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Beauty in the Brokenness: How God Restores Our Hearts

By Carol Cuppy
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Child holding bowl repaired by kintsugi
Kintsugi is the art of repairing something that has been broken with gold, with the understanding that the object is more beautiful because it has been broken. Like the art of kintsugi, God repairs the brokenness in our lives and makes us more beautiful through the process.

Reiko balanced the ceramic bowl in her tiny hands as she carried it to the kitchen. It was her mother’s favorite: a white bowl with tiny blue blossoms painstakingly painted up the sides. Her mother only brought it out on the most special occasions, alongside the gold kintsugi platter her father had created. Reiko loved to run her fingers over the slightly worn edges as she listened to stories about their family in Japan, dreaming of all the hands through which this bowl had passed. Her favorite story was where God restored her family after they had been separated during the war. Their joy at being reunited after being so brokenhearted was tangible, even to her.

Today was her mother’s birthday, which Reiko thought qualified as a special occasion. The five-year-old girl had climbed the cabinets and brought out the dish, all on her own. She couldn’t wait to fill it with her mother’s favorite treats and present it to her.

Reiko’s foot caught on the edge of the kitchen rug, and she stumbled. The floral bowl slipped from her fingers and crashed against the tile floor. The bowl lay in shards at her feet. Reiko sank to her knees, gingerly picking up a broken heart-shaped piece. She began to cry.

A warm hand rested on her shoulder. Blurry through the tears, Reiko saw her grandfather’s wrinkled face and kind eyes staring down at her. 

“I tried to be so careful,” she sobbed. “I just wanted to do something special for Mama’s birthday. Now it’s broken. I can’t fix it.”

“No,” her grandfather’s voice soothed her. “But I know someone who can. Here, help me pick up the pieces.”

Reiko and her grandfather set each piece on a tray and carried them out to the garage where her father worked on a project. Her face paled with fear, worrying that her father would be upset that she had broken her mother’s favorite bowl. Instead, he smiled at her and wrapped his daughter in a hug. Then, he picked up the broken pieces and examined them. “What have we here?”

“I broke Mama’s bowl,” Reiko explained with a quiver in her lip. 

“Well, then,” her father spoke, rolling up his sleeves. “We will fix it. But it won’t be the same as it was before. It’ll be even better.”  

The Art of Kintsugi

Reiko watched in wonder as her father, a talented artist, mixed a gold lacquer with a few scoops of rice flour to make an adhesive. He placed the broken shards of the bowl together with the glue. She watched in amazement as the bowl took shape, gold gleaming from the cracks. Her father had been right: somehow, it was more beautiful than it had been in the first place. 

“This technique is called kintsugi in Japan,” her father explained as he worked. “It is believed that when broken items are repaired with gold or silver like this, that the flaw becomes a unique piece of the object’s history. And the uniqueness adds to its beauty.”

“But, Papa, there’s a piece missing.” Her fingers traced an empty hole where a heart-shaped shard was missing. “Can kintsugi fix that?”

“That’s all right. I’ll make a new one.” He crafted a gold heart from the dust and filled the space until it glowed. 

“I’ve never seen anything so beautiful!” Reiko exclaimed as her fingers clasped over her own heart. “But, won’t Mama still be mad?”

Her grandfather, who had been watching from a nearby stool, shook his head. “There will be things in our lives that break, no matter how careful we are, just like this bowl. But that doesn’t mean that they cannot be fixed. What was once broken can become something beautiful.” 

Beauty in the Brokenness

Every one of us has some sort of brokenness in our past. Perhaps we have grieved from a broken heart, complicated situations, loss of health, or relationships. Whether it’s from choices we have made or circumstances beyond our control, sometimes we find ourselves so profoundly broken that we don’t know how things could ever be restored.

I have faced some serious moments of brokenness in my life. There were points where the pieces of me were so destroyed that they weren’t just shattered; they were ground to dust. After the tragic loss of my best friend, the death of several family members, and my own health’s disintegration, what was left of me was strewn across the pit called Rock Bottom. With a broken heart and no hope, I was ready to end it all. And I tried.

God intervened at that point. Accepting Jesus into my life changed everything. He lovingly scooped up the pieces of my spirit and painstakingly put me back together, piece by broken piece. Where my heart had been ground to dust, He created a new one. Every time I suffer another break, He fills in the cracks with His love and life. God restores me and makes me complete again, like a broken bowl repaired by kintsugi

By now, my life certainly looks rather unique with all its gold-filled cracks and new pieces. But there is beauty in that brokenness — and in what God did to redeem my story. 

Only God Can Restore Us

Have you ever tried putting yourself back together when you’re falling apart? When your life is crashing toward the floor, and you have no way to catch it, what do you do? What can you do? We can’t put ourselves back together. Every time we try to glue the pieces into place, we spring a leak. We cannot repair ourselves any more than a shattered bowl can repair itself. That’s why we need a savior! We need Jesus to come into our lives, scoop up the pieces, and put us back together. Only God restores us. He is the only one who has the power and know-how to fix what is broken. 

