On Tuesday I heard two messages with the same theme. Pain and suffering with the right perspective. One story was shared with Andy Andrews on his latest podcast. The other story was shared with Louie Giglio at Passion City Church. This woman had a stroke with complications. Her and her husband shared the difficulties as they found a new normal. Their story was inspiring and hopeful. Her attitude was one of pure joy. The first lady was looking for a new perspective in the midst of her pain and suffering from her past. She couldn’t get past the hurt of her past. She wanted “what could have been” instead of what she got.
Sometimes it’s hard to move past the past. We play the “what if” game thinking that the other choice would have been better than the one that was made. We don’t know what the “other” decision would have led to; we assume everything would have been better if the other path had been chosen. But we will never know “what could have been” if the choice was different. God allows our struggles. He chose us for this unique opportunity to do the hard thing. He even equips us to endure it.
In the book of James, we are told to count our pain and suffering as pure joy. He wrote that it is a test of our faith. This is where we get honest with God. We admit our part of the problem. We give ourselves over to God for healing and restoration. We are supposed to draw nearer to Him in these hard places. He has seen to it that we need this hard place for our growth and development. We have been counted worthy of this time to learn endurance for God’s glory through it all.
There were a couple of crossroads in my life that were pretty significant. One was made for me; the other was a bad decision on my part. But God allowed both. The first choice was made by my parents to move a few hours away from my sisters at a critical time in my life at the age of thirteen. I had a hard time dealing with and took me a great deal to overcome.
It was a joke in my family for many years that I would never forgive my parents for making the move. Many years after the fact, I asked my Mom if they had prayed about the decision to move. The answer was yes. At that point, I knew I had to be okay with the past because this was the will of God. I don’t know why we had to move – whether it was for my good or for someone else’s good. But God brought good out of it for me.
“What could have been” if I hadn’t moved seems to be a long list of opportunities I would not have had. I would have never experienced everything that I experienced, traveled where I traveled, met the people I met; things would have been totally different. I would have never gone to college where I went or experienced one of the highlights of my life – winning a national championship in women’s basketball at that college.
Mom asked me before she died if I had forgiven them, the answer was yes. The joke was not really a joke for her. She wanted to know before she left this earth that we were truly okay. It was all good.
The other decision that I made was at a bad time in my life. I made a lot of stupid decisions that led to a lot of heartache for me and my parents. It was not one of my stellar moments. I was in a relationship that was not a good one for me. The one I was seeing had a bit of a control problem. I realized one morning that I needed to get out of the relationship when I woke up with a shotgun close to the bed.
I don’t know if it was a scare tactic or what was explained as safety precaution for hearing something outside that night. The scare worked if that’s what it was. I knew in my heart that I needed to get out but I was deceived into thinking this was a good relationship. But God set me up; my parents were made aware of what was going on. To make a long story short, with the help of my parents I moved on to a new place.
We all face difficulties and have to face the hard times. But God will help us through it. He promises He will never leave us alone. Our part is to lean upon Him. He will give us the endurance to sustain us in those hard times. Pain and suffering is the way we become more like Jesus. God gets the glory win we shine the light on His working through it. Others get the benefit from the wisdom we gained in it. We get the blessing of helping others through their pain and suffering as only we can do as ones who have experienced what we’ve experienced. Yes, we can count it as joy because we have endured the worst and made better for it. It just takes the right perspective to see God at work in it. Lean on Him and watch Him work through it!
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (NLT)