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Archive for June 30th, 2011

“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.” – 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)

In my youth, when I foolishly thought you got to choose what you want to do with your life, I wanted to do great things for God.  I got a degree in Church Music so I could minister on a church staff (which I did for 1 year and that was enough).  I faithfully served in every leadership position that was offered to me, thinking that the best way to honor God was to use every gift he’d given me to the best of my ability.  After all, isn’t that what the parable of the talents is about?

According to Proverbs 16:9, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”  Around the time my second child was born, God began to pull me back from my plans for service and train me to go in a whole new direction.  He didn’t give me a vision for ministry or a passion for evangelism.  He gave me tough kids with strong personalities.  (What?  “God, how can I serve you with squirrely little kids whose voices are so loud you can hear them in the next county?”)   I had to surrender the spotlight for the nightlight, the podium for the potty chair.  Instead of event planning, all my creativity went into getting through the dinner hour without meltdowns.  Was this really what God created me to do?!!  Yes.

I didn’t realize what a blessing my challenging kids would be until the year we taught my son’s kindergarten Sunday School class.  It was filled with high-energy kids who were mostly first-borns.  This group was a challenge to wrangle every Sunday morning, but my husband and I stepped in and poured out all our energy and creativity into these kids.  The result was that we and the kids had a blast.  The reason why I wasn’t intimidated by all those strong personalities was that God had trained me to love – and actually enjoy – kids with strong personalities at home.  Hmmm.  Maybe the challenges I face aren’t always about me…

When I was younger, I struggled with shyness and self-esteem.  The enemy kicked me around for about 25 years until I finally realized that the voice of insecurity is not from God.  God graciously freed me from bondage to insecurity, but because of my identity with those who are lonely or left out, God’s equipped me with a special radar to identify who needs a friend when I’m in a group.  Not only has God turned someone who was terribly shy into a person who can sit down and visit with a total stranger, he gives me genuine love for others – even the unlovely.  What may start out as an act of charity on my part, often ends up as friendship when I see who others truly are through God’s eyes.

The challenges we face are sometimes for our benefit, but sometimes they are for the benefit of others.  God gives us comfort, but it is so that when others are hurting, “we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to young mothers with strong-willed kids pour out their anxieties, and assured them that I understand and that God has a plan for their child.  I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve counseled and encouraged about the gluten free diet in the 2 1/2 years since we’ve had to give up gluten.  God’s started opening doors this year for me to encourage others who are considering homeschooling.  Our 9 months of unemployment make us approachable to those who are struggling financially.  Do you see a pattern?  For every challenge we face, God is able to comfort and encourage us.  But his ultimate purpose is greater than just our own good or comfort.  God uses the stuff of life, the gritty sand to not just make us pearls for our own beauty, but to grace the life of someone else.  A pearl in an oyster shell is hidden away from view and worthless, but a pearl that is given away to bring beauty and joy to someone else is a treasured gift.

When I was younger, I wanted to do great things for God.  Now I realize that God wants me to do small things with great love.  As God comforts me and turns my challenges into pearls, he desires to use them to bless others.  Greatness in God’s kingdom is not about how many committees we’re on or how often we’re asked to be on the worship team.  God simply asks us to live a spirit-filled life that is yielded to him.  He does the rest.

How is God challenging you to share his comfort with others?

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