What a whirlwind season this has been and is becoming. Many thanks to all of you who have shown support since my cancer diagnosis. I have another surgery scheduled for this Friday to remove a second area where they have found it, but the rest of my body looks squeaky clean. Praise the Lord. The release of my book, Figuring It Out As I Go, has gotten off to a good start and I’m receiving a lot of encouraging feedback – you can get a copy right here off the TT website. Last night I was able to preach and speak into the lives of many at New Bridge which really did my heart some good – I was grateful to feel strengthened to work an entire day and then preach into the evening. The Lord gave me all that was required for the long and satisfying day. In the midst of the whirlwind, I can still feel the gentle, reassuring breeze of the Holy Spirit.
The Church is no syrupy-sweet group of painless people. All of us have stories which involve a few chapters of personal struggle or suffering, so I thought it might be healthy for us to remember together today that God is not some distant deity, tucked away in the farthest corner of Heaven and preoccupied with everything other than…us. Pain is such a reality of living on earth that even God’s Son was not spared from experiencing it. My wife reminded me yesterday of that mysterious verse in Hebrews 5:8 which says of Jesus, “Although He was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.” Jesus certainly deserved nothing but glory, honor and blessing on earth, yet even He suffered intensely when He was here. Yet, while God does not insulate us from pain, He does bring a triumphant recovery to anyone who will respond in faith toward His hand of grace and mercy.
Remember these verses with me:
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” – Psalm 103:13-14
God is under no illusions about the limits we sense within us. He really does know what we can bear and what we cannot. When we struggle and suffer, God does not simply communicate orders to us from a distance – He enters into our experience with us and is moved by our pain. I am a firm believer that He offers us each a remedy that will outweigh in blessing what the struggle costs us in pain. In the end, we will be fully and forever delivered from the potential for any and all further suffering. Until that moment arrives, God is both loving and wise, and He wants us to harness our personal pain to help meet the needs of others who travel the same road we travel, specifically those coming behind us.
Do not waste your pain. As our Father is compassionate, so will His children be. May God purpose our struggles to pay dividends in the lives of others who also suffer. Father, help us to look beyond ourselves when trouble shows up at our address. Help us to think of our neighbor.
Here are some ways to do this today and every day which follow. Using your pain lessens your pain. Trust me, it’s true, as many of you can testify.
Has God ever shown compassion to you when you stood in need of a healing touch?
Volunteer to become the one He uses in the life of another who needs the same.
Has God ever shown compassion on you when you struggled with unbelief and battled something you could not defeat on your own?
Listen patiently to others and become the one He uses to encourage them as they battle their own doubts.
Has God ever ministered compassion to you when you were stricken with the deepest grief?
Do not hesitate to commit to become the one He uses to comfort those who are grieving in that same way today. Grieving people need the presence of those who have grieved.
Has God ever shown compassion to you when you were experiencing shame for your personal failures?
You can commit to become one of the rare people who carries the message of grace and forgiveness to those who are feeling the weight of their own shame.
Has God ever shown compassion to you when you were a shepherdless sheep, lost in a crowd of others?
Become the one who seeks out others who also are lost sheep, struggling to find the way.
Ultimately, God releases His mercy and compassion most often through His children. He invites us to help his other children. He calls us to pour comfort out on each other. The world around us pours out the toxins of rage, offense, accusation and unkindness. Jesus imparts His life to us so that we may stand in distinction to those nasty outpourings. He looks to us and invites us to operate as He did when He walked down here. Holy Spirit can pour through us everything which is needed to reveal the compassion, mercy and kindness of Jesus on the strugglers and sufferers around us.
This is the proper use of our pain. This is how we deepen in our journeys with Jesus. This is how we take what the enemy means for evil and turn it into eternal good.