One person who wrote a large part of the Bible was a guy named Paul. Besides writing a portion of the Bible (no big deal), Paul was used powerfully by God to spread the news about Jesus to anyone who would listen.
The day before he became a Christian, Paul was walking on a road to a place called Damascus, when out of nowhere, like a deer in headlights, he was blinded by a light. The light wasn’t oncoming traffic, though, it was Jesus. Up until this point, Paul wasn’t just not-a-Christian; he was actively killing Christians.
Paul went from killing Christians to signing people up to become one of them. All of that from a meet-up with the risen Jesus. Paul would go on to write letters to different churches. Near the beginning of his letter to the church in the city of Corinth, Paul wrote this about Jesus:
“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
The word “troubles” here can also translate to mean “trials.” When Paul speaks these words, he’s not just talking about having a bad day or dealing with traffic on the way to work. He’s talking about the trials he’s faced that have almost ended in death—like being shipwrecked, beaten, and thrown into a Roman prison, just to name a few.
Most of us have had our own metaphorical shipwreck.
Maybe you’ve battled cancer.
You were in a car accident that nearly took your life.
You lost a parent or close friend.
You’ve had people spread rumors that weren’t true.
You’ve experienced the worst of life firsthand.
But big or small we’re often tempted to diminish the pain:
I shouldn’t complain about my husband’s affair while other people are dying.
I shouldn’t talk about losing my job when I have perfect health, and there are others who don’t.
I shouldn’t be upset about someone hurting me when a guy like Paul was physically beaten for his faith.
Thankfully though, Paul doesn’t give any qualifiers about God comforting us. Our trials don’t need to be a ten on a scale from one to ten for God to offer his comfort to us. Instead, in all of our troubles and trials, in all of our pain and hurt, God comforts us.
God doesn’t diminish our pain. He meets us in it.
Paul goes on to tell us more. Not only does God comfort us in our trials, but those trials – they have a purpose: “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.”
God didn’t cause our trials, but he can use them. The crap we’ve experienced, God can use it to help others walking through the same crap. Our place of pain can become our place of passion. God can use our hurt to help heal others.
How do we use our hurt to help others heal? Here are three ways I’ve found to be huge game-changers in this area:
1. Be honest about your hurt.
Sadly, the norm in church is to bury and move forward from our hurt—forgive and don’t process. “If you trusted God, you wouldn’t let this hurt bother you.” If you survive a storm, you’re expected to quickly gather yourself and act like it didn’t happen.
Ironically this approach is the complete opposite of what we find in the Bible. Scripture is full of grieving and lamenting, of processing pain and hurt with God and one’s self. Most of us, including myself, could take some notes from this. Yes, we need to forgive. Yes, trust God. But we also need to care for our wounds and make sure they properly heal. Otherwise, we’ll only keep hurting people and not be able to bring healing to anyone. Caring for our own hurts and wounds is one of the most loving things we can do for the people around us
2. In order to help others heal, we also need to be vulnerable.
One of the very first things we put on each morning is a mask. A mask to hide any hurt along with the not-so-pretty-parts of our story. A mask to hide the storms we’ve weathered or are walking through. Being vulnerable takes courage. Speaking from the heart is scary. Letting our guard down and being genuine is hard. It’s risky as well! But being vulnerable with others not only brings healing to them—inviting them to be vulnerable, too—but it also helps bring healing to ourselves.
3. Share your story.
The most powerful story we can share (besides Jesus’s story) is our own. Everyone has walked through tough times. When we begin to share our honest and unedited stories, it connects us with others. People rarely grow and heal by hearing about our successes and the blue-sky days we’ve had throughout life. But sharing about the dark skies, the thunder, the sleet, and fog? That opens the door for others to begin being honest about their own pain, vulnerable about their own hardships. Maybe then they’ll start to share their stories and trials with others, bringing healing to that person as well.
God can use our hurt to help heal others.
Again, God doesn’t cause our pain, but he does have a divine purpose for it. The legendary priest Henri Nouwen called this way of life being a “wounded healer”—a person who teaches, a person who heals, out of the very spot where they’ve been wounded the most.
Our pain qualifies us to enter into the pain of others. Our trials qualify us to be wounded healers.
When someone is walking through a divorce, the loss of a child, being at the center of gossip – our own pain qualifies us to speak the words, “I’ve been there.”
“I know what you’re going through.”
“It sucks. I know. I’m so sorry.”
“I’ve walked through that, too. You’re going to make it through.”
“You will make it out the other side.”
“The sun will come up tomorrow. I promise.”
“God will use even this.”
How do I know this is true? Because it’s been true in my life.
Are you going through a rough time right now? In a season of pain? God has a plan for even this. In our darkest moments, we’ll discover the most about Jesus and who he is. Those places are where I’ve not only discovered his peace, which surpasses all understanding, but also discovered his love – a love that has no end.