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

Sharon Jaynes Living Fully, Relationships, Trusting God, When You Don't Like Your Story 27 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 27

    1. Thanks for sharing this article. I was in a situation with a friend just last night where I found myself dealing with it in the manner in which was spoken about here. So glad I did! God bless,. Jane.

  1. well, spot on dear Sharon
    God bless you in all your life endeavours and me too , bless me Lord, Hosanna
    we bless you from the house of the Lord.

  2. ♦️This is just what I needed today & every day. I can very well identify my own trials & triumphs through similar trals as those you have stated in today’s devotion..
    One of my longing and heart-rending prayers is for my Prodigal son to come back to fellowship with his Savior. 🙏

    1. Ruth, it was a nine-year process for us. One step forward, two steps back. Wear out your knees, my friend. Rejoice in what He teaches you along the way. Many verses will come to be your life blood. Isaiah 40:31 was one of mine, but it was a long time before I could soar. In Gods time, He will do His work.

      1. Ruth, it was a nine/year process for us. Often one step forward, two steps back. Wear out your knees, my friend. Rejoice in what He teaches you along the way. Many verses will come to be your life blood. Isaiah 40:31 was one of mine, but it was some time before I could “soar.” In Gods time, He will do His work. I will join you in praying.

  3. The verses in this devotional always resonate with me. I have been learning to share my story more to help and comfort others. It puts us in a very vulnerable state. Yet, I know God uses it for good.

  4. Hi Sharon. In your message, you share various examples. Clearly, there was no physical healing or forgiveness in these situations. How do you comfort someone else when prayers of healing were not answered; when Jesus promises to heal and doesn’t? I’m on my 12th year of caring for my 94 yr Mom. She was diagnosed with dementia back then. I brought her into my home to take care of her. I have 5 siblings who 4 are brothers that act “exempt” from any kind of help. They say,
    “Patty, you’re doing such a great job taking care of Mom; I’m proud of you.” I receive that as saying, “glad you’re taking care of her so I don’t have to.” What they don’t realize is the mental, emotional and physical toll, that’s happening to me.
    I have a full time RE Brokerage, investments, partnerships and Mom. In Oct she quit talking and lost lower body strength.
    I have to literally pick up her to transport her to the shower, etc. Everything you would do for a baby, yet she’s an adult, plus hear her desperate cries for the disease and now as the disease progresses, her tears flow. She wants God to take her home; we pray for that. Nothing changes……The bible says when you see a believer needing help and only offer “words”, it’s like throwing cold water on them. It’s worse for me; I have lost respect for my siblings. I continue to pray that God would supernaturally heal Mom; with Him all things are possible. She doesn’t want that; maybe that’s why our prayers are not answered….we are praying for two different results. I’ve bought quite a few of your books and enjoy your transparency with your life, in your writing. Thank you and may your life be heaven on earth!

    1. Bless you dear sister in Christ, a difficult chapter in the your life as you’re doing an honorable thing caring for your mom.
      May the Lord grant you his peace and supernatural strength as you serve her.
      It’s sad that you feel alone with this…possibly compose a letter asking for the support you’re needing. It’s been said…men generally do not know what to do unless told in specifics.! As I have 3 sons & a husband who mean well, but don’t think about all I do taking care of everything. It can be very upsetting when they don’t help me. I was told recently if I don’t tell them they think I’m ok. I have fibromyalgia so I struggle with strength and chronic pain for 30 years.
      Hope this may ease your heart(not an excuse) they may really not get it!! I’ll be in prayer for your situation as it sounds like you’re stretching as far as you can!
      Hope you’re brothers can get you some help to get a nurse assistance for your mom. That may encourage and Ease the current level of stress.

    2. Oh Patty I’m sorry for your pain. I can’t imagine your daily struggle…. But God knows, and He sees, and He cares. He is there with you and your mom. This scripture came to mind and I prayed for you. I hope it will speak to you and comfort you….. His Word says Your love and compassion that you are pouring out for your mom is being poured out onto Our Lord. Such a beautiful picture this is of you tending to our Lord (very precious, and a sweet aroma unto Him)
      ““The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine., you did it for me. ” Matthew 25:40. Be strengthen in His living and gracious Word today He has been and shall continue to carry you as you carry (care) for your mother. You are precious to Him Patty. May God continue to do a good work in and through you.
      Love you in the Lord sister!

