“It is doubtful that God will use you greatly until you have been hurt deeply.” AW Tozier
Many years ago I heard a story about a pastor…it seems that the church board had decided they needed to attract a younger crowd, as the next “generation” was their future, so they suggested that he retire and become Pastor Emeritus, which is a nice way of saying, thanks for your service – but now goodbye.
In the summer after his retirement, the new, young pastor wanted to take a vacation and so Pastor Emeritus was asked if he would come guest speak at his previous church. He kindly obliged. After his sermon that Sunday a woman came up to him and began bragging about the new pastor, how he had changed the worship music to a more progressive style, how he liked to talk about the good things of God and was less condemning of the congregation and that he was really a breath of fresh air.
To this, the older pastor responded, “I am so glad you like him, he will better when he is broken…”
Ouch. I don’t actually know if this is a true story but I do know that it is a truth in life. It is a sad and difficult fact that it is not the easy side of life where we learn anything, but the hard parts – the times in life when you are knocked flat, your life broken and your heart with it that teaches us the most. Whether it is pain caused by illness, financial issues or, like young Joseph in the book of Genesis betrayal at the hands of his own family, brokeness will visit us all.
As a young 17-year-old boy – and apple of daddy’s eye, Joseph was beat up, stripped down and thrown into a pit left to die by his own brothers! These were guys he looked up to – men he lived with and shared a bloodline with, a clan of Hebrews who were certainly meant for better things as God’s chosen people than this! They were jealous, disloyal, petty and hate filled…and if things couldn’t get any worse, young Joseph was ultimately sold – by his brothers – into slavery; he was later thrown in jail as an accused rapist and…..well you likely know the rest of the story – (Genesis 37)
But God loved Joseph. He used this betrayal, the lying, the abuse and the abandonment in his life for a better good – to save the nation of Israel from famine (see Genesis Chapters 39-47) All of this nastiness was heaped upon Joseph for a greater plan – but still, I bet it was hard for him to be able to see that in his future when his bloodied, tear-stained face stared at his brothers from the back of that slave trader’s camel as he was hauled away from his homeland…. but somehow, some way – Joseph not only survived it – he thrived because of it. Though in the interim he was broken, molded and used – he later, as the Prime Minister of Egypt acknowledged to his own brothers, “what you meant for evil, God meant for good for the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20).
I know I know, this is just a Sunday school story you were taught as a wee one, it doesn’t really apply to real life! Right? Wrong. Joseph’s story is in the Bible as an example to us that, like Jesus told his disciples, we will have tribulation in our lives – and often the hurt and pain is brought to us through the thoughtless and careless acts of….OTHERS! (but Jesus continued, “be of good cheer, as I have overcome the world! John 16:33)
If you have a beating pulse, you have experienced this in one way or another. I know I have. In fact, I am in a season of it now – coming at me from multiple corners of my own life.
If you have spent any time with Him in your existence you know, you know in your very soul, that times will bring us to one of 3 seasons – going into the “valley” where life is hard, coming out of the valley, where we are slowly experiencing restoration, or up on the mountain top – where life is good….for the moment.
God will and has allowed pain and brokeness in all our lives, but it is not what He is allowing as much as what we are doing with it. When I am wounded, what do I want others to see coming out of me? Poison? Anger? Bitterness? How does that actually help me or others? I am learning that to be broken and hurt is an opportunity for me to draw closer to God – to ask Him what is He doing in this process and determine how I am supposed to grow in it. My own former Pastor (now an Emeritus as well), use to say it like this – when the big hurts come, and they will, we need to seek God in it.
When we feel or think that we could never get through it on our own – know this. You can’t and you won’t.
But God can – and at just the right time he will give you just the right amount of saving Grace, saving Mercy and saving Forgiveness that you need to take the next step, and the next and the next – until some day – you breathe free of pain and you will be transformed by it for His use.
You see God is a God of restoration….and just like Joseph’s relationship with his family, indeed the whole Israel nation was restored through his trials. Our personal pain, if we allow it – will become, in a mixed-up upside-down way – a pleasure for us – to help someone else.
That is the way the Kingdom works – this earth is not heaven – so don’t expect it to be – people will hurt you – and guess what – YOU WILL hurt people too. But if we, daughters and sons of the King of Kings, can learn through it and use it to bring a wee bit of the love of heaven on earth to others, well then, that is the day when we, (like Joseph) may find ourselves (perhaps begrudingly) agreeing with God and His gift of brokeness.
Amen and amen.