Today we welcome, Amazon Best Selling author, speaker and radio host, Matt Ham. Matt knows a thing or two about brokenness. In this article he shares what happens when we finally realize that we are broken.

The one constant that we all share is suffering. I wrestled with this for so long in my life, but a cancer diagnosis in 2014 awakened me to this reality.

For some reason suffering and brokenness have become four-letter words, especially in Western Christianity. While many of us understand that we live in an ugly, broken world, we’d rather not go there. In fact, we try our hardest to avoid brokenness and control our circumstances so that we can avoid pain.

But I’m learning something different:

The only path to true freedom is through the very brokenness that we so desperately want to avoid.

Two years ago, before my cancer diagnosis, if I were reading this post, I would have stopped reading by now. Quite frankly, it was a lot easier to avoid the conversation altogether. But I’m learning that for the brave, courageous few who are willing to continue, the reward is beyond comprehension.

Seeds Don’t Bear Fruit

Last fall, my wife and I took our three sons to an apple orchard in the mountains of North Carolina. In the cool fall air, we walked through the rolling hills and picked sweet fruit from the trees.

As I watched my sons enjoy the ripe apples, I thought about a consistent theme throughout the Bible. In countless parables and teachings, Jesus spoke of bearing fruit. He used analogies of seeds and soil and trees to convey some of His deepest truths.

In my own walk, I longed to bear fruit. I longed to see the fullness of God ripen within me to produce His very purpose for my life. But I believed that bearing fruit had to do with my own effort. I thought that striving and trying and willing myself to obedience was the path to wholeness—the path to fruitfulness.

But that day in the apple orchard, something deeper hit me: seeds don’t bear fruit.

Isn’t it interesting that a seed must surrender itself, it must be broken, in order to begin the process of fruit being born?

I feel like in using the analogies of nature, Jesus was trying to convey something much deeper than we want to understand. While religion calls us to bear fruit by our own effort, Jesus reminded us that fruit is born out of brokenness.

Curiously, He was willing to go as far as being broken himself—crucified, died and buried, so that the fruit of our salvation could be tasted. In that process, Jesus not only became our Savior, He became our example.

Recognize You’re Broken

The first step toward wholeness is the recognition that you’re broken. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s absolutely true.

The first step in healing a marriage is an understanding that the marriage needs healing. The first step toward financial peace is financial unrest. The first step toward a healthy lifestyle is an acceptance that your current way of life is unhealthy. And the list goes on.

The same is true of our faith.

The problem is, so many of us are unwilling to go there—we’re unwilling to be broken.

Jesus struggled with that as well. If you remember, there was a moment, in Gethsemane, where Jesus had to make the choice to live out His own parables. As Jesus bled sweat from His forehead, He asked God if there was another way: “Abba, Father, do I have to be broken?

In that moment, Jesus prayed a prayer that terrifies me: “Father, not my will, but thine be done.

Being broken is about surrendering your will in exchange for the will of the Father. And that’s not just as a one-time, shot-in-the-bucket choice, it’s a constant state of being. That’s why Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” The good news is, we don’t have to hang on a cross. But we do have to pick one up.

The Sweet Fruit of Freedom

Our absolute surrender is the only thing strong enough to break the seed of pride within us. That is the path to bearing fruit. That is the path to living whole. Once we surrender our will in exchange for the Father’s, we begin to take root. Then, and only then, will His fruit come forth.

When my physical body had to be pierced in order to remove my cancer, I was reminded of the pierced hands and feet of my Savior. That was the only way that we could be freed.

Refusing brokenness is like holding on to the very cancer that threatens to destroy us.

I’m living proof that brokenness is the path to freedom. As upside-down as it sounds, it’s absolutely true. There is no other way.

But that freedom is the sweetest fruit I have ever tasted. And in God’s beautiful plan, that fruit produces seeds that, when broken, will yield more fruit. And more fruit. And more fruit.

That’s the beauty of the gospel.

In death we find life.

In brokenness we find healing.

When we are emptied, He makes us whole.

Matt HamMatt Ham is a dynamic storyteller and speaker seeking to challenge culture by challenging perspective. He is also the author of the Amazon Best Seller, Redefine Richco-host of the radio talk show, Wake Up Our Faith and host of Whole Life Matters podcast. You can follow Matt at his blog, or on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook or connect with him in the FB group, The Whole Life Community.