    3. Patty, I am going through the same situation with my 91 year old mother with dementia. I am an only child so there is no one other than me to take care of mom. I can no longer work because mom can’t take care of herself since she lives alone. I’m a 20 mi drive from her so it’s not far but she refuses to consider moving into any kind of care facility. She cries every day and I can feel her panic and desperation as her mind fails her. She is not a believer so I too am praying for God to take her home peacefully soon. My greatest pain is that I can’t do anything to change her situation. I don’t know how to turn this over to God so I feel like I am letting mom down. My own health has declined as well. It’s so hard to remain hopeful and joyful these days! You are not alone in your suffering!

    4. Patty,

      I can empathize with you. I went through the same thing with my mom and eventually ended up with a rotator cuff tear from lifting her and tomorrow will be three years that she passed, which was the day before Easter then. God will deliver you when he sees it’s more than you can bear and I will be in prayer for you and family.

    5. @Patty…my mom just went thru a very, very similar walk. The Lord taught her, grew her…even I learned some lessons during the process. Having a support group (friends, church family, etc.) makes a world of difference. I don’t know where you are geographically, but I pray you will seek out/find resources; may the Lord bless you with that. I wish you could talk with my mom…she is so very thankful for the precious gift of time she got with my grandmother, albeit hard. She was able to find resources in our state that brought in help.
      I have a couple other friends going down the familiar path. You are reaping rewards eternal, and honoring HIM, HIS Word…honoring your mother. Bless you for being a precious daughter and sacrificing for her. It is not in vain; it may seem unnoticed, but your FATHER in Heaven knows. May He strengthen you for the duration of the journey; give you peace, rest; glimpses of His love for you and your mother. May your hearts be ready and right for HIS call when the time comes. Bless you dear Patty, for your faithful service.

    6. @Patty… I talked with my mom and she is wondering how she can share some time with you. I have no idea how that works with Sharon’s blog and the moderators. But Mom knows and understands (along with some other sweet ladies on here) and is offering an ear and a shoulder. If someone can help us work this out, maybe you can Zoom or have a phone call. The offer is there if you feel to do so. No worries if you don’t. I understand that you don’t know us.
      Know that you are being prayed for!

    7. To my dear Patty, please know you are not in this alone. Your health as a caretaker is at risk. You, also need rest, as God demonstrated to us on his 7 th day of creation. Your mind, body, and spirit are exhausted. You are angry at others, and they, too are hurting. I was very angry with God and others, as my mom “progressed,” rather, “digressed” through Alzheimers. I calmed myself with the knowledge that God loved her more than I. I imagined she saw Jesus daily and was already with God. It was just her withering body, a shell, that was here on earth with us. I took my dad to a support group for Caretakers of those with dementia. We armed ourselves with knowledge of how to take care of ourselves through respite care, navigate healthcare, and legal issues. My dad prayed for her to be healed. Early on, she was in drug trials. I prayed for my dad’s spiritual strength. Your mother may not be able to speak, but she feels the love you are giving her. I would kiss mom’s forehead, then whisper in her ear, “ when you see Jesus, go to Him.” I felt she needed to know that we would be ok here. God has plans for you, too. Perhaps it’s learning to use your voice to get the help you need. Your mom has lived a very long life on this earth. May God bless you with his peace.

  5. THIS!!! So so good!!! Thanks again Sharon ♥️

    “And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.””
    ‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:31-32‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
    The ultimate goal of our trials and sufferings is for God to receive glory through us telling others how we made it through our “sifting”-it’s because of the compassion of God that we make it through-even if it looks like (in the world’s economy) that we didn’t make it through. God is in charge of the story, and if we let Him, we can still bring glory to His name even if our story doesn’t end up looking exactly like we thought it should. And knowing Jesus Himself prays for us….WOW!
    So thankful to have learned these verses at 18…after losing one of my best friends to a drunk driving accident 9 days after graduation…because now, at 50, I am better trained to ask God to get me through it, and then point me to the one who needs my empathy to be “strengthened” themselves. I still don’t get it perfect-the sifting is sometimes harder than I’d like it to be-but eventually I am able to see it just as He planned or allowed it, and walk in victory knowing He still wants to use me. All glory to God ♥️

  6. I am a cancer survivor. I have made it my ministry to comfort other cancer patients. I am struggling with what you said about God putting me through this? I don’t feel He put me through anything. Cancer put me through it. God was my rescuer. Circumstances like cancer are in motion ever since the garden. My perspective .. great devotional. Always enjoy your books. One of them changed my life. I’ll always be grateful.

