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7 Broken People God Used to Do Extraordinary Works

Annette Griffin

Contributing Writer
Published Apr 12, 2024
7 Broken People God Used to Do Extraordinary Works

Brokenness over sin is a necessary pursuit of every Christian. But the brokenness that comes through suffering is a different story. Bedtime prayers for our children don’t include heartfelt pleas for heartache. Inspirational memes don’t encourage Believers to reach for shattered dreams. Even in our most sacred, intimate prayer times, it’s hard to submit our will to a divine thorn in the flesh—much less request one. Yet so often, the crushing circumstances we despise and avoid are the very means by which God revolutionizes our faith, chisels away our flesh, and empowers us to do extraordinary works that reveal His glory.

“Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ – contrary to what we would expect, brokenness is the pathway to blessing! There are no alternative routes; there are no short-cuts. The very thing we dread and are tempted to resist is actually the means to God’s greatest blessings in our lives.” – Brokenness, The Heart God Revives, by Nancy Leigh Demoss

Scripture and history are full of stories about real people God used to change the world—not despite their hard circumstances but because of them. Here are seven examples of how God’s power is made perfect through the lives of broken people.

Further Reading: Why God Uses Seemingly Insignificant People for His Significant Plan

Photo Credit:©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Chinnapong

1. Mary Prince (1788-1833)

Mary Prince was born into a life of slavery in Bermuda and was sold away from her family at a young age. To break her will, her new masters physically abused her and forbade her to attend church, but at age 29, Mary secretly joined the Moravian Church, where she taught herself to read. 

In 1829, after learning that slavery was illegal in Britain, Mary ran away from her owners and found refuge within the Monrovian church community. With their help, Mary crafted an anti-slavery petition and presented it to Parliament, making her the first woman to do so. Parliament rejected Mary’s petition in part because of the lies told by influential slave owners. But she did not give up the fight for freedom for herself and all enslaved people. 

In 1831, Mary published The History of Mary Prince, an autobiography that vividly described the heartbreak, brutality, and inhumanity she’d suffered in slavery. The book sold out three times and ignited the fury of her former slave master, who sued her for libel. But Mary’s story also sparked an uprising of countless God-fearing individuals whose eyes had been opened to the evils of slavery. God used Mary’s brokenness to bring the truth about slavery to light. Two years later, the Abolition of Slavery Act was passed by parliament, freeing over 800,000 slaves who lived in British colonies.

Further Reading: 7 Steps You Can Take to End Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

Photo Credit:©GettyImages/spukkato

2. Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983)

Corrie ten Boom was born and raised in the Netherlands. She grew up in a loving Christian family who devoted their lives to serving God and others. In 1940, when Corrie was 48 years old, Nazis invaded the Netherlands. Filled with an urgent desire to help the persecuted, Corrie and her family provided hidden areas of their home as a refuge to their Jewish neighbors and those in the resistance movement. 

Risking their lives, the ten Boom family, in conjunction with the BeJe resistance group, were able to help over 800 refugees escape Hitler’s tyranny until Nazis raided the ten Boom home in 1944. The family was arrested and imprisoned. Corrie’s father died 10 days later, and she and her sister, Betsie, were transported to a concentration camp. Despite their immense suffering from illness, abuse, and starvation, Corrie and her sister shared Jesus’s love with whoever would listen, and many in the camp received salvation.

After Betsie died in the concentration camp, a clerical error caused the guards to release Corrie. One week after her liberation, all the female prisoners assigned to Corrie’s former camp unit were killed in the gas chambers. For the remainder of her life, Corrie traveled the world spreading the Gospel, telling people about Jesus’s unfailing love, and encouraging them to forgive their enemies. Her message carried the weight and authenticity of brokenness, and God used her testimony to bring many to Himself.

Photo Credit:© 

middle-aged man praying to illustrate george mueller, people god used to do extraordinary things

3. George Mueller (1805-1898)

George Mueller is considered one of history’s greatest men of faith, but he didn’t earn that title during his youth. As a young man, George reveled in sin. He habitually lied, stole, and resisted authority. When he was 14 years old, his mother died, but he didn’t find out until days later because of his drunkenness. Two years later, he was sentenced to jail for not paying his debts.

