Finding Beauty in Brokenness: The Divine Art of Kintsugi

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The Japanese art of kintsugi mends the cracks in broken pottery using precious metals like gold or silver. In this way, it treats the process of brokenness and repair as part of an object’s history instead of something to hide. The artist gently presses each broken piece together, then seals them with lacquer as the precious metal hardens in the cracks. What results is a beautiful design on a previously common vessel. In a similar object lesson, the Lord instructed his prophet Jeremiah to observe the potter fashion clay into a vessel (Jeremiah 18:1–11). Yet when the clay did not respond to the potter’s hand, he smashed it down into a lump again to rework it afresh. It was the potter’s choice to start anew. So also, God declared of Israel, “I can do the same with you. I can build you up or break you down. I determine both your purpose and your span of life.”

Perhaps this picture emerges in the prophet’s mind as he laments the destruction of Jerusalem. The Lord has smashed his chosen nation. He has torn down the city walls and defiled the holy temple. He has allowed Babylon to carry his people into exile and has seemingly broken his covenant promises. Would God rebuild? Would he make the nation anew? Would he restore his chosen people? God’s timing is not like ours. As I often tell my children: “Patience means to wait for something good.” Such active waiting becomes an act of faith in Lamentations 3 as we discover, at the climax of this book, three ways that God is good. First, discover the goodness of sin’s reckoning.

The goodness of sin’s reckoning.

“The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” (Lamentations 3:25–26).  We hear this good news first—this old covenant gospel that Yahweh comes to those who wait. So, we seek his face, knowing we shall find him (Deuteronomy 4:29). We trust our salvation to the Lord, for he alone grants us hope (Lamentations 3:21). His steadfast love will never cease and his mercies never come to an end (v. 22).

God's goodness means that even our sin can be redeemed. As Jeremiah declares, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” (v. 27; see 1:14). A yoke was a large piece of wood that rested on an animal’s neck so it could pull the plow. It was a heavy burden to bear, but it directed the farmer’s ox or donkey to labor in the right direction. Likewise, our sin can be God’s way of teaching us obedience—reminding us to depend on him: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71). As one man caught in secret sin admitted, “Getting found out was the best thing that could have happened to me.” Facing our sin is hard and humbling, but sin’s consequences are often exactly what we need. And it is better to learn such lessons in our youth so we don’t grow old in sin and continue in our habits. It is best to repent while we still have strength of days (Lamentations 2:21; Ecclesiastes 12:1).

Jeremiah then describes the outcome of God’s discipline: “Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust—there may yet be hope” (Lamentations 3:28–29). The repentant person kisses the ground—a show of great submission before the Lord. “Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults” (v. 30; see Isaiah 50:6). At times, we might be mocked by others or suffer defeat (Job 16:10; Micah 5:1). Yet we humbly receive God’s discipline as the consequences for our sin and accept whatever judgment he doles out (Romans 6:23a). Then, perhaps the Lord may show us mercy (e.g., Jonah 3:8). “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love” (Lamentations 3:31–32). Ultimately, our sorrows are not caused by hateful people, or fated circumstances, or evil spirit beings. Our grief is sovereignly bestowed on us by a very good God (1:5).

This same God, however, also comforts us (Isaiah 54:8). For if discipline comes from the hand of our heavenly Father, then he will also one day bring it to an end (Jeremiah 31:31–40; 32:40; 33:14–26). He will not cast off forever. “For he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. To crush underfoot all the prisoners of the earth, to deny a man justice in the presence of the Most High, to subvert a man in his lawsuit, the Lord does not approve” (Lamentations 3:33–36).  Our Lord’s first instinct is to bless and not to harm, but he must still remain true to his character: both to his compassion and his justice. It is not God’s desire that any should suffer, but sometimes pain is necessary for our good. It’s like when parents discipline our own children, “This is going to hurt me a whole lot more than it hurts you. You may feel it on your backside, but I feel it in my heart.” So, we can endure God’s loving discipline, since we know it is for our good (Romans 5:3–5; Hebrews 12:6–7).

Sin’s reckoning opens our hearts to honest self-examination. As the prophet guides us: “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” (Lamentations 3:37). The Lord directs our every word and action, including our lament. He who spoke the universe into place has also shaped our lives (Psalm 33). For he is the Potter and we are but clay. “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (Lamentations 3:38; Job 1:12; 2:6, 10; Isaiah 45:7). The Almighty God ordains our every outcome. He promises blessings for obedience and reckoning for disobedience. And then, he brings it all to pass. Therefore, “Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?” (Lamentations 3:39). We might have grounds for appeal if human judges make mistakes or rule unfairly. Yet our God is perfectly just. He is all-wise and his decisions without error. Only by his grace and mercy do we even remain alive. Only by his steadfast love do we draw in breath. Thus, we have no grounds for appeal—no right to even complain before our Most High God (e.g., Numbers 11:1; Proverbs 19:3).

How then must we regard sin’s reckoning? As we experience God’s discipline for sin, what actions must we take? Jeremiah calls us to confess and repent of sin: To lament what we’ve done wrong, then turn from our sin and turn to God. Confession ushers in the grace of God. For only when we stop complaining about our punishment will we humbly receive God’s goodness (Acts 3:19). God designs our pain to make us pay attention.

Application Insight: I urge you to wait upon the Lord and seek him with all your soul. Wait quietly for his salvation (Lamentations 3:26). Confess your sin if you realize you’ve done wrong. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6). For there may yet be hope because of the One who took your place—who perfectly obeyed his Father’s will. The soldiers struck him on the cheek before his crucifixion (Isaiah 50:6–7; Matthew 26:67; Luke 22:64; John 18:22; 19:3). They crushed his head with thorns. Hostile crowds berated his ears with insults and questioned his divinity. And although he himself was innocent, he bore our grief and suffered for sin’s reckoning (Matthew 26:39). Though he was reviled, he did not revile in return (1 Peter 2:21–23). Then, at the cross, our Savior, Jesus Christ, satisfied both justice and compassion. Do you know God’s goodness in his reckoning for your sin?

6/18/2024 11:10:51 PM
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  • Tom Sugimura
    About Tom Sugimura
    Tom Sugimura is a pastor-writer, church planting coach, and professor of biblical counseling. He writes at, ministers the gospel at New Life Church, and hosts the Every Peoples Podcast. He and his wife cherish the moments as they raise their four kids in Southern California.