The Blessings of Brokenness

Bible Book: 2 Corinthians  12 : 9-10
Subject: Brokenness; Affliction, Blessings through; Memorial Day
Introduction

My name is Jack M. Redfearn, Jr., pastor of West Hartselle Baptist Church, Hartselle, Alabama. As a
pastor, I do my best to help those in my congregation who have experienced heartache and tragedy.
Someone has said, "In every pew sits a broken heart." One of the "pastoral" things pastors do is
"comfort those who mourn." We comfort hurting folks by reminding them of God's promises, praying
with them, and just being there when they need someone to talk to. I must confess to you that before
2003, my efforts at comforting people were sincere, but not from personal experience.
Pastors who preach God's truths are vital to the Kingdom of God, but pastors who preach out of personal
experience have the added dimension of "knowing that they know" instead of just knowing!
My purpose for sharing these events with you is not to gain your sympathy, but to let you know that
God is faithful, and that you can place all your confidence in Him - you can lean on his promises and
they will never break under you! The Apostle Paul writes some incredible words to the Corinthian
church: 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (9) "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my
strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that
the power of Christ may rest upon me. (10) Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in
necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I
strong." (KJV)

Someone has said, "It is doubtful that God can use a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply." I
suppose the question of the ages is why God allows evil and injustice to continue...after all He could
stop it couldn't He? I'm sure God allows these things to happen for good reasons, some I
understand, and some I don't. I can tell you that God is good and His grace is super-sufficient for any
trial you will face. I know this is true on a theological level, now I know it's true through personal
experience. Discouragement, sadness, disappointment, tears, and heartache are life events that
God can use to help us know and experience His love, His grace, and power. 2
My story is wrapped around the Biblical text of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 which speaks about
brokenness and the blessings that can come from what the Bible calls infirmities, reproaches,
necessities, persecution, and distresses (verse 10).

I. Brokenness Enables Us To Experience God's Grace (9)

We read in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength
is made perfect in weakness."

Did you know that none of your abilities impress God? Do you know that your weakness is an
opportunity for God to show His power in your life? God loves for us to depend on Him! My human
weaknesses were revealed to me through a series of events in 2003. Here's my story. On March 21,
2003 my sister, Kay DeMott and her husband Tommy were in their home in Camilla, Georgia. At 5:05
AM a tornado set down on their house, picked it up and threw it about sixty feet away. Tommy held on
to Kay as long as he could before the pressure from the tornado literally snatched her out of his
arms. Tommy later told us that Kay's fingerprints were still in his back, she was trying so hard to hold
on to him. He also told us that she was screaming and was terrified before she disappeared out of
sight (I would have reacted the same way! See Psalm 56:3). Kay was crushed under the mainframe
of the house. I am so glad that Kay had asked Jesus to come into her heart several years before!
And, Kay really loved the Lord and she did her best to live for Him. When she was killed it was hard
for me to understand the timing of it because she had just begun to live her life for God - and she
was so happy!

My family and I traveled from Hartselle, Alabama to Pavo, Georgia to be with our family. I had the extra
burden of knowing my son entered combat in Iraq on the day my sister was buried. Most of you
remember that it was on March 23, 2003, that the Coalition forces invaded Iraq for the purpose of
displacing Saddam Hussein and eliminating any weapons of mass destruction they might find. On
that day, my son, LCPL Daniel Redfearn, along with hundreds more Marines began a major assault
on An Nasiriya, Iraq. The battle was fierce and lasted about seven days. Daniel and most of the
Marines did not get much sleep. Daniel later told me that on this Sunday, the Sunday we buried my
sister Kay, he came close to death many times over. Daniel was in a fighting hole about 300 meters
away from the town of Nasiriyah and operated a SAW, a beefed up M-16 rifle. Daniel was in Bravo
Co. but was involved in pulling the bodies of many of his friends in Charlie Co. out of a track vehicle
that had been hit by an RPG (rocket propelled grenade). Most all of them were people he knew. Their
bodies were dismembered and charred! A total of 18 Marines died in Charlie Company that day!
http://www.thefinalrollcall.us/stories/charlie.htm

