*Note* I really did not want to write this post. I started about a month ago and it began to take me places I didn’t want to go. So I put it on the back burner. I told myself I would finish it later. I had other things I could work on in the mean time. But as I started exploring the other ideas they became abnormally complicated and confusing. I couldn’t string two sentences together that made sense much less a whole article that would show people a little bit of God. Then it dawned on me. I was guilty (AGAIN) of trying to tell God what I should be doing (or writing) instead of listening to Him and following His lead. I don’t understand why I should write this and I still don’t really want to, but I think I have to before I can know peace. So here it goes…
Our most passionate ministry can begin at the heart of our deepest hurts. God is able to use a place where we’ve been wounded and healed by His hand as the starting point for us to comfort and minister to others who may find themselves in the middle of a similar experience. If we never experience pain, how will we be able to effectively comfort others when they face hardships?
[God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received… 2 Corinthians 1:4
God uses the trials and pain of this world to prepare and equip us for His service. Does He enjoy seeing us suffer? NO! God derives no pleasure from our pain. But I do believe He welcomes the times when we curl up on His lap for the comfort only He can provide.
If you’ve raised or even known a spirited toddler you can picture the scene I’m about to describe.
Toddlers quickly reach the age of independence. They require no assistance from anyone. Their favorite phrase sounds something like this: No! I do myself! They think they can do everything by themselves – I mean everything. They arrive at this point long before the child is fully prepared. You, as a parent, know what will happen. Out of nowhere the sidewalk jumps up in front of them and they land none too gently on their knees. There’s blood. There’s pain. There are tears. This same spirited child, who moments before was pushing your hands away in defiance, now reaches out for familiar arms. They want comfort. They want assurance. They want you. And even though you would never wish them pain, you still enjoy the feeling of being needed and able to administer comfort.
What a picture.
Can you envision a parallel with the way God must feel when we insist on doing things our way, all alone, without His assistance? He knows it will lead to heartbreak and pain but He allows us to learn the hard way. I’m not saying that all pain and suffering is a direct result of us insisting on our own way. Some things enter our lives totally unsolicited and through no fault of our own. That’s a whole different discussion I’m not ready to tackle just yet.
I don’t believe suffering is caused by God to bring us closer to Him. I think suffering is the result of sin in this world. But I do firmly believe that God can use any circumstance, whether good or bad by our standards, to reveal His glory. It doesn’t mean He cares any less for us or that He doesn’t love us when bad things touch our lives. But think about this, if you had never fallen and skinned your knee how many times as a two-year-old would you have willingly crawled onto someone’s lap for some good, old fashioned loving? Would you have stopped exploring long enough for some hugs from Mom? If you had been allowed to insist on doing everything yourself would you have shared those moments with Dad teaching you how to use a hammer without smashing your thumb?
It’s kind of the same with God. He uses those crisis moments, which are inevitable, to teach us, to love us and to show us His strength. Then when the tears are wiped away, the nose blown, and the knees cleaned and bandaged, we look into the eyes of the One who loves us more than His own life and we know His heart can be trusted. We can present our suffering and pain to Him as an offering. These items, though they may appear ugly to us, when placed in His hands can be restored and transformed into a beautiful, healing gift for someone else. For through our experience we are able to reflect the love of God for someone who desperately needs to receive it.