I've walked through some situations in my life that I never would have predicted, and a lot of what I've experienced and am experiencing in those circumstances can only be described as this - MESSY. Unpredictable. Frustrating. Hard.
I'm not going to post about the details of it here yet, but I will say that for a long time, I've been at a loss to find meaning, purpose, and a sense of gratitude from those struggles. A tinge of bitterness has sept its way into my spirit and taints the very joy that Christ came to give.
Just yesterday, at the start of a long car ride home from a holiday well spent with family, my fiance prayed this prayer for us: that God would reveal His purpose for our circumstances to us. We know God is sovereign and has a higher purpose in all things, even when we cannot see it. We were just hoping for a glimpse as to what that might be; we wanted to see His hand in our situation so that we may more accurately walk in His will.
So this morning, we went to church and heard a wonderful word from Ephesians by Pastor Steve Kelly at Wave. As we sat with our Bibles open to Ephesians 4, there were two verses of scripture that popped out to me on the page. I didn't know why, but I just couldn't shake it.
Hours later, it hit me. This was it. The purpose was in those very verses. In that sudden undeniable moment, the past few weeks of confusion came together in a crescendo and God answered our prayer - He showed me the purpose in the pain. And I realized it had little to do with me at all.
It's about offering grace to others.
It's about being able to share with others in THEIR need.
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I remember when I was walking through one challenging season in particular; I felt desperate for some comfort and wisdom from someone else who had been there, from a Christian perspective. And I just couldn't find it. It wasn't there.
Thankfully, God comforted me in that season, and by His grace, I made it through what I didn't think I would. Now I know that I can be that comfort to the next person who fights that same battle. I know that God comforted me so that I can bring comfort to others (2 Corinthians 1:4). The blessing of the mess I've been in is that I get to meet that need, for comfort and testimony, in someone else's life. Here I am now, thanking God for letting me walk through what I have so that I can let His glory shine as a ray of hope in the midst of someone else's darkness.
Sometimes, God permits hardships in our lives, knowing that by His strength and grace we will overcome them, and in turn, we may be able to share those victories with others in their time of need, offering encouragement and a heartfelt, "It's going to be okay." Sometimes, our pain finds its purpose in shining as a testimony to His loving faithfulness toward others. Sometimes, our messes are meaningful because they offer hope to someone who feels hopeless.
Whatever difficulty you have faced or may be facing, know that it does NOT have to steal your joy, though the enemy would relish in having you believe so; instead, rest assured that God will comfort you in the process of whatever you may be struggling with, and in turn, His healing, redemptive, and gracious work in your circumstances and heart will someday be a testimonial light for another member of the body - the church.
Whatever you've walked through, whatever you're walking through, know that there is purpose in your pain. Ask God to let you see it.
Know that God is going to use the things that hurt you to heal others; know that your walking by faith rather than sight is going to bring a newness of strength and good works in you that will be of comfort to others as they struggle in similar ways. And as they are comforted, God will be drawing them nearer to Him. Because of your faithfulness, others may find faith of their own.
After all, isn't that what life is all about? Loving one another. Doing what we can to extend grace and hope to others. Making one another's lives better. This is community. This is life. This is the church.
So, thank God for the tough stuff along with the good - even when it's hard. Trust that He will use ALL of it together for your good, His glory, and for the building up of others; CHOOSE to look for His hand in your situation, and follow His lead, faithfully.