When George was 20, he accepted a friend’s invitation to attend a prayer meeting. God’s Spirit touched the rebellious young man’s heart at the meeting and revealed George’s need for a Savior. Broken over his wasted life, George fell to his knees when he got home and surrendered his life to Christ.

A deep love for Jesus grew in George’s heart, making it impossible to continue his reckless lifestyle. The new George desperately desired to live out his faith in service to God and others. God fulfilled his desire by calling him into ministry. In his lifetime, George cared for over 10,000 orphans, providing food, shelter, and educational opportunities to children who had no one. He never accepted government funding or asked for donations. George and his staff prayed for God’s provision whenever a need arose in the orphanages. God faithfully answered their prayers, sometimes in strange ways, but every cent of the millions of dollars needed to support the orphans was provided by God’s loving hand.

Further Reading: George Mueller, Orphanages Built by Prayer

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b-4 bomber to illustrate louis zamperini

4. Louis Silvie Zamperini (1917-2014)

In 1936, despite record-high temperatures and fierce competition, 19-year-old Louis Zamperini was the youngest American to qualify for the 5,000-meter race in the Summer Olympics. 

After the Olympics, Louis attended college and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Air Force.  In 1943, while on a search and rescue mission near Oahu, Japan, Louis’s plane malfunctioned and crashed into the ocean. After floating adrift for 47 days, Louis was captured and taken to four different Japanese prisoner-of-war camps where guards tormented and tortured him daily and with increasing intensity until the war ended in 1945. 

Finally liberated, Louis returned home with severe PTSD. He battled violent nightmares, depression, and alcoholism until his wife convinced him to attend a local Billy Graham crusade. There, God’s word saturated Louis’s soul, and he received salvation.

“Of all my near-death experiences my life never passed before my eyes . . .  But when Billy Graham quoted scripture my life did pass before my eyes.” – “After ‘Unbroken’: Billy Graham and Louis Zamprini” by Kathy Etheridge

Louis’s new zeal for the Lord compelled him to return to Japan to share the Gospel with military troops who were serving sentences for war crimes, including those he once hated. He continued to share his faith worldwide, leading many to Christ through his testimony, autobiography, and the 2014 film Unbroken until he died in 2014.

Further Reading: Why Should Christians Remember Louis Zamperini?

Photo Credit:©Getty Images/New_Folder

man with hoodie carrying switchblade knife to illustrate nicky cruz, people god used to do extraordinary things

5. Nicky Cruz (1938-present)

Nicky Cruz suffered daily beatings and mental abuse from his witchcraft-practicing parents from the time he was old enough to walk and talk. He and his 18 siblings grew up in Puerto Rico, where the violence and bloodshed were so traumatizing that Nicky attempted suicide at age 9. Nicky’s father sent him to live with an older brother in New York City six years later. 

By age 16, Nicky, full of bitterness and rage, was living on the streets of Brooklyn as a member of the Mau Maus, a notorious street gang. His violent reputation grew quickly, and soon he became the gang’s warlord. He ruled the Mau Maus with an iron fist until his best friend and fellow gang member was brutally stabbed and died in Nicky’s arms. 

Haunted by nightmares, Nicky became reckless. After countless arrests, a court-ordered psychiatrist labeled him a hopeless case destined for “prison, the electric chair, and hell.” But God had other plans. 

God broke through the walls surrounding Nicky’s hardened heart through the relentless love of a preacher named David Wilkerson. Nicky received salvation and a spiritual heart transplant. His miraculous transformation astounded the authorities, the gangs, and everyone who knew him. Since then, he has spent his whole life in ministry.

“For the past 50+ years, Nicky Cruz has traveled the world speaking to nearly 50 million people in person. For decades this author of 17 books has been driven to reach an at-risk youth culture being decimated by crime, drugs, and gang activity.” – Nicky Cruz Outreach

Further Reading: What Led Nicky Cruz from Crime to Ministry?

