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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.

02 Sep '08

Pain and Legacy

Posted by T.J. Addington in Healthy leaders, The heart, The Holy Spirit


Most of us have endured significant pain in our lives. Pain inflicted by others, pain inflicted by life itself and pain inflicted by ourselves – through poor choices. Pain, while never welcomed, if properly channeled, can be a part of a wonderful legacy.

I had the sadness of watching one of my hero’s - Doug waste away from Lou Gerigs disease in the past several years. He reached his finish line in February of 2008. Doug was at the height of his business success when he received the news of his disease. There was nothing ‘fair’ in the disease he had to endure. Nor was it easy.

Yet, throughout his journey with this disease, Doug demonstrated that grace and dignity and faith that can only be a result of the Holy Spirit’s work and which touched everyone he knew. Doug taught me a lot in the times we spent together. He taught me a lot about faithfulness and faith in his final years.

God has a way of redeeming pain for His glory. I went through deep pain – the dark night of the soul – early in my ministry. It took years for my heart to fully recover. Yet through the pain I understood God’s grace in a new way, I developed great empathy for others who were hurting and it led me to help churches develop healthier leadership boards and churches.

Much of my ministry was influenced by that pain which God redeemed and used for His good. There is nothing that has happened in our lives which God cannot redeem and use for His glory. This is the wonderful nature of grace – even when we are responsible for our own pain. God has the power take what is bad, and hurtful and painful and use it for His good – bringing healing to us in the process.

The Apostle Peter reminds us that our pain comes so that our “faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:7).” In other words the pain we suffer actually changes us and contributes to a legacy that is even greater because of it.

My friend Ann who is a cancer survivor and who walked through some very tough years fighting the disease describes her pain this way. “My life in the past 3 years shows a long series of dramatic ‘stones of remembrance’ of God's faithfulness and grace. Grace has become my theme.
As I look back, I see how God's used heartache, disappointment, disease, and even my sin to accomplish his glorious purposes in my life. I certainly don't deserve his goodness and favor, but he has lavished me in it.”

Pain is a reality of life. How we choose to respond to it will determine whether it contributes to our legacy as we allow the experience to grow our faith, our capacity to empathize and understand others and the character that only pain can grow.


Joni Erickson Tada came to the place where she could turn the pain and disappointment of the accident that left her a quadriplegic into a powerful testimony of God’s grace and a worldwide ministry. What a tragedy and loss it would have been if she had instead chose the rout of bitterness and self pity.

The alternative is to allow pain to detract from our legacy through bitterness or the inability to move beyond the hurt. If you find yourself trapped by pain, I urge you to get help because it will be a prison for you until you are able to place it in perspective, learn from it and allow it to be a part of your history that positively informs your present.

It is in the difficult periods of our lives that we are most powerfully shaped and our character most profoundly formed. This was true for Jesus as well. The writer of Hebrews says that “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

Pain is a friend, not an enemy if seen from that perspective. I have walked through some intense periods of pain in my life; physical, emotional, relational, work related, and family related. As I look back over my 52 years, I can see how those periods of pain were major factors in shaping who I have become and the impact that I can have on others. My legacy has in many ways been shaped through pain and difficulty. In that light it has been a great gift. There is no pain that God cannot redeem for His glory.

Take a moment and consider the pain that you have encountered on your journey. Are you willing to thank God for His grace in the pain and ask Him to sovereignly redeem the pain and use it for His glory?