The Broken Instrument
The door swung open as I entered my room. My backpack hit the floor as my body slumped into the bed that’s been calling my name for days. I didn’t even bother turning on the lights. Darkness and silence – the setting perfectly portrayed my present feelings. I reflected on the long hours of studying followed by the cold, dreary walks to and from the UGL that now seemed like a complete waste of time. I replayed the memory of my first final exam that utterly wrecked me.
In that moment, I felt like a failure.
Maybe that’s not how your finals week is going. If that’s the case, then you are more fortunate than others. However, I’m willing to bet that the feeling of failure is not a foreign concept to anybody. Some time in your life, you probably felt something similar.
I was reading Acts 9 today. The chapter covered Saul’s conversion story, when Jesus spoke to Saul and blinded him for three days (for more details, read Acts 9:1-10). What struck me was when God spoke to Ananias, a disciple nearby. God told Ananias to lay hands on Saul so he could regain his sight. He then said this about Saul: “He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15 ESV).
God called Saul, who later was renamed by God himself as Paul, His chosen instrument. Someone who hated, threatened, and killed became God’s chosen instrument to love, to save, and to bring glory to God. Paul ended up writing most of the New Testament, and most people would consider him to be the MVP of early Christianity.
This passage filled my mind with imagery. I thought of a guitar, completely off tune with a fractured neck and missing strings; however it’s in the hands of a musician who skillfully fixes up everything that has been broken – constructing a new neck out of mahogany and carefully replacing each string back in place, fine-tuning it back to its original pitch. The guitar becomes brand new, and the musician joyfully uses it to create beautiful music.
The problem is that this imagery did not resonate well with me. I still feel like I’m out of tune and fractured at times. I sometimes still think that my strings are out of place. I often still feel like a broken instrument, but the truth is Paul was never fully fixed.
Yes, he received eternal life when he put his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (John 10:28). Yes, all his sins had been forgiven (Ephesians 1:7) and he had become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), but he wasn’t perfect. Paul still constantly battled with sin and wrestled with weakness (Romans 7; 2 Corinthians 12). Though he wasn’t perfect, God still called Paul and used him for His glory.
I wondered which other “big shots” in the Bible had considerable weaknesses, and I found quite a few.
- When God called Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, Moses pleaded for Him to choose someone else because he felt inadequate for the position (Exodus 4:13).
- Jeremiah, one of the Major Prophets of the Old Testament, was severely depressed (Jeremiah 15:18).
- Jonah tried to run away when the Lord called him to preach to the people of Nineveh (Jonah 1:3).
- Peter, who is known as the Rock of the Church, denied Jesus three times (Luke 22:54-62). Jesus even warned him before it happened!
- David, who God considered a man after His own heart, committed adultery to Bathsheba and then killed her husband (2 Samuel 11).
But despite their weaknesses, failures, and mistakes, God still used them for extraordinary things. And despite our weaknesses, failures, and mistakes, God can and will still use us for extraordinary things.
I think that God loves to use broken instruments to play His music. When a musician plays a song perfectly with aninstrument that’s broken, we praise them for their impeccable talent. In that same way, it brings more glory to God when He uses broken people to accomplish great things.
And although God doesn’t fully repair us the moment He saves us, His Holy Spirit begins to heal and sanctify us. Even as I feel broken now, I know that the hands of the Almighty are working to mend me until one day I am fully restored (Philippians 1:6).
Looking back, I realized that God never called Paul His perfect instrument. He called him His chosen instrument. If you feel broken, weak, or inadequate, be encouraged by this: we have a Masterful Musician in our midst.
And He chooses us.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
-2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Adam Jo, University of Illinois Cru Senior