Painful Experiences are Part of the Plan
- Friday, July 04, 2008
I think the greatest weakness God’s man can have is being unaware of weaknesses. Let me ask you: What is the most expensive mistake you have ever made?
I’m not talking about losing a deal, buying a lemon at the auto dealer, or purchasing a home that started depreciating the day after you bought it. I am talking about mistakes that cost you in your relationships, took a toll on your physical and spiritual life, or exacted a price in your life that you’re still paying today. What comes to mind?
The next question is: What role has the consequences of this mistake played in your spiritual journey and service to the Lord?
Every Tuesday morning, my brother Chris teaches a Bible study for men on probation at a rehab center in Santa Cruz, California. I called him the other day to see how it was going and he told me about a released felon who told my brother (in different words) where he could take this God stuff and shove it.
Big mistake, I thought, and not just because my brother can bench press over 300 pounds.
My brother paused for a second and then tears mixed with love and righteous anger came flooding out of Chris’s mouth as he addressed this guy in front of the class.
“You think I’m some rich, white do-gooder here to tell you how to live? That I don’t know you? Tell me something, how’s your program worked for you so far? Why are you here? Where have you just been? Twenty years ago I was you, sitting in that same chair, thinking and saying the exact same thing. I’ve seen your movie and the ending isn’t all that great. If you didn’t need to be here you wouldn’t be. So sit down, shut your mouth, and listen up or you’ll be out of this program so fast it’ll make your head spin. Don’t tell me I don’t know you. I am you!”
I smiled, remembering making the phone call to get Chris into that same program some twenty years ago. Today he’s a partner in a financial services company who used some of those great skills God had given him to learn business and finance from the ground up, making a lot of people a lot of money. He’s come a long way from where he used to sit – in a court ordered chair with a bunch of other guys who didn’t want to be there. But Jesus needed him to be in that chair so that one day he could come back and have this colorful conversation with a new program member.
You won’t see Chris on TV. He is not a celebrity. But he is a hero – my kind of hero. He shares his testimony with those men as freely as he shares the Bible or a cup of coffee with a man who feels the way Chris once felt – hopeless and ashamed of what he had become. He’ll be the first to admit that he’s not a polished preacher but I have never seen anyone more effective with those men. It takes a special guy with a special story to crack the armor of these hardened hearts.
Most of them hang on every word. Why? He's been there. He risks allowing God to use his pains, mistakes, failures, and losses in the past to serve other people. In fact, when you see him in action you can’t help but think that somehow those painful experiences he had to go through in the past were always a part of the plan.
God has lots of plans for our mistakes and weaknesses. It’s counterintuitive to most men to think that way because our style is to hide them. So for a man to accept his failures, losses, and struggles as part of who is (i.e., reality) versus things to be hidden away and not discussed is a big leap of faith. It’s even more risky to allow God to use those same things to serve other people. Yet that is exactly what my brother did.
God’s plan is to use the very things we want to keep a secret or keep hidden. In fact, one of the greatest things he wants to do is to bring us into the truth of reality to encourage others who are struggling with our same issues. “He comes alongside us when us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God is there for us” (2 Corinthians. 1:4, MSG). So maybe instead of minimizing or trying to forget your struggles, failures, losses, temptations, or mistakes, let God use them! Instead of praying and asking God to take away your problems or past, ask God to do something with it.
Your pain has a purpose—to touch another man who has that same pain.
Kenny Luck is the Men's Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. He is also the Founder and President of Every Man Ministries which helps churches worldwide develop and grow healthy men's communities. Please visit www.everymanministries.com for more information.
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