Written by Jefferson, Singapore, originally in Bahasa Indonesia
A few weeks ago, my Bible study group in church was reading Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life together. There was a section from the book that caught my attention:
It is the last category, painful experiences, that God uses the most to prepare you for ministry. God never wastes a hurt! In fact, your greatest ministry will most likely come out of your greatest hurt. [Emphases are all Rick Warren’s]
This paragraph resonated with me deeply as I was reminded of how God used a painful episode I had just gone through to reach out to my colleague, who is a non-believer.
A few days before that, a close friend in church had confronted me about my insensitive behavior. He was hurt because I would often prioritize my needs above his. And this applied to some of my other friends too. For instance, I would insist that they accompany me out for meals even though I knew that they were exhausted and would have preferred to rest instead.
After my friend confronted me, I was quick to apologize but deep down, I was far from convicted.
“Was what he said true? Am I as selfish as he depicted me to be?”
I struggled with these questions for days because I could not reconcile what he had told me with how I perceived myself.
As I continued reading The Purpose Driven Life, the section on Paul’s account in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 comforted me greatly. He recounted his sufferings during his ministry in Asia Minor, which reminded him to rely on the Lord wholeheartedly.
In response to that passage, Rick Warren wrote: “For God to use your painful experiences, you must be willing to share them. You have to stop covering them up, and you must honestly admit your faults, failures, and fears. . .Paul understood this truth, so he was honest about his bouts with depression.”
Those words reprimanded me. Being criticized is never pleasant. While it is often conveyed with good intentions—that we may see and correct our flaws—it will hurt our feelings inevitably. However, I decided to look past the hurt and embrace my friend’s criticism with an open heart. I also made a commitment to be more sensitive towards my friends’ needs.
Painful Experiences Help Us to Know Ourselves Better
Through my friend’s criticism, God opened my eyes to the sins I was previously blind to. As I pondered over this, Psalm 139:23-24 came to mind:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
I realized that I have been selfish and inconsiderate of those around me. Though it was hard, I am thankful for this experience as I was once again reminded of my sinfulness, but even more so of His grace that enables me to walk in obedience.
God Uses Our Painful Experiences to Bless Others
A few weeks after this happened, God gave me the opportunity to share my experience with a colleague, who is a free thinker.
As we were walking back to the office after lunch one day, he asked me what I thought of him. I decided to probe into his sudden inquiry before answering his question.
Apparently, one of his friends had vilified and criticized him harshly. After he shared his experience with me, I decided to share about my experience of being criticized—how my friend’s criticism led me to understand myself better and how God helped me to reconcile with my friends.
My colleague listened intently until I began to speak of the reconciliation with my friends. He interrupted me and asserted that he did not believe in God. He was not convinced that the reconciliation I had experienced was done with God’s help.
Even though he proceeded to change the conversation topic promptly, I could tell that my sharing made an impression on him. While he may not have been open to talk about God, I believe that God had still worked through me to reveal His love to him.
In the words of Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Life, “Who could better help an alcoholic recover than someone who fought that demon and found freedom?” We can be God’s vessels to minister to those who face the same struggles as us.
I learned that there is meaning to our struggles. While it may seem that God is chastising us, He has a purpose that is beyond our understanding. He will be our comfort in our pain. When we confess our sins and repent, He will forgive us and help us so that His works may be realized through us.
When we relate our painful experiences with those who are in similar situations, the door is open for us to share God’s love. An honest testimony about how God works through our weaknesses can be used to open the eyes of others to the Lord.
If you are going through a painful experience, I hope that my sharing will encourage you. The Lord never promised that we will be spared from pain and tears in this life, but He has promised to work through us despite our sinfulness, and bring us healing and comfort. He can also use these painful experiences to glorify His name and bless those around us.
See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. (Deuteronomy 32:39)