A few times in my life I’ve prayed very specifically about certain issues that have become landmarks in my life. One time I prayed very passionately for God to make me a patient person. I didn’t fully realize what I was asking at the time until God started answering it.
I’ve also prayed very seriously that God would make me useful for the Kingdom. I didn’t really understand what I was asking for then either. (Praying prayers like these makes me believe that they had to be Spirit-led because no one in her right mind would really ask for these things if she thought about it.)
I don’t think that I fully comprehended at the time that quite often the people who are the most useful in the Kingdom are also the people who have suffered and struggled so they can then be an encouragement to their brothers and sisters in Christ. Yes, we can be useful in the Kingdom by using our spiritual gifts of helps and administration and so on, but those don’t (usually) bring about suffering. The reality is that the people who impact us the most for the Kingdom and in our own walk with Christ are usually those who have suffered and struggled in similar ways to what we are currently going through.
This came to mind today when I read our daily Streams in the Desert calendar we keep in the kitchen.
And there arose a great storm. Mark 4:37a (KJV)
Some of the storms of life come suddenly. Some come slowly. Yet it is in the storm that God equips us for service. Every man who is preeminent for his ability was first preeminent for suffering. The heroes of life are the storm-swept and battle-scarred.
But if we are honest we don’t want to be preeminent for suffering! We DO want to be preeminent for our abilities. We want to be someone who has the right verses to share and the right words of encouragement when a sister in Christ is suffering. We want the wisdom and discernment that comes as a result of the suffering, but we don’t want to suffer to get it. We really don’t want to pay the price to learn those lessons so we can comfort others with the same comfort we’ve been given.
For me personally, this means I want to write something on my blog that ministers to someone. I appreciate receiving emails and comments that something I’ve written has met a very specific need. Honestly, that is what keeps me blogging – I believe this is one of the ways God has made me useful for the Kingdom. I have always believed the experiences I have had are not just about me. They are about being useful in the Kingdom.
BUT… in my flesh I don’t want to have to learn any more helpful lessons! I want to ride on the riches of my previous spiritual victories, not have to learn any more. I’m in the midst of a suffering experience right now that has been going on for months and I find myself tempted to feel frustrated or even angry that God is making me go through this now. Somehow I feel like I should be exempt from this kind of stuff while I’m pregnant with this special baby we’ve waited so long for so I can just focus on being gloriously happy during my pregnancy. Well, God wants me to go through this and STILL be gloriously happy during my pregnancy. It’s a choice I have to make – sometimes weekly, sometimes daily, sometimes hourly.
So I’m trying to choose moment by moment, day by day to not focus on the fact that I am going through a lesson. Instead, I’m trying to focus on learning in this lesson. I’m trusting that like so many times before, God has a purpose in this and part of that purpose is to make me useful in the Kingdom.
I’ve walked with God long enough that I can see the other side of previous experiences. I can rejoice when God chooses to use me to bless someone else. I can focus on the joy and gratitude I feel when God has used me which far overshadows the memory of the pain and frustration I had to go through before in order to learn those lessons. And I know that this current situation will pass, too. Someday I will be able to encourage someone because of what has burdened me in recent weeks and months. I WILL come out on the other side and I WILL have a new story to tell. And God will be glorified by making me useful for His Kingdom.