I in no way compare myself with the apostle Paul, but I do kind of relate to these verses. As I look back over my life, I can see how God has used the difficult times to encourage others. When I speak, I often talk about my experiences with abuse, infertility, and living with chronic pain. And invariably, several women come to me to tell me how they were encouraged by my story.
I’m sure it’s the same for you. If you’re a cancer survivor, you’re uniquely gifted to lend a shoulder to cancer patients. If you’ve lost a loved one, you can empathize with the grieving in a way that many of us could not. If you’ve prayed a wayward teen back to the arms of God, you can encourage other parents.
No, the “things that happen” to us aren’t always pleasant or joyful or peaceful. We will walk through valleys. But God will—if we let Him—use even the most painful times for good (Romans 8:28). Or as I wrote in my book, The Best Laid Plans:
… many times we can’t see God’s plan until we have the perspective of hindsight. I know from my own experience that what seemed so awful, so painful, so heartbreaking at the time, always resulted in growth, in maturity. I know that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the times of challenge.Be assured: God is with you through the valleys just as He is on the mountaintops. And what a joy it is to know He’ll use our pain to encourage others and—maybe—even grow His kingdom.
She couldn’t possibly know what I’ve been through, you’re thinking. I’ve experienced real evil, and she’s telling me that God promised plans without evil. Sounds contradictory at best—and a lie at worst.
… You’re right. I don’t know your life. I don’t know your pain. I don’t know what you’ve cried out for from the deepest part of your heart. This is what I do know: There is always a reason for pain. Really. And it’s not because God is trying to punish you. It’s not because He enjoys watching you suffer. It’s not that God is reaping evil upon you. It’s not. Really.
Let me assure you of one very important thing. God loves you. He loves you. He loves you so much that He was willing to die for you…