By most standards, Brian and Melanie Adams had a good marriage. They were both believers, they were committed to each other, and they were trying to lead their eight children to follow Christ. However, over nineteen years of marriage, the intimacy they had once experienced had gradually eroded.

When they had an opportunity to attend a retreat called “Renewing Your Heart—Reviving Your Marriage,” Melanie hoped this might be just what they needed.

On the second day of the retreat, the speaker gave a message on bitterness and the need for personal brokenness and humility. As Melanie and Brian walked back to their room together following the session, Melanie was mentally preparing a lecture for Brian on the need for brokenness in his life.

A supernatural work

What followed can only be described as a supernatural work of the Spirit in Melanie’s heart. She writes: “God began to peel back the layers of my heart, and what was revealed was not pretty: bitterness, hardness of heart, hate, rebellion, and most of all a dependence on my own righteousness, and an underlying pride that corrupted all.”

As God showed Melanie the true condition of her heart, she began to cry, then to weep. Sobs of grief and despair racked her body. Her shocked husband held her close as she poured out her confession. Like an infection being drained from a lanced cyst, the pride and self-righteousness were purged from her spirit.

From that place of humility and brokenness before God and her husband, Melanie cried out to God to take away her heart of stone and give her a heart of flesh. She describes what happened next: “In His mercy, like a refreshing, cleansing wind, the Spirit of God swept through my heart. My tears of anguish were transformed to tears of joy, forgiveness, and freedom. God had chosen to reveal His glory—and I will never be the same. Never.”

Why would anyone choose to be broken? Well, why would a man check into a hospital and allow the surgeon to start cutting? Is it because he loves pain? Of course not. It is because he knows that surgery is the only way to experience healing and to be physically restored.

New life is released

Jesus understood something that His disciples would not grasp until after His death, resurrection, and ascension back into heaven—something the Bible calls a “mystery.” This mystery is that death brings life, and that there can be no real life apart from our willingness to die. To help explain this principle, Jesus used an illustration from the world of farming: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (verse 24, italics added).

I can take a grain of wheat and clean it up, put it on a beautiful piece of china on my dining room table, shine lights on it, play music for it, pray for it, and what will happen to it? Absolutely nothing! It will always just sit there “alone.” What has to happen to that grain if it is to bear fruit? It must go down into the ground and die. If that grain of wheat had feelings, I can imagine it might say, “Hey, it’s dark down here! It’s cold down here! It’s lonely down here!” But in that dark, cold, lonely place, the grain will shed its hard outer husk so that the life within it may be released. Then—after it has “died”—it will put down roots, and the first shoots of new life will finally spring forth.

Giving up everything

What was Jesus saying? The only way to gain your life is to give it up. The only way to win it is to lose it. We think we are giving up so much by dying. But in reality, it is those who refuse to die who are giving up everything. When we choose the pathway of brokenness and humility we are choosing to receive new life—His supernatural, abundant life—flowing in us and through us.

Because Jesus understood the ways of God, He did not resent or resist His death. He reminded His disciples that no man took His life from Him, but that He laid it down willingly (John 10:18). When the time came, in obedience to the will of His Father, He turned His face toward Calvary and went as a lamb to the slaughter. He knew that beyond the Cross there was life everlasting. For this reason, the Cross became the site of His true glorification—the place where He conquered death and gave birth to eternal life.

So, too, when you and I are willing to be broken in union with Him, His abundant life is released to flow through us to others. Brokenness is the entrance into life. Not until we are broken can we begin to experience the free flow of the power of His Spirit in and through our lives.

Click here for a list of proud people versus broken people.

Adapted from Brokenness: The Heart God Revives by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Published by Moody Press. Copyright © 2002 by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Used with permission.