Thursday, February 18, 2016

“Don’t Waste Your Trials,” a new way to look at our hurts

Heartaches and trials and hurts and tragedies: You and I experience them, and when we do, “we focus on why they happen and how,” son-in-law Brian said in his Sunday sermon, “and we want to solve them.”


But Brian really caught my attention when he pointed out, gently, that in times of calamity, we become self-centered.

When the doctor says we have a terminal disease,
            when someone tries to destroy our reputation,
                        when we’re reeling in pain,
when we face financial ruin,
            when a loved one dies,
                        when the house burns down,
                                    when we’re wrongly accused,

we become self-centered, Brian said. Self-centered. And he’s right. His words made me think back to my past hardships and, sure enough, I became self-absorbed in seeking an end to my pain and a path back to normalcy.

Brian continued with compassionate words, with humble words full of grace: “We have wrong expectations if we think life shouldn’t have trials. When they happen, avoid self-centeredness.”

Instead, he said, think of this: “God might be doing something bigger than you.” Does that grab you like it did me?

Brian urged us to use our tragedies for good by looking to others.

Don’t waste your trials,” he said. “God might allow something hard so you can encourage others.

Use your problems as an opportunity,” Brian said—an opportunity, he said!—to encourage others as they endure their own difficulties:

Your life, your experiences,
and your stories
can serve as another set of eyes
for others
struggling through their own trials.
You can help them
negotiate through the dark
and find the light.

In the midst of heartbreak, when life sends us on a bumpy detour into the wilderness, let’s focus on trusting that God has good plans for each of us. He loves us and doesn’t forsake us. Even when we can’t sense it, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV).

Let’s watch for the ways God takes bad things and works them out for good. Sometimes it takes years, even decades, to detect how He’s been working, often quietly—even silently—out of sight. But He’s been working nevertheless, and it’s our job to take time and make the effort to look back, connect the dots, and put all the puzzle pieces together.

And then let’s write our stories 
and share them with others. 
Our stories can’t help anyone unless we share them.

“Life is a steep climb,” wrote Mrs. Charles E. Cowman about a century ago,“… and it does the heart good to have somebody ‘call back’ and cheerily beckon us up the high hill.” (By call back Mrs. Cowman means cupping your hands around your mouth and hollering, as opposed to returning a phone call.)

“We are all climbers together, and we must help one another,” Mrs. Cowman wrote. “This mountain climbing is serious business, but glorious. It takes strength and a steady step to find the summits.… If anyone among us has found anything worthwhile, we ought to ‘call back.’” (From Mrs. Charles E. Cowman’s Streams in the Desert; emphasis mine)

That’s what memoir is all about: Those who have found something worthwhile—that’s all of us, isn’t it?—ought to share it with others.

Think of the times someone else’s story:

  • turned your life in a new direction,
  • convinced you to keep a promise,
  • gave you hope,
  • kept you from making a big mistake,
  • inspired you to take a leap of faith,
  • taught you how to love,
  • helped you forgive,
  • gave you courage to stand against evil,  
  • solved a mystery,
  • showed you how to give a soft answer,
  • helped you make a hard decision,
  • inspired a new goal.

Those are the people who “called back” to you.

Now it’s your turn
to “call back” to others.

Write—and share—your story.

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