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Life Hurts, God Heals: Recycling Pain

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By Rev. Perry J. Fruhling

Note: This message borrows from the thinking of Rick Warren, Saddleback Ministries in California.

Grace and peace…We’re in the final week of this landmark series on recovery as we expose our hurts, habits and hang-ups to the light of God’s love. Let’s review the steps so far:

R – Realize I’m not God;
E – Earnestly believe God exists and he has the power to help me;
C – Consciously choose to commit my life to Christ’s care/control;
O – Openly examine and confess my faults to God, myself and others;
V – Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life;
E – Evaluate all relationships and offer and ask forgiveness;
R – Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer.

Today we are going to talk about the Y:

Y – Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and by my words.

Here’s the good news: God can use your pain for good. How, you ask?

1. GOD USES MY PAIN TO TEACH ME HUMILITY:

Last week we learned that humility is the best antidote for a relapse. But humility is the key to opening ourselves to God on a daily basis. God can use our hurts of the past and pain of the present to remind us of our need to stay humble before God. Psalm 69:32 says, “The humble will see their God at work and be glad…”

God gave us a free will to accept or reject God. He didn’t want a bunch of puppets. God wanted people to love him voluntarily. With the package of free will comes wrong choices. I choose to experiment with drugs and get addicted, or with sex and get a disease…It is only when we recognize our pain and struggle without God that we are ready to accept his power and hope for our living today.

Those of you who have been hurt by a parent, former spouse, teacher, friend, or relative, you may think God could have prevented my pain or struggle, but God also didn’t want to take away your/their free will. But it is in redeeming you from your broken choices and past pains that God can bring healing – life hurts but God heals.

2. GOD USES PAIN SO WE LEARN TO DEPEND ON HIM.

Paul’s example, 2nd Corinthians 1:8-10 (TLB): “We were crushed and completely overwhelmed and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we learned not to rely on ourselves, but on God who can raise the dead.” When you’ve lost it all and it’s all falling apart, you don’t know that God’s all you need until you realize He’s all you got. And He is all I need. And if you never had a problem, you’d never know God could solve them. God allows pain to teach you to depend on Him.

The truth is, some things we only learn through pain. It’s the only way we learn them. There’s a story of a little boy and his grandfather who had been riding around in the grandfather’s truck on their farm one afternoon. They stopped in a pasture and the grandpa pointed out a vine that was quite loosely attached to a tree. Grandpa told his grandson how the vine depended on the tree for protection.

That night a big storm came up – wind, rain, and hail. The next morning the boy asked his grandpa if they could go out to the pasture and look at the vine. When they arrived the boy was amazed at what he saw, the vine actually was now stuck up against the tree, clinging more tightly than the day before. The boy told his grandpa, “I thought maybe the vine would have fallen off the tree in the storm.” Grandpa, in his wisdom replied: “That’s the way it is with the storms of life, they tend to drive us closer to our source of strength.” The truth is, there are some things we only learn through pain. Depending on God is something that happens as a result of pain and struggle.

3. GOD ALLOWS PAIN TO GIVE ME A MINISTRY TO OTHERS.

It makes me sympathetic, sensitive to others’ needs. The truth is, pain prepares you to serve. 2nd Corinthians 1:4, “God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

Everybody needs recovery of some type: mental recovery, physical recovery, spiritual recovery, social recovery, relational recovery. We all have hurts, habits, hang-ups. Nobody’s perfect. Who can better help an alcoholic than somebody who struggled with alcoholism? Who can better help somebody dealing with the pain of abuse than someone who was abused themselves? Who can better help somebody who lost his job and went bankrupt than somebody who lost his job or her job and went bankrupt?

Who can better help a couple of parents who have a child, a teenager, who’s going off the deep end than a couple who had a child who went off the deep end? God wants to use and recycle the pain in your life to help others, but you’ve got to be open about it and honest. If you keep that hurt to yourself, you’re wasting it.

One of our members sent me a quote of the day this week: “Never trust a Christian leader who walks without a limp.” I pasted it up outside of my door to my office. It reminded me that out of my limp, my woundedness, I find my greatest ministry.

It comes from the story of Jacob in the Old Testament, who was going back to meet his brother Esau whom he had swindled out of the family blessing and inheritance. Jacob was experiencing remorse and guilt but also had nowhere else to turn. He was seeking forgiveness from his brother as he hoped to settle his entire family near to Esau. That night he goes to sleep but as he sleeps an angel from God wrestles with him. By dawn there was no clear winner and so the angel reaches down and strikes Jacob’s hip. He ultimately gives Jacob a blessing and a new name, “Israel”, or “one who wrestles with God. As a result Israel becomes the father of a great nation. His own pain and need for forgiveness led to wrestling with God over these things and ultimately being prepared to lead others.

