The Toolbelt of Your Sufferings

Look back at all the hardest things you've walked through in your life, as many as you can remember, make a list of them, do it now. Here are a few of mine:

I grew up in a legalistic home. I was secretly rebellious in every way I could fathom. Yelling, shouting, and physical expressions of anger were commonplace in our home. I was abused sexually at a young age. I lost my younger brother in a fatal accident when I was 19 and he was 14. My parents divorced in a messy and long process. I was had to deal with ramifications of my parents marriage and divorce for a very long time. I was single far longer than I imagined I would be. I went for years in the church without understanding my sin or the cross fully. I went through a period of unbelief in God, certain He had forsaken me. There were times when I had 0 dollars in my bank account. My mom was in a horrific car crash. I moved more than 23 times in 15 years. I lived with 38 different roommates. I was overlooked for job promotions and not paid as much as my male counterparts. I married a man who had been previously married—something I could have never imagined in my twenties. I miscarried twice in five months. We walked through a really difficult church situation in a new marriage in a new city. My husband lost his job three months into marriage and was unemployed for the next five. Within the space of four weeks we experienced three violent crimes and one vandalistic act on our property. We moved cross-country twice in one year. I have been lied about and slandered in public arenas. We just walked through this.

There are more that should be on this list. They happened to me, to members of my family, or by members of my family. They're part of my story, but not entirely my story to communicate. But they happened and they were hard.

Your list probably looks similar to mine—not the same things, but certainly the same level of difficulty for you personally. We cannot compare pain. If you take two men who have never experienced pain of any kind, and give one a paper-cut and amputate the leg of the other—both of them will still say their pain level is at a ten. For some of us, what seems to be paper-cuts to others are pains of the deepest kind. So this is my list of deep wounds throughout my life. Places where in each thing I was certain there was no end to the pain in which I found myself.

But look at your list again and this time view each of those things are tools in your arsenal for ministry. When a friend speaks to me of her longing for marriage—I get it. When I hear of someone who lost her sibling in an accident—I get it. When friends are walking through divorce or the divorce of their parents—I get it. When a sister miscarries—I get it. When someone loses their job—I get it. When someone walks away from the Church—I get it.

Praise God He entrusted you with the opportunity to minister out of your weakness, pain, loss, and life. You are 100x more postured to minister to others with those difficult experiences in your life than without them. So too, this hard thing you're walking through right this minute, it is working in you a greater glory. Paul said,

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians  4:11-13

Each of those excruciatingly painful circumstances of your life cannot be wasted or thwarted by a King who's on His throne. He doesn't excuse Himself from the throne when you walk through all sorts of fiery trials. No. He is there, with you, groaning alongside you in your suffering, knowing each of the difficulties you're walking through will become tools in your belt of ministry and are working in your a glory greater than you can imagine today.

Here is the secret to worshipping through the list you have in front of you: He strengthens you. He girds you up. He bolsters you. He restores you. He heals you. He sets you forward to minister out of what you have been through. And He will do it again and again and again for as long as we're on this side of the new earth, for His glory and your good.

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