Breaking Down to Build Back Up

I have friends who are Marines. None that I know of are currently active. Once, I made the mistake of referring to one of them as a “former” Marine and was quickly corrected. “There are no former Marines,” she said, “only active and retired ones.”

When God reiterated the promise of His abiding presence to Israel in Isaiah 41:10 they were at a low point. In the previous nine verses of the chapter God speaks of His power to subdue nations and how He has and will use His people to bring their enemies low. In verses 5 through 7 He speaks of how the enemy nations would in vain band together against God and His people, rallying around their idols, saying to each other: “Be of good courage” (Isaiah 41:6). God assures Israel that regardless of what other nations might do, she will only know victory, even though up to this point they had only known defeat. Why the change? What was different?

From what I have been told, when you sign up to become a Marine, they break you all the way down, then they piece you back together into a Marine. I guess that’s why there are no “former” Marines because once they make you into one, there’ s no going back.

Israel could only know victory after she learned humility. Sometimes to get to humility, you must go through humiliation. Humiliation is something only prideful people can feel. If God brings me through a trial, and I find it humiliating, it means there is still pride in my heart shaking its fist at God.  When I finally surrender and say: “God, you are righteous in all that You do in my life,” then I am usable.

There must be a breaking down before there can be a building up.

Job understood this. It wasn’t until God called him out and put him in his place that Job was finally able to say:

Job 42:5-6
(5) I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.
(6) Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

Israel had to suffer the humiliation of defeat and captivity in strange lands before she would surrender her idols and know humility. After the Captivity, Israel never again worshipped idols. In Jesus’ day, she still had a lot of pride. It’s what crucified Christ. But there is coming a day when “they shall look upon [Him] whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one [mourns] for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10b). Those tears will be tears of sorrow and humility.

Isaiah anticipates that day and encourages his readers with these words:

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.  (Isaiah 41:10)

Is God breaking you down? Don’t be surprised by that. It’s a continual process. My pastor has often said that Christians who are following Christ are either just coming out of a trial or are getting ready to go into one. Take heart in the knowledge that every trial is designed to make you more like Jesus and every trial makes us stronger.

I have read that in Marine Corps training there is a part of the process called “the crucible.” All I know about it is that it lives up to its name. Why put Marines through such a cruel, harsh process? According to Marine Colonel Bob Hayes it’s because “We have two missions in the Marine Corps – to win battles and make Marines.” [Source:]

God has a similar mission in our lives: To help us win our personal battles and to make us like Christ. No offense to any Marine, but the rewards for a Marine’s achievements are temporal. For the believer, the rewards are eternal. God’s intent is to break us down, but it’s to build us back up in the image of Christ. We need to go into that process knowing that God is not sending us through it, He is going with us: “Fear thou not, for I am with thee…” (Isaiah 41:10a).

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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