Our Broken World

Brokenness came into the world long before you and I were born. Most of us can sense that something is wrong with the world; it wasn’t supposed to be like this. We try everything to try and make it right again — being good people, changing our lifestyles, political systems, and seeking wise people’s counsel. Yet nothing we do sticks. And the world falls apart again.

When God created our universe, the Earth, and humankind, everything was perfect. God desired to have a deep and beautiful relationship with us as we thrived in the world He had created. However, when Eve chose to take a bite of that fruit, it all came crashing down. Sin and death flooded into the world and shattered God’s perfect plan. Everything was damaged beyond repair — or was it?

A Way to Mend the Brokenness

God loved us so much that He couldn’t just let the pieces lie where they fell. He refused to give up on His creation. So God sent His Son, Jesus, to live and die as a human (Hebrews 2:14-18) so that we could see He was serious about wanting a relationship with us and that we could have a way to restore that relationship. You see, sin broke things so severely that it created a massive rift between God and us. The cracks were too deep to traverse on our own. But when Jesus died on the cross and rose again, He filled in those cracks and made it possible for each of us to have a personal relationship with the loving God who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). 

While things are still far from perfect until Jesus returns to re-establish His kingdom on Earth, we have a choice. We don’t have to live in brokenness. Yes, we can choose to. We can stubbornly refuse God’s offer of love and restoration. We can choose to think He is impersonal, or that He doesn’t exist at all, or insist that Christianity as a religion is flawed. Or, we can choose to accept Jesus’ outstretched hand and allow Him to lift us. He is more than willing, and He is reaching out to you. 

Choosing Restoration

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, what lies hidden in your past, or how unworthy you think you are. You can choose to let God pick up your pieces right now and make you whole. 

 Here’s how:

  • First, admit that you need help and that you are broken. Sometimes admitting this is the hardest part. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 
  • Next, believe that Jesus loves you, that He died for you, and that He rose again. The Bible tells us that “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 
  • Confess that you believe in Him. Romans 10:9 makes it very clear, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

If you accept Jesus into your life, you choose to receive His offer to restore your brokenness to something beautiful and whole. He will mend you in ways that you never expected. Some of it takes time and is a process, just like the art of kintsugi. And, while He may not choose to restore us in exactly the way we expect, He will give us a unique beauty that can shine light into the lives of others who are hurting in the same way we were. 

Parenting is both challenging and fun. Focus on the Family’s Parenting website is full of ideas and advice to help you thrive!

Teaching Our Kids God’s Art of Restoration

Just like each of us, our kids can experience deep brokenness, even from a young age. We must teach them early on that Jesus is there for them when they suffer fractures to their hearts, their lives, and their relationships. Despite our best efforts to protect them from this, there will be moments when they watch us fall apart or when things crash down around them. Nothing in life ever goes perfectly or according to our best-laid plans. Jesus told His disciples, “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Our kids need to know that Jesus is there when those moments happen and that He can and will restore them. 

How often do you notice that your kids imitate you? You are a significant influence in their lives. Our kids learn by what we do and not just what we say. They will watch how we respond when we face brokenness in our own lives or circumstances that seem out of control, and may imitate that response when facing challenges and hurts of their own. If they see us clinging to God and allowing Him to repair our cracks, they will be more open to His help and healing. 

Create Your Own Kintsugi

One way to illustrate how God restores us and can mend our brokenness is to create a kintsugi project of your own. A project like this is a fantastic one to do together with your kids. 

If you want to create your own traditional-style kintsugi, you can mix up some craft-store adhesive with a bit of gold paint. Some stores even have kintsugi kits that you can purchase. Then all you need is an old bowl or plate that you can break.

However, you can get creative with what you break and how you put it back together. For instance, you could rip up a piece of paper or break up a few sticks. You can put them back together with glue, glitter, beads, string, etc. The possibilities are endless. And the way it looks when you finish is entirely up to you and the kids! 

Once you finish your kintsugi masterpiece, discuss with your kids how God restores us and heals broken hearts.

Discussion Questions

1. Name something of yours that broke. Did you try to fix it? Or did you throw it away? 

2. When our hearts break, does God want to fix us or leave us as we are? 

3. Have you ever had a broken heart?

4. What did you do to heal from that broken heart? How did God help you to heal?

5. How can you use those things that broke your heart to help others who may be in the same situation?  

Seeing How God Restores

Let me encourage you today that if you feel broken and that your heart is in pieces, God can mend them back together with all the skill of a kintsugi artist. He promises us that He “is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). God restores our hearts if we will let Him.

Jesus invites us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). 

© 2020 by Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. 

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Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.
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