When I found out later what happened to Daniel and the other Marines, my heart broke for him and
the families of those Marines! From this point on, my family lived with the awful tension of having a
son in the Marine Corps on the front line involved in these incredibly fast assaults on Iraqi towns. We
rejoiced when Daniel and the Marines of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines returned to
Camp Lejeune at the end of June 2003! I thought to myself, "Self, things are better now. All you have
to worry about is Josh being in Iraq. Just get Josh home and everything will be alright." 3
Lt. Joshua T. Byers had married our daughter Kim in 1998. Josh was a West Point graduate and an
outstanding soldier. He was more than a great soldier, he was a great Christian and the best son-in-law a parent could ask for.

Josh made the rank of Captain quickly while at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Later, Josh and Kim moved to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and then on to Fort Carson, Colorado
Springs, Colorado. Josh and his unit, the 3rd ACR based out of Fort Carson left for Iraq in April 2003.
I knew things would be dangerous for him since his unit would be operating in the Sunni Triangle,
west and northwest of Baghdad. On Wednesday, July 23, 2003, I came to my church office as usual.
Not long after being there I received a phone call from my daughter Kim. Before I took the phone I
knew something was wrong. She was crying and told me that Josh was killed by a roadside bomb
that morning! I dropped the phone and staggered out into the main office where Carolyn our
secretary was and said, "Josh has been killed!" The killing occurred on Highway One near Ar
Ramadi, Iraq, in the Sunni Triangle. Josh had recently taken over command of an elite Army armored
combat company and was loved by his men. He was called Fox Six. It was his dream, to command,
and to serve his country and the fighting men of the 3rd ACR out of Fort Carson. More than anything
Josh wanted all his men to return home to their loved ones... sadly, not even Josh made it home
alive.

I can't describe to you the heartache and emotional pain I felt at this moment. Questions swirled
around in my mind, "What happened? Who did it? Were the killers caught? What was the condition of
his body? What were his last words?..." I had been told the death of a child is an emotional pain
different from that of losing anyone else. I agree, even if it's your son-in-law! I don't think I could have
hurt anymore than if my own son had been killed in combat. To me, Josh was my son! Death of a
loved one in a war zone creates a nasty spin on the memories you have to deal with! On one hand, I
was extremely proud of Josh. I was thankful and proud of his commitment to our nation. Josh was an
incredible writer. He wrote us while he was alive and said he hoped that what he and others were
doing would make life safer for us in the States. Even though Josh endured the soldierly stress of
commanding in combat situations, he wrote the most incredible love letters back to Kim...it was like
he was trying to take care of her all the way from Iraq!

Several weeks after Josh died, my son Robert was injured at Parris Island and suffered a dislocated
knee cap and a torn MCL. He spent right at five months on the island and still didn't graduate as a
Marine! He also lost at least $24,000 dollars in scholarships that he needed for college. But God
was watching out for Robert! Had Robert not been injured, he too would have gone to Iraq in
September of 2004. I'm not sure I could have handled having two sons in the Marine Corps in Iraq at
the same time! And because of Josh's death, my stress level had been bumped a few notches
higher.

The combination of my sister's death, and the death of my son-in-law, and not being able to see
Robert while he was injured nearly broke me in two! I can't describe to you how helpless and weak I
felt. This was the darkest period in my 46 years of existence. I was powerless to control my
circumstances or my emotions. I couldn't even talk to God for a few days. I was angry with those who
killed Josh - in fact I wanted to kill them! I was angry at not having grandchildren through Josh and
Kim.

I needed relaxation, rest, and revival in the worst way! I had read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 hundreds of
times. I asked myself, "How is God's strength going to be made perfect in my weakness?" It's not
easy to "rejoice" in times like these. I had to find strength in other places. My help and healing came
through friends, family, and caring church members. If you're reading this article and you've never
invited Jesus into your life as your Lord and Savior, you're the one missing out on blessings and
spiritual resources only God can give. Friend, as sure as you are reading this message, heartache
will visit your house on an appointed day. Who will you turn to when a son, or a daughter, a wife, a
husband, a loved one dies or is killed? You say, "I'll handle it myself!" You're not capable of handling
events like this on your own! You need a friend in high places to handle "stuff" like this in life. You
also need friends in low places (the church) to help you put the pieces of your emotional life back
together. And none of this "stuff" will ever make sense unless you start looking at it through God's
eyes - and you do that through His word! Well, trouble had knocked me down, but I wasn't knocked
out! Why? I received God's grace!

