesus is and how they can be saved.
In Acts 4, when the pressure is on again, we see just how much Peter has been healed and transformed and that he truly is “strong at the broken places.” After being told by the authorities never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, his response is bold: “Do you think God want us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20 NLT)
This is not just a one-off either. Several times in the book of Acts we see Peter standing up boldly for Jesus while facing beatings and whippings, prison, and even threats of death.
The change in him shines through in the words of his first letter, as he encourages other believers to be strong in their faith:
“Even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it… Remember it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!” (1 Peter 3:14-15, 17)
It’s quite a transformation, and it encourages me that God can take the places where we have been broken and, at those places, he can make us strong and equip us to minister to others.
Who is better than Peter to encourage people to stand up for Jesus when facing opposition? He knows exactly what it is like to feel pressure to do the opposite. He knows what it’s like to fail, and he is living proof that recovery is possible and that God can transform.
I know that if I am struggling, whatever the situation, I will more readily accept advice from someone who has been there, who has experienced something similar and who really understands, than from someone to whom it’s only theoretical.
Our struggles give us a unique understanding and an ability to help others. As Peter’s story shows, if we invite God in to our broken places, he can heal us and strengthen us in those areas, and then use us powerfully to help others.
“God is able to take the mess of our past and turn it into a message. He takes the trials and tests and turns them into a testimony.” (Christine Caine- Undaunted: Daring to do what God calls you to do)