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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

12 Sep '11

Don't waste your pain

Posted by T.J. Addington in personal growth, spiritual formation, suffering, The heart
I often talk with ministry professionals who are walking through pain, some very deep. It may be of their own making, more often it is not and sometimes it is grossly unfair - as life often is. My counsel to them is to seperate the source of the pain from how God wants to use that pain in our own lives for our good, our growth and our enhanced leadership potential.

A great example of this is Joseph in the Old Testament. Unfairly accused by his master's wife of trying to seduce her, he spent years in prison. Obviously the charge was bogus and the incarceration unfair. But, God had greater things in mind for Joseph and it was his prison experience which grew his faith and prepared him for what eventually became the second most important job in Egypt. If Joseph had focused on the unfairness of the situation he would likely have grown a bitter spirit. Instead he focused on serving God in the prison and growing his relationship with Him and he emerged stronger and wiser and more mature.

Pain, from whatever source, focuses our lives and gives us the chance to go deeper with God. And God, in His wisdom and graciousness is more interested in our growth in relationship with Him than in our comfort. It is the process He uses to grow our hearts to be like His which is the greatest gift any of us could ever experience.

When we experience pain, there are two focuses we can choose. One is to focus on the source of our pain - often unfair circumstances or unfair people. We do need wisdom in how we respond to people and circumstances to be sure. However, even more important is to focus on what God wants to do in our lives through the circumstances because ultimately we cannot control people and circumstances but we can ensure that we don't waste the opportunity God is handing to us to grow closer to Him, learn more about faith and grace and followership and faithfulness.

Early in my ministry career I walked through some deeply unfair circumstances. Many around me wanted justice for me which from a human standpoint would have been very satisfying. In retrospect, however, I realize that while the situation was not fair, God was up to something in my life that was far more important than the fairness or lack of it. He wanted to change me in ways that only could be accomplished in pain. I am forever thankful for the pain, and that I did not waste the pain by focusing on the wrong things because that pain was responsible for major transformation in my own life over time. I did not get justice: I got something far more precious than justice - I got heart transformation that has spilled over to others ever since.

It is easy when experiencing pain to conclude that God is punishing us, or that we don't have enough faith or have not pleased Him in some way. The reality is that pain is often one of the greatest signs of God's love for us in that through the situation we have the opportunity to press into Him and get to know Him more intimately. Far from being punishment it is often an invitation to come to the One we were made for and experience His peace, presence and relationship.

Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33)."