I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately. Not only because of the need to process things that have happened and are happening in my own life, but also as I love and encourage others who have openly shared their stories with me.
So often I want to remove the hardship or eliminate the struggle…I find myself praying for God to take things away sometimes or that He will quicken whatever it is I’m going through so I can get “out” sooner.
And I’ll do the same with others. I’ll find myself praying that their trial would end sooner or that God would just intervene miraculously.
Sometimes He does! Sometimes an immediate healing or immediate relief/fix happens! And we celebrate that for sure!
But sometimes we must remain, we have to continue on in in, we have to persevere.
That can be an opportunity for many things: for us to simply put our heads down and gut through it, or a chance to let our hearts grow cold and bitter, or it can be a chance for us to soften, grow and see God more clearly.
A young mother of four diagnosed with stage four cancer.
A pastor, leading his church while also caring for his four kids and wife with stage four cancer.
A still born baby boy delivered at 20 weeks.
The miscarriage of a long awaited first child.
A wife trying to hold the family together through another severe down turn in her husband’s battle with mental illness.
A wife 8 months into finding out her husband cheated on her committed to stay together.
A wife’s long-suffering support of her husband through the 6th year of a 3-year graduate program…
I’ve heard these stories and dozens more this past month alone that have moved me to tears. And I know there are countless more.
Sometimes life is hard.
None of us can avoid struggles and trials in life. We all face sorrows, uncertainty and suffering in a myriad of ways.
And that pain changes people significantly – for the better, or for the worse.
You are either in a trial, just came out of one, or are about to go into another, which means you likely need to hear a word of encouragement. Here are 12 ways pain can engrave in us new hearts and change us…for the better.
- Makes you cherish your relationships. You begin to value your relationships more. Your heart is encouraged that you have people you can lean on in times of trouble and people who genuinely love you and are delighted to support you. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and let others in on what we are going through pain strengthens the bond between you and your closest friends and family.
- Gives you a compassionate heart. You become more empathetic, tender-hearted and loving. You grow “eyes” be be able to notice others who are hurting and you don’t want others to be alone. It gives you a heart to go toward those who are brokenhearted, to reach out, to be kind. You learn what kinds of things to say, and things not to say…when to listen, when to offer a hug, when to be silent, and when to speak.
- Increases your wisdom. You to see life differently and give you perspective of what is most important and what is trivial. You begin to value things that you once overlooked and eliminate things you once thought you could never let go of. You learn how to respond to circumstances with thoughtfulness and intention. You learn to be slower to speak and quicker to listen. Little things don’t bother you anymore.
- Makes you stronger. Like a growing muscle you grow in your ability to endure. With each trial and each season of struggling you are better prepared to face difficult situations in the future. Trials are painful, just like exercise can be at times, but after the healing there is great strength, which gives you increased ability to withstand even more.
- Reorders your priorities. You begin to put things in life in right perspective and as you gain laser sharp focus for what matters most. You might begin to reconsider your career, your health, where you live, how you spend your time, your finances and your relationships. It can help to re-route you and redirect you to new plans, new goals, and new adventures as you stop and ask questions regarding priority you previously didn’t know to ask.
- Is inspiring. Your hardships can be the encouragement you need to begin a new project or dream a new dream. There is great beauty in the midst of suffering. Apart from experiencing it, that beauty is not awakened. Most masterpieces were painted, written or created by strokes of pain. Suffering helps you see beyond the temporary and look toward the future and consider your legacy. Sometimes things need to be undone and torn down in order to be built up in a new and awe inspiring way.
- Makes you vulnerable, in the best ways. Your pain makes you approachable, real, and pure. Your life in the midst of brokenness becomes a humble invitation to others who need to be loved more deeply. Your pain gives a firm confirmation to others that you bleed just like they do. We aren’t meant to live life alone and struggles help us to realize that we need others just as much as they need us.
- Teaches you the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is circumstantial, joy is not. We are all tempted to look for ways to end the struggle, feel better and just be happy again. But through hardship we begin to see that there is something far richer than happiness that is worth pursuing. True joy comes from the Lord, and it has nothing to do with how well or how hard our lives are. You begin to search for joy, which means time with Jesus, instead of a quick fix or a proverbial bandaid.
- Increases your faith. Pain brings you to the Bible, the Church and to godly people for advice, encouragement, and hope. When we can’t understand why certain things happen, you begin to realize that although there may not be answers you are not alone. Your desire to understand God and Truth become a priority, one you begin to set time aside for. You begin to consider God’s character, and you see the story of the gospel more clearly.
- Makes you beautiful. Your scars hold stories. Tales of pain and survival, of sorrow and joy, of loss and victory. Your scars give beauty, substance and richness to your life that make you imperfectly perfect. You never ought to trust a Christian that doesn’t walk without a limp, which means, that pain you’ve walked through gives you a voice to others that is beautiful and filled with wonder, hope, and joy. Our scars don’t define us, but they do shape us and give us a beautiful trajectory as we point others to Jesus.
- Serves others. When we struggle the Church is built up. Those who know Jesus are encouraged to seek Him in new and fresh ways. Those who do not yet know Jesus see the beauty that comes through your hope in the midst of pain and begin to want to know where you’re hope comes from. Your suffering, in the path of righteousness, helps spur others on to be stronger, joy-filled, and more compassionate. It invites others around you to prioritize, to value, to also find joy in the Lord. Your brokenness offers an invitation for others to feel safe in their brokenness too. And your life softly whispers to all “you aren’t alone,” and breeds relational intimacy, oneness, friendship, and companionship.
- Glorifies God. It is in our weakness, not our strength, that God is made great. When we are in pain we no longer boast in ourselves, our accomplishments, or our achievements. We have the honor, through our suffering, to boast in Jesus and all He accomplished on the cross for our sake. Suffering produces an eternal weight of glory that will one day come.
When we endure struggles, suffering, and pain and we allow our hearts to be softened in the midst of it, we have the opportunity to be forever marked, changed, and morphed into entirely different, beautiful scar-filled people.
Our pain is doing something, something magnificent. You can’t see it, you likely won’t until long after, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening right there in the midst of it.
Sweet friends, don’t lose heart. Trust that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it and give God the glory that belongs to Him alone.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 1For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18