Part One: Purpose in Pain
“God, don’t let my pain be meaningless. Use this. Teach me the lesson I need to learn, and then let me use it to encourage someone else who is struggling.”
This has been my go-to prayer through countless seasons of my life.
Lonely and broken, entrenched in an eating disorder…
Overwhelmed and depressed, navigating trauma…
Powerless in Africa….
Grief stricken after babies lost…
Exhausted from sleepless nights and ceaseless, colicky newborn tears…
My lips know this prayer from muscle memory. “Please, usethis. Please redeem this.”
I wanted my pain to have purpose, not only for my comfort but for my pride. I thought I needed to fully overcome my struggles in order to be able to open up.
And I wanted to speak from the mountain top. Perched from above, looking down. Boastful, lofty, accomplished, proud. I wanted to speak once triumphant. My stories crowned with achievement, an adornment only worthy once the victory was won.
I couldn’t speak from a place of vulnerability because that would make me look weak. Overcoming my weaknesses, victoriously, seemed a much more appealing way to share. I wanted to encourage from a place of strength, a place of pride. I wanted to have it all figured out and to appear poised, assured, self-sufficient.
But isn’t the valley where God breathes, moves, calls us to life? Isn’t it when we are undone that he sits with us- steady and unfailing, accompanying us back up the mountain? Why not speak in this place- free of expectations, promising stories of His goodness?
Yet still, I’ve been waiting for the right time. Waiting to be healed from the hurts of my past, needing to have all the right answers. As though time held the secrets to my pain, and all I needed to do was wait for God to reveal them to me.
It has been years of waiting, and I can’t say I’ve found what I’m looking for, but what I’ve come to realize is that healing from pain is not a destination. I’ve wrongly believed if I had it all figured out and could fully heal from my past, only then could I share the lesson God was teaching me to encourage others. But also, to bring glory to myself.
Isn’t that the story everyone wants to tell? “I was in the depths of pain and struggle, but now, here I am, all fixed.”
That’s the story I wanted to tell!
But what I’ve learned is that I will not be able to say Christ has healed me, not fully, this side of heaven. It’s the wonderful juxtaposition of the already and the not yet. Christ is healing me. This healing from my pain, the stories of my past, and my pride, will be a journey to be walked, not a final stop.
Truthfully, the pain I’ve experienced may never bring forth the beautiful lesson, complete with shiny bow, that I’m looking for. I may never be able to speak from the mountain top with a clear understanding of my pain.
Even so, pain is not purposeful only when we can explain why it happened. We don’t need to fully understand the reason for our pain in order to grow from it and use it to encourage others.
I don’t want to wait until I have all of the answers. I want to open my hands and let God use me. I want to trust in the Spirit He’s given me- one of power, love, self-control. NOT one of timidity. He has given me a purpose and grace to be unafraid in sharing my stories.
I want to be a light even in the midst of my struggle, but that can’t happen if I wait until I’m at the top of the mountain- healed, restored, holding all the answers. If I wait until I’m fixed, I’ll never share. I’ll never motivate. I’ll never inspire. I’ll never encourage.
Today, I make the choice to go forward boldly with my stories, stories of God’s redeeming love in the midst of pain and heartache. Not because I have it all figured out, but because I trust He will use them for those of you who find yourself without all of the answers you so desperately want, too.