II. BROKENNESS ENABLES US TO RECEIVE GOD'S POWER (9-10)

We read in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (9), "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my
strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that
the power of Christ may rest upon me. (10) Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in
necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I
strong." (KJV)

Wouldn't it be great if you could always boast about how great God is - even in the roughest trials of
life? If you can, it means that God's grace and power is real to you! I need God's power to live life
personally. I also need God's power to be on mission for Him. The Lord brought to my mind this
verse: Habakkuk 3:2 O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in
the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy. KJV
I needed a revival of God's "work" in the middle of my years! My son-in-law, Josh said in one of his
letters "God's plans were always perfect." God's plans are always bigger than our plans. You see, in
my personal pain, I had forgotten my mission in life. God always gives us the power to do His will,
and when we work for Him He floods our lives with power. I had also forgotten during this "down"
period of my life that God's work is still the most important work in the world. Jesus said, "I must
work the works of him that sent me, for the night comes when no man can work." (John 9:4) 5

Illustration

When Josh was killed, Lisa and I immediately flew to Kim's home in Fountain, Colorado, just next to
Colorado Springs and Fort Carson. My wife Lisa and I cried all the way there. We stayed with Kim for
two weeks. During the first week, I hit a real low point, and God picked me up in an unusual way. I
had started reading the book "Mission Compromised" by Lt. Col. Oliver North several weeks before
Josh died. The book was loaned to me by Jon Anderson, one our Deacons and one of my best
friends. I struggled to get into the flow of the book but just couldn't, so I laid it down. When Lisa and I
Page 3 of 5left for Kim's home and the memorial service at Fort Carson, for some unknown reason, I took the
book with me on the plane. I didn't think I would even read it - I was too sad to read! At 2:00 AM one
morning at Kim's home, I opened the book in hopes it would divert my attention from the pain I felt.
The plot in "Mission Compromised" was heating up and the story became interesting.

At one point in the story a Marine and other soldiers are on a mission in Iraq. A missile hits their plane and it goes
down in the desert. The pilot was a young black woman who is seriously injured in the crash. All the
other characters were killed except her and the main character, a U.S. Marine. He cradled her head
in his arms as she lay dying and she shared with him her story. She told him her husband was a
Baptist preacher in Chicago, they had a little boy, and that life had been good. She also shared her
faith in Jesus with the Marine as she lay dying in his arms. Her testimony led to the Marine accepting
Christ into his life. And then it hit me! Here's an elite, black female pilot who knows she's going to
die. She knows her military mission is over, but not her Master's mission - not until she witnesses to
this Marine about the most important mission in life which was to know God and make Him known!
In my grief over Josh's death in Iraq, I had forgotten "My Mission!" I begin to weep and to thank God
for reminding me that "It's still the cross that matters!" God's mission was not finished! In fact, it's still
on! The plot in "Mission Compromised" was especially meaningful to me since Josh died in Iraq!
When a soldier dies that is close to you, you struggle to find meaning in their sacrifice. I supported
the war, Josh supported the war, but God gave me reasons for it that go beyond liberation of an
oppressed people. Was God using these events in Iraq to make it possible for the Muslim people to
hear the gospel? I know our nation did not go in for that purpose, but you know God is so sovereign,
He can use events beyond our control to fulfill His will. I thought about this aspect of the Iraqi war
often. At the end of 2003, Steve DuVall, my former Minister of Education, and now missionary to
Costa Rica shared with us the story of how many bibles had gone into Iraq in the last three months
of 2003. Credible sources told Steve that nearly 80,000 Bibles had found their way into Iraq since its
liberation! So Josh died, not only to liberate people, but for a cause beyond a cause - to bring the
light of the gospel into dark places.