Your “limp” is a result of your wrestling with the pain and struggle of your life. God never wastes a hurt. And when you learn from it and learn to share it, other people will be blessed as you minister through your pain.

HOW DO I USE MY PAIN TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE?

First Peter 3:15 is the basis for Step 8: “Always be prepared to give an account to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. ” This is what Step 8 is all about in the Road to Recovery: Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and by my words.

You need to be prepared to give an answer to How did you make it in life? How did you recover? How are you recovering?

You need to make a list of all the experiences you’ve had in life to this day, positive and negative. Ones you’ve caused and ones you didn’t cause. Then you ask, “What did I learn from that experience? How did God help me make it through that tough time?” Then write your story out on paper. Then ask yourself, “Who could best benefit from hearing my story?” The answer is people who are going through, right now, what you’ve already gone through. And you say to God, “I am vailable.” There are people who need to hear your story all over this world, who are going through what you’ve gone through.

Three suggestions in sharing your story:

1. Be humble. We’re all in the same boat. We’re all fellow strugglers. When you share your story, when you witness, it’s basically one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. You’re not saying, “I’ve got it all together,” because you don’t. You’re getting it all together. You’re on the road to recovery. As you’re getting it all together, be humble and say, “We’re all in this together; here’s what happened to me.”

2. Be real. Be honest about your hurts and faults. I’m grateful to be a part of a church family where real people can share real problems and real solutions without feeling put down or feeling guilty about it. We are committed to maintaining that atmosphere of acceptance in this church. You help other people by being honest about your hurts. It helps them open up. The other amazing thing is when you share your story it not only gives hope to them but gives healing to you. Every time you share your story with somebody, you get a little bit stronger. You’re healed a little bit more. You begin growth. People join Celebrate Recovery because of their pain, but they stay in Celebrate Recovery because of their growth. It keeps them growing in their life.

3. Don’t lecture. Just share your story. God wants you to be a witness not a defense attorney. You don’t argue anybody into heaven. You don’t force anybody into heaven. You just share—this is what happened to me. I want to challenge you to take four action steps:

1. If you have not yet committed your life to Jesus Christ, do so today. The greatest tragedy would be for you to go all the way through this series, hear these great truths, and the hope that it brings, and not do anything about it, like giving your life to Christ.

2. Write out your story. Take some time to set down and look at “What has God done in my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and how can He use that to help other people.”

3. Commit yourself to some church family for support. Attendance is not enough for recovery. It takes commitment and it takes relationships. Become a part of Celebrate Recovery or a growth group in our church that deals with issues regularly.

4. Ask God to give you somebody you could share your story with, to share the good news of how God can make the difference in somebody’s life. The world is full of people who need your story and if you don’t tell it, where are they going to hear it from? You are the only Bible some people will ever read. They wouldn’t be caught a hundred yards from this church. They’ll never hear me, but you have a story that can reach them, that they can identify with.

God wants to use you. We don’t need any more TV evangelists, we have too many already. What we need is you sharing your story with normal people, because you can reach people others could never reach, because your experience is different from anyone else’s.

Once you become a believer, why doesn’t God just take you on the fast track to heaven and get you there quickly? There are lots of things you can do in heaven. You can pray in heaven, sing, sleep, eat, relax, have fun, fellowship with other Christians, read your Bible. There are only two things you cannot do. One of them is sin. It’s a perfect place. The other is to tell the good news with people who have never heard. Which of those two reasons do you think God leaves you on earth to do? Obvious isn’t it?

The moment you step across the line, you become a carrier, you become a missionary. It’s called the Great Commission. It’s part of your job description, if you claim to be a believer, to share the good news with other people. The world is far more ready to receive it than we are ready to share it, and there are people who need to hear your story. You don’t have to be a biblical genius. You just say, “This is what happened to me.” That’s the most powerful kind of story anyway. It’s a personal experience.

Acts 20:24: “But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love.”

There is no greater accomplishment in life than helping somebody find assurance of heaven. Because when you do that you’ve made a friend for eternity. I make no apology whatsoever in saying that maybe the most significant thing you do with your life is first, give your life to Christ, become a part of God’s family, get involved in a ministry, start sharing your story. It will far outlast anything you do in your career, far outlast anything you do with your hobbies, because what we’re talking about here has eternal implications, getting people from darkness into light, from an eternity without God to an eternity with God, and people will be thanking you the rest of eternity. There is no more significant cause in life.

I challenge you to take this eighth step with me: “I yield myself to be used by God to bring this good news to other people, in my example and in my words.”

©2010 Perry J. Fruhling. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bio:
Perry Fruhling is the Senior Pastor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Marion, Iowa.