I was rummaging through a collection of papers and knick-knacks on my bedside dresser when I noticed a card from my sister. She had given it to me several months ago to encourage me to keep trusting in God throughout a difficult period in my life. These words stuck out to me in particular: “God uses everything in our lives for His glory. None of your trials are ever wasted.”
Over the years, I have suffered from anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Since I was a teenager, I had been taking antidepressants to help me cope with unwanted thoughts and resist the overwhelming compulsion to clean. The medication I was on helped me remain calm and optimistic.
But last year, my immune system was weakened during some health struggles and showed no signs of improving. My haematologist (blood doctor) suspected that my antidepressants were suppressing my already depleted platelet levels and suggested I slowly wean myself off them.
Talk about a shock to the system. I realized I had been basically numb to the pain for most of my adult life. Now, it seemed that all my feelings were magnified a thousand times over.
I thought I was managing alright. It was difficult in the beginning but I was getting through each day without my thoughts getting in the way of my daily routine too much. Then I was faced with the sudden deaths of two friends within the space of just a few months.
The shock and grief sparked a massive peak in my anxiety levels. My OCD also became much worse. My lengthier shower routines meant often being late for work, missing meetings, having to cancel plans with friends and ultimately feeling like I was letting people down all the time. I found it difficult to cope without any medication to help block out the intrusive thoughts. Panic attacks were more commonplace. While my friends and family seemed to have it all together, I wondered whether I would ever make it out the front door, let alone be used by God.
God Chooses the Imperfect
Those concerns have lessened over time but it’s been a tough journey. My battles are ongoing, but my sister’s words still ring true—God uses our brokenness for His glory. We often think about the things we need to fix in order to be used by Him. But He uses the meek, the mild, the weak, the young, the broken, the shamed and the hurting. He chooses to use what the world deems as inferior for His superior purposes.
Consider the type of people called by God in the Bible. Moses had a terrible stutter, yet he was used by God to approach the mighty Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Rahab was a prostitute, yet she was used to save God’s people and was even recognized in the lineage of Jesus. King David was chosen as the one who would rule Israel even though he was the youngest among a poor sheep herding family.
I used to feel ashamed of my weaknesses. I thought my anxiety and OCD were things Christians shouldn’t experience, so therefore I should never speak of them. We’re often taught that we need to surrender every anxious thought to God—so why was it so hard for me?
My anxious thoughts have prevented me from speaking on a number of occasions. They have also stopped me from putting my hand up to be a mentor to young girls because I thought I wasn’t a good enough example for them to follow. There have been overseas mission trips I’ve desperately wanted to attend but have had to decline, knowing how bad my mental health would be in unhygienic situations.
I thought that I was somehow unworthy of serving God because I wasn’t the “perfect Christian”, one who never doubted, never worried, never messed up. But the reality is that none of us are perfect. The Church is made up of fallible human beings. We need to resist the urge to present ourselves as perfect to the outside world, because it’s a false representation of who we are.
God Shines Through The Cracks of Our Lives
We are in the process of being made whole, but we are still a long way from perfect. Jesus says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). We need to show other broken people that freedom and acceptance can be found in the One who made them and loves them just as they are. We don’t need to have it all together. We just need to place our trust in the One who does. I can try my best but I will still fall. But even in my moments of weakness, I know God is still with me. He is there to wipe away my tears and give me strength.
I was recently able to share my testimony with a friend, which included my struggles with mental illness. I didn’t share the sanitized version of “my life was a mess. . . then I heard the gospel. . . now my life is perfect.” Instead, I shared that I still battle my demons, but that God is able to give me peace amid trials and hope when I feel hopeless. This helped her to open up about the recent difficulties she had been facing.
For some reason my friend had always thought that Christians were perfect people and that she would never be “good enough” for God. However, God used my struggles to show her that none of us are perfect, but we have a perfect God who loves us anyway. I was able to share the gospel with her and it opened up opportunities I never thought possible.
God doesn’t use me despite my weaknesses, He uses me through them. I was able to share the gospel with my friend because of my struggles. My weaknesses have also helped me gain a greater empathy for others who are suffering. My illness has enabled me to depend on God more than ever before. Just as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We all have our own unique struggles. But God can turn the ugliness of our pain and weakness into the beauty of His victory. A Japanese friend once shared with me the art of “Kintsugi.” This is when gold is used to repair breaks in earthenware. The breaks are appreciated as part of the history of the object, rather than thought of as something to hide or disguise. And through the repairs, a common piece of pottery becomes an exquisite piece of art. How much more can God repair and shine through the cracks in our lives!
What battles are you facing? God can turn them around for His glory. He is sovereign and He is able to bring change in any situation. Praise God that He can create gold from our brokenness!