The Positive Side of Negative Experiences
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."1
As a young man Demosthenes, the famous Greek orator, had a speech impediment that made him feel shy and insecure. His father left him a wealthy estate, but according to Greek law at the time, to claim his estate he had to establish his right of ownership through public debate. Because of his inability to speak clearly and prove his ownership he lost his inheritance.
Motivated by his loss and through dogged determination Demosthenes overcame his speech impediment to become one of the great orators of ancient times. Nobody remembers who got his inheritance but the story of Demosthenes has been told to countless numbers for centuries.
Back in college days I recall one of my professors saying that it takes twenty years to make a preacher and that the most effective ministers are those whose lives are tempered by suffering. "Nonsense," I said to myself at the time. I was wrong.
Pain, disappointment, sorrow, suffering, and sadness, and not success, are what can make a person more understanding, gentle, kind, understanding, accepting, loving, and real—if we allow this to happen and not become bitter.
The prophet Ezekiel understood the suffering of the Israelites in exile because he sat where they sat for seven days—and was overwhelmed.2 It's only when we sit where others sit that we can fully understand their suffering, without which we will be limited in our effectiveness as witnesses for Christ and as communicators of the gospel.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me not to avoid my pain but to face it, embrace it, own it, and bring it to you for your healing touch and use it to make me more sensitive to the suffering of others and minister to them in their pain. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV).
2. Ezekiel 3:15.