Photo Credit:©GettyImages/Diy13

woman in wheelchair to illustrate joni eareckson tada, people god used to do extraordinary tasks

6. Joni Eareckson Tada (1949-present)

When 17-year-old Joni Eareckson severed her spinal cord in a diving accident that left her permanently paralyzed from the shoulders down, she felt abandoned and rejected by God. 

Joni couldn’t imagine ever being able to live a ‘normal life’ again. And she was right. Last year marked the 55th anniversary of her accident, and her life has been anything but ‘normal.’ During the long, grueling years of physical and occupational therapy that followed her accident, God performed a transformative work in Joni’s broken spirit to prepare her for an extraordinary future. 

A few years after her accident, Joni was catapulted onto the national stage when her best-selling biography, Joni, was made into a movie. Shortly after, she became an internationally renowned advocate for people with disabilities and the founder and CEO of Joni and Friends. This Christ-centered ministry helps special needs families worldwide. She has written over 50 books, and millions listen to her daily radio program on over 1000 broadcast outlets. Joni and her husband, Ken Tada, have traveled to over 50 countries to provide hope and practical help to those affected by disability.  

“Joni has received so many prestigious awards and honorary degrees for her faithful service that they can’t possibly be described in one article. But she recognizes that none of her achievements would have been possible had God not used her brokenness as a platform to display His power.” – “God’s Power in Weakness – A Message from Joni Eareckson Tada”  

Further Reading: What Makes Joni Eareckson Tada So Inspiring?

Photo Credit:©Getty Images/Jochen Sands

closeup man's hand playing piano

7. Keith Green (1953-1982)

Keith Gordon Green was a musical prodigy and the first 11-year-old to ever sign a recording contract with a major label. Decca Records aggressively promoted the handsome young man as America’s next teen heartthrob. But when Keith reached his early teen years, Donny Osmond, a new superstar, entered the music scene and stole the limelight.

Devastated by his shattered dream, Keith ran away from home at age 15 and became a part of the hippie community. After his experimentation with free love, Eastern mysticism, and psychedelic drugs left him empty, he began exploring religion as a cure for his misery.

While performing in nightclubs, Keith met a woman named Melody Steiner, who would soon become his wife, and a man named Randy Stonehill, who convinced them both to attend a home Bible Study. God revealed Himself to Keith during that meeting and transformed the disillusioned young man into a new creation in Christ.

Keith’s new Gospel-centric songs, which focused on the need for repentance and brokenness, captured the hearts of hungry souls and soon earned him multiple recording contracts. Still, he eventually gave his music away for free. After Keith and Melody married, they opened their home and dedicated their lives to sharing the Gospel and everything they owned to help the needy find salvation, hope, and healing.

Keith died in a tragic plane crash in 1982, but God continues to use his songs and testimony to provoke others to “sell out more completely for Jesus.”

“Although Keith is now with Jesus, his life and ministry is still making a huge impact around the world. His songs and passionate delivery are still changing lives. His writings are translated into many languages. Keith once said, ‘When I die I just want to be remembered as a Christian.’ It’s safe to say he reached his goal, and perhaps, a bit more.” – Last Days Ministries

Further Reading: 10 Keith Green Songs that Still Inspire Us Today

Photo Credit:©Unsplash/Tadas Mikuckis

Annette GriffinAnnette Marie Griffin is an award-winning author and speaker who has managed and directed children’s and youth programs for more than 20 years. Her debut children’s book, What Is A Family? released through Familius Publishing in 2020. Annette has also written curriculum for character growth and development of elementary-age children and has developed parent training seminars to benefit the community. Her passion is to help wanderers find home. She and her husband have five children—three who have already flown the coop and two adopted teens still roosting at home—plus two adorable grands who add immeasurable joy and laughter to the whole flock.

Originally published Sunday, 14 April 2024.