At three years old, my father died. That moment in time, though one I could barely comprehend, has changed my life forever. The loss of a parent or close friend or relative is something you grapple with at any age. Life is painful and difficult. Over the years, through the many difficult life situations I have experienced, I have come to find peace in the trials.
I began to see a pattern. God would bring me through a trial. I would wrestle with the unfairness or sadness in it and then come to a place of peace. In a matter of time, someone would cross my path who was going through the exact same or fairly similar situation. Having just dealt with that, I would be able to empathize with them and share how I got through it.
If that happens once, it’s nothing. When it happens twice, it seems like a coincidence. It has happened over and over to me. So I have begun to say, “Lord, whatever you take me through in life – whatever difficult circumstances or painful thing – if it can help just one person, it is worth it.” It is this perspective that gives the profoundly difficult and painful trials worth. Not only do I learn and grow, but I can reach out to others and share my story to give them hope.
Just the other day, I experienced another one of those moments. Let me back up to almost a year ago. The day after Thanksgiving, I woke up early (I’m not a morning person) with an overwhelming feeling of nausea. Within 30 minutes I was bent over the toilet bowl and losing the contents of my stomach. Just 15 minutes later my stomach revolted and things exited from the other end. I figured I had eaten something bad the day before, but when no one else was sick, I became slightly suspicious.
This episode was just the beginning of what became intermittent bouts of an unknown condition. Days and sometimes weeks would go past with me being completely fine and then I would wake up one day with the horrible vomiting and diarrhea that would last a day and then mysteriously go away. I had no clue when it would strike.
I began to keep track of it in my planner so I would have a record in case I decided to go to the doctor. However, in the back of my mind, I knew it was God trying to get my attention. There were things he wanted me to stop doing and others he wanted me to start doing. The mysterious attacks were his way of getting my attention and helping me to realize that I had anxiety and stress about issues I was trying to control and not release to him.
(Please do not misconstrue what I am saying. Not all physical ailments are God trying to tell you something or get your attention focused back on him. The reasons why we get sick are many and different according to each person. This is just my account of this circumstance and what it meant for me at this time.)
This was like a giant physical speed bump to make me stop and listen. I was literally forced to put my life on hold. Each day that I got an attack I could do nothing but lay in bed between trips to the bathroom. It was actually this trial that was part of what led me to step out and begin Neshama.
It has been months and months since I have had an attack, and so I have almost forgotten it. It is part of the past and the story, but not my present – until I received a message from a congregant the other day. She was concerned about another member of our congregation. Her friend was sick and she wasn’t sure how to counsel her on the physical/spiritual connection to what she was going through.
She sent me a link and asked me to read about Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS). I had never heard of it. I clicked on the link and from the opening paragraph, I knew that was what I had experienced all those times. My immediate thought was, “You did it again, God! You had me go through something so that I could share that experience and be able to empathize with someone else.”
I was overwhelmed with thankfulness. Even as God cares for me and gently nudges me back into the path of his will, he does it in such a way that I can minister to someone else. He takes my pain and discomfort, and transforms it into something useful and worthwhile. All those mornings that I woke up at 5am and began the day bent over the toilet bowl – I would do it again, because I can now reach out to my sister in the Lord and help her.
Just as God redeems our lives from the sin that we live in, he can redeem our most painful and difficult circumstances. His transformative power can take what haSatan means for evil and use it to heal another.
The key is perspective. Can you see how God has brought you the double blessing of healing you and bringing someone else into your life that you can minister to in that same situation? Have you been too stuck in your own pain to see God at work?
I want to challenge you today to take inventory of your trials. You may need to pray and ask for a little help recalling things. Write down particularly difficult and painful things that you’ve experienced that God used to bring you to a deeper understanding of yourself and relationship with him. Was there someone in the same or similar situation that you were able to share your testimony of victory with?
Maybe you haven’t shared your victories with anyone. This is the time to identify who God has placed in your life that could use some encouragement and would benefit from hearing your story. It is our job as believers to encourage one another through the testimonies of how God is at work in our lives.
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you – that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. – Romans 1:11-12
Take time today to be thankful for a God that loves you so much that he doesn’t let you remain in your sinful state. Thank him for using your struggles to minister to others. Thank him for allowing you to be a part of seeing others encouraged and strengthened in their faith. Share your gratitude and encouragement with others. Comment or post on our Facebook or Instagram and let us know how you’re #thankfulforpain!