God Puts to Use What We Go Throughby Cynthia Jennings on April 13, 2022
My mind goes back to a discussion that took place in one of my seminary classes, the student asked the professor who was also a leader in her church: “what is your best advice on how to be a good leader?”
The professor replied, “empathy.” “You must have empathy.”
The student went further in her line of questions, “how do you get empathy?”
The professor took a deep breath, momentarily closed her eyes, then replied, “suffer.”
The class became eerily quiet. Softly, yet with a sound of conviction, another student stated, “I understand.” “Empathy isn’t something you learn; empathy is something you live.”
There have been times in my life where I struggled with an issue, and suffered emotionally, physically and spiritually. In those moments I questioned why isn’t God rescuing me from this struggle. But what I learned over time and through experience, God didn’t rescue me from that struggle because He just wanted to see me struggle, He needed me to go through so He could put me to use for His purpose and glory.
One of the greatest ways God puts to use what we go through is by creating in us a deeper sense of compassion than we would have ever known without the trauma. The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, meaning “to suffer with.” Compassion for brokenness comes from brokenness. There’s really no other way.
When we hold the hands of weary friends, or gently hug them, not as people who can fix their problems, but as people who understand their pain and “suffer with” them, it gives them comfort. Only when we have experienced our own disappointment can we sympathize with the disappointment of others. Then will others trust when we say, “I’ll walk through this with you.” “I get it.” “I may not understand the particulars of your struggle, but I do understand disappointment and heart-wrenching pain.”
Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
The word translated “comfort” in this verse is the Greek word parakalōn. It comes from the root words para and kaleo, which mean “to call near, to invite, invoke.” When we tell our stories to someone who’s hurting, when we come near to them God will allow our words to become a comfort to them in a way that we can’t even explain.
When we say, “Let me tell you what I’ve gone through,” or “Let me tell you how I’ve failed,” the hearer no longer feels isolated and alone in their struggle. Suppose there is someone who understands. Suppose you are that someone, and you need to tell your story. When you share the comfort that you have experienced in your struggles, when you’re honest and vulnerable with the facts, it lets the hearer believe there is hope for a better story.
God doesn’t comfort us just to make us comfortable. He comforts us in order to make us comfort-able.......the ability to comfort others. When we keep our stories to ourselves, we deny others the comfort that is ours to give through Jesus Christ.
No one can comfort someone with cancer like one who has also heard the word malignant from a doctor’s diagnosis.
No one can comfort the parent of a prodigal like a parent who has also worn their knees raw praying for their child to come home.
No one can comfort someone who was oppressed by the enemy like another who was has been delivered from that oppression.
No one can comfort someone who’s struggling in their marriage like a couple who has also struggled in their marriage and overcome the struggle.
No one can comfort someone who’s struggling with shame and guilt like those who have experienced forgiveness and grace for their own shame and guilt.
I could go on and on with the “no one can” statements. The point is….
When you tell your story, you give your listener the gift of knowing they’re not alone. They will breathe a sigh of relief that says, “I thought I was the only one. Finally, someone who understands.”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the hard times because they have made me stronger, wiser, and more compassionate toward others. Help me not to waste what I’ve been through, but to use what I’ve learned about You through the struggles to help someone else get through theirs. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
PEARLStoPONDER: Don’t ever think your struggle or suffering is for naught. God can ALWAYS get the glory out of what we think is dead.
Lamentations 3:22-23--The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Galatians 6:2-3-- Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Ephesians 4:32-- Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Colossians 3:12-- Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness,
humility, meekness, and patience.
1 Thessalonians 5:11--Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.