Some of you out there struggle with our troops being in Iraq. Josh's letters kept reminding me of why
we are there. He saw great things happening to the people of Iraq and felt on mission there. The day
Josh was killed, a good pastor friend of mine put his arms around me and said, "Jack, I'm afraid our
soldiers were sent to Iraq under false pretenses?" I was crying at the time and I turned around and
said to him "Josh didn't feel that way!" By the way, I still consider this Brother my friend - he was there
when I needed him. Josh said in one of his letters, "It feels great to make men free! How often do you
get to liberate an entire country?" One of the funniest things Josh would say to Kim while he was
alive in Iraq was, "I aint skeeered!"

I'm glad that Jesus wasn't "skeeered" to go to the cross for us! He came to set mankind free! And
Jesus set us free through weakness, through loss, and through His death on the cross!
As I write this message, my son Daniel Redfearn has finished his second tour with the Marines in
Iraq ... we were reunited on February 5, 2005 - and what a great reunion it was! Daniel was hit by two
bombs similar to the ones that killed Josh, but he was in an "up-armored" humvee. He was shaken
up bad, has lost a little hearing, but otherwise is in good health. The biggest threat in Iraq this year
was from mortars, roadside bombs, and suicide bombers. Postscript: I wrote Timothy Buskell, the
driver of Josh's vehicle the day he was killed, and asked him to share with me what happened to
Josh the morning he died on July 23, 2003. He wrote me a letter, and I also had the opportunity of
taking him out to lunch in September 2004. Here's what he shared with me. He said the explosion
occurred at around 7:30 AM. When explosions occur in these settings they kick up clouds of dust,
dirt, and smoke - not to mention rusty shrapnel. The explosion ripped through Josh's right arm, the
only place not protected by his body armor. The shrapnel shot through his heart and lungs, then into
another soldier. After the explosion Josh leaned over to the driver and shouted, "Buskell, that was an
I.E.D. Keep moving!" An I.E.D. is short for "improvised explosive device"...in this case two Iraqi tank
shells lashed together with C-4, buried, and remote detonated as the lead humvee comes by. After
the explosion, Josh slumped forward toward the dash of the hummer. At the time, Timothy didn't
know Josh was dead, and was fighting to keep control of the vehicle. Josh lived long enough to get
his humvee out of further danger and then he died. Later, an autopsy revealed that Josh had several
pieces of shrapnel in his heart and lungs. We originally were told Josh died immediately, but now we
know he lived a longer, perhaps no more than 10 to 15 seconds.

Josh's last words are of great comfort to me: " ... that was an I.E.D. Keep moving!" Tragedy and
heartache are like improvised explosive devices that hit us in life. You never know when life is going
to implode or explode on you - but you have to keep moving by the grace and power of God. When I
say "keep moving" I mean you have to keep living in the light of His Lordship no matter what happens
to you. Some of you might not be "moving" with the Lord in your life right now. I just want you to know
that: God loves you! He has an incredible plan for your life. Call upon Jesus right now and ask Him to
forgive you of your sin. Jesus died on the cross so that you might have eternal life here and in the
hereafter. Ask Jesus to come into your heart and save you. Don't hold any part of your life back from
Jesus - give it all to Him.

Pray a simple prayer like this: "Dear Jesus, I believe that You died on the cross for my sins and that
You arose from the grave. I now ask You to forgive me of my sins and to save my soul. Amen." Now
tell another Christian what you've done so you can receive further instructions on how to live the
Christian life.

I intend to keep moving in life because I have experienced the grace of God, and the power of God.
You must keep moving too - even through tragedy! You can't stop - too much is at stake! If you get a
chance, you can read more about Josh in a joint book put out by HBO and Time life titled "Last
Letters Home." Josh is one of ten soldiers whose lives and sacrifices are featured in the book.
WalMart, Books-A-Million, and other good book stores keep the book in stock.
A DVD of "Last Letters Home" will also be available for purchase sometime this year.

God bless you! AND DON'T FORGET TO "KEEP MOVING" in Jesus!