God Puts to Use What He’s Put Us Through (and What We’ve Put Ourselves Through)

Sharon JaynesLiving Fully, Relationships, Trusting God, When You Don't Like Your Story 24 Comments

Chris, one of my friends, was in a seminary class when someone raised his hand and asked the professor: What is your best advice on how to be a good pastor?”

“Empathy,” the professor replied. “Have empathy.”

Then Chris raised his hand. “How do you get empathy?

With a trace of sad knowing in his eyes, the wise older man replied, “Suffer.”

Chris now understood. Empathy isn’t something you learn; empathy is something you live.

One of the greatest ways God puts to use what He puts us through or what we’ve put ourselves through is by creating in us a deeper sense of compassion than we would have ever known without the trauma.

The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, meaning “to suffer with.” Compassion for brokenness comes from brokenness. There’s really no other way.

When we hold the hands of weary friends, not as people who can fix their problems, but as people who understand their pain and “suffer with” them, it gives them comfort. I’ll walk through this with you. I get it. I may not understand the particulars of your struggle, but I do understand disappointment and heart-wrenching pain. Only when we have experienced our own disappointment can we sympathize with the disappointment of others.

One of my greatest gifts from the loss of our child was a deeper compassion for women who struggle with infertility and loss. No one in my family had ever died before in my lifetime except my grandma, but her death was expected because she was old. However, when my baby died, that was not expected. When she died, something else in me was born—a deep-seated compassion for those who have prayed for years but not received the hoped-for reply, for the women whose dreams became nightmares, and for women who wanted answers but got none.

Paul wrote, “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 receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4, emphasis added).

The word translated “comfort” in this verse is the Greek word parakalōn. It comes from the root words para and kaleo, which mean “to call near, to invite, invoke.” When we tell our stories to someone who is hurting, we come near to them and our words comfort them in a way that empty platitudes and easily recited Bible verses cannot.

When we say, “Let me tell you what I’ve gone through,” or “Let me tell you how I’ve failed,” the hearer no longer feels isolated and alone in her struggle. Suppose there is someone who understands. Suppose you are that someone, and you need to tell your story. When you share the comfort that you have experienced in your struggles, when you’re honest and vulnerable with the facts, it lets the hearer believe there is hope for a better story.

God doesn’t comfort us just to make us comfortable. He comforts us in order to make us comfort-able—able to comfort others. When we keep our stories to ourselves, we deny others the comfort that is ours to give.

No one can comfort a woman with cancer like a woman who has also heard the word malignant from a doctor’s diagnosis.

No one can comfort the mother of a prodigal like a mother who has also worn her knees raw praying for her child to come home.

No one can comfort an abandoned wife like another woman who has also watched her husband walk out the door.

No one can comfort a woman who’s struggling with the shame of an abortion like a woman who has experienced forgiveness and grace for her own.

When you tell your story, you give your listener the gift of knowing that she is not alone. She will breathe a sigh of relief that says, “I thought I was the only one. Finally, someone who understands.”

Father, thank You for the hard times because they have made me stronger, wiser, and more compassionate toward others. Help me not to waste what I’ve been through, but to use what I’ve learned about You through the struggles to help someone else get through theirs. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Take an inventory and note what struggles God has brought you through.

How can you use what you’ve learned about God during those struggles to help others?

If you haven’t gotten your copy of When You Don’t Like Your Story: What If Your Worst Chapters Could Become Your Greatest Victories, now’s the time. You don’t need to carry the burden of a painful past any longer. And if you have already read the book, think of someone you know who needs that healing message! You might be the catalyst to her biggest victory ever.

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Comments 24

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I was once told what we go through isn’t for us but for others and your story has reminded me just that. I wrote a book entitled Mother 2 Mother: Overcoming My Journey. I felt a rush of emotions during the writing of the book . When it was completed I realized it may not be for everyone but someone will benefit from it ; just as I have from your story. Thank you for sharing.

    1. My hubby is a published author too. His stories are definitely not for all, maybe not even many. But the ones that have said they were moved, they learned, they were appreciative…..that’s who you 2 wrote for.

      Thank you.

  2. Thanks for the reminder that my pain and struggles have not bee in vain, I pray for God’s wisdom as I share my past mistakes, regrets and hurts and the way God was always provided His love and comfort as He walked by my side or while he carried me. My Real Story is Yet to be Told. Thank you so very much for that nudge I felt when I read just the beginning pages of your story.

  3. Thank you for this message of compassion and mercy. My prayer is to be able to share my painfull experiences and share God’s mercy and grace so that others can see God’s presence through their pain.

  4. I think the greatest problem in Christian circles is that we don’t tend to talk about our problems or failures because we are embarrassed. As if we were better Christians, this wouldn’t be happening to us. I know I’m guilty. We need to be more transparent for others. Thank you for this devotional.

  5. We all have pain, We all have a story. We have a God who loves us through it all..
    Loved and needed todays devotion! Thank you

  6. Thank you Sharon, this message was a blessing to me. Sometimes we may WHY me Lord … this opens ones eyes and heart to see there is a purpose for every painful situation we may have been through ! May Lord continue to Bless and Strengthen and Renew you as you continue to pour into others!! ♥️

    1. I will pray for you elaine and your marriage. I can relate because my marriage is failing and is in need of many prayers too. I pray for the LORDS guidance and peace. May HE comfort you in HIS unconditional love.

  7. Your message was spot on, I too am able to walk with other women friends who are or have experienced loss of spouse , friend or like me, a brother at age 40. Thanks for sharing your story. Blessings on you as you continue to minister.

  8. I understand that you suffer to help people, but sometimes it is just too much. I lost a husband in a car accident, I lost a husband to colon cancer, and now, my 3rd husband is dealing with dementia. I have an eye disease and am in End stage renal failure awaiting a kidney transplant. My son just had a heart attack and I am working two jobs to make ends meet. If there were some way to see the ending, I would be OK,. I tried to talk to pastor’s and their wives to tell my story, but no one is interested.

    I see these people who have been brought through so much and then talk about it and have successful careers. I just don’t understand my circumstances. It just seems like it is all for nothing.

    I am sorry, but I am just really discouraged right now and don’t understand why God is allowing so much pain in my life.

    1. Hi Michele. I was sad when I read your story… sometimes it is just too much pain. I want you to know I prayed for you, that God would ease your pain and suffering in some way. Please have mercy on Michele, Lord!
      Cry out to Him and say it is too much, Lord. He loves you so and never leaves you. Some glorious day you will be free from all your heartache!

  9. Such precious, important words. Thank you for sharing. I’ve seen this again and again… Even now as I walk with someone whose life experiences parallel mine…
    Ultimately, God is so great,loving and merciful…

  10. I think hearing that another person has struggled with something similar can be helpful. However, I do believe we must be careful to know the right timing and how to share with someone, so we don’t turn it into a focus on our past suffering rather than what the other person is going through.

  11. In 2018, my husband of 20+ years left this earth and I became a widow at 49. During the initial phase of shock and pain I felt overwhelmed with love as God enveloped me with friends, family and His followers. At the time, I questioned why was He being so good to me. Fast forward four years, a dear friend at work has become a widow at 42. I understand now the importance of my suffering and the beautiful opportunity of loving forward.

  12. I went through the bible study (When You Don’t Like Your Story). I especially liked hearing you speak. Do you have any other Bible Studies recorded or single lessons recorded ? I really einjoyed your Bible Study. God bless you !!

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  13. please pray for daughter…she is now 38 years old and for years she has prayed for a child..and she didnt got an answer. her name is Sandra Isabel

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