  7. Thank you what a blessing of the devotion.I pray for my prodigal child every single day tha she returns to the love of God.

  8. Thank you so much darling sister Sharon for this. It is indeed the word for now. I was telling a friend some weeks back that we have done well preaching to others about our strengths and abilities, but it’s time we started talking more about our weakness and how God helped us overcome them; so that the weak amongst us can be strengthened too knowing they are not alone in this. Thanks once more Sharon, you are blessed beyond measures. God will continually uphold you and yours, and the ministry He’s committed in your hands in Jesus’ name.

  9. Sharon you’re so on point. Thank you for your transparency. To Sis. Patty, I pray that your siblings will realize the help you need, spiritually, emotionally and physically. If not please seek help from healthcare departments, that will provide the assistance that you so deserve. I will definitely keep you in my prayers!

  10. Thank you Sharon for your transparency. You’re truly a blessing to us. We will be praying for our Sis. Patty that she shall get the assistance she needs in taking care of her mother. We pray for her siblings as well.

  11. It is so good to read others posts then be able to share my own trials. Our middle daughter Erin has radiation for a brain stem malignant tumor tomorrow 3/31/21 – God saw her through the breast cancer last year. We are thanking God that He is at work in our family behind the scenes to draw some back to Himself as they watch Erins faith and trust in her Lord.
    I would appreciate prayers for Gods mighty angels to be in the room tomorrow to comfort and protect her. There will be 3 days of treatment so that means the last one is Good Friday. It was Good Friday last year when Erin went alone (due to covid) into the hospital to get her mastectomy. Her words then: Mom I am doing something really really hard all by myself but Jesus did something way harder by Himself on this day – so I know I will be ok! She inspires me and I know God loves her way more than we do!
    Blessings and prayers for all who suffer then offer comfort to others. Thank you Sharon for the encouragement!

  12. At age 27 I became a widow with two small children due to an automobile accident. Several months later I lost my mother-in-law who was my rock after my husband died. Years later I lost both of my precious parents within 10 months of each other. Nine years ago I went to work at a funeral home and I have considered it more of a ministry than a job. The words of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 have been displayed in my office since day one.

  13. Dearest Sharon I have read “When You Don’t Like Your Story” and I intend to read it again and do the exercises this time. I can’t begin to tell you all the changes, the healing that I experienced just through reading it. Not the first of your books I’ve read nor will it be the last. God does wonderful things through you! Ladies if you haven’t read this book I highly recommend you do.

    Patty – You are an angel, my parents went through a similar situation with my grandmother. My grandmother however was unfortunately not a very nice woman before the dementia. Oh, she owned a lot of bibles, went to church and tithed but never had a kind word especially for my mom (her daughter) and before she needed them my dad was the worse thing to walk the earth. But they took great care of her until the very end of her life. I saw changes in both my parents that I never thought possible. They turned to God where before they were not living that, they had practically turned their backs to Him. My mom was finally able to grieve her dad, a man who adored her and she loved quite deeply. He had been gone almost a decade before she could see her way to that finality, you see he asked her to take care of her mother a task he knew would be very difficult for her. My uncle moved away right about the time my grandmother was becoming more and more lost to that terrible illness. She turned on my mom quite often and my dad became the greatest thing since peanut butter. But even living this every day he did not see that my mom needed more than just help she needed some separation. One day he found my mom sobbing in the backyard, when he asked what was going on she told him what she needed and he apologized for not seeing that. They changed some things around and my dad took over a lot more of the things he could do. When my grandmother passed my mom was able to grieve a lifelong very bad relationship as well. I guess the reason I’m sharing this is because I believe BB is right, men often need to be told what we think should be obvious, it’s just how they are wired. Seeing how this worked with my dad I’m learning to communicate better with my own husband. I am praying that God give you the words, and your siblings give you the support and help that you so obviously need. YOU ARE LOVED! God bless you Patty, you are in my prayers.

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