Numb. Paralyzed. Helpless. These are the best words I can conjure up to describe my state after that awful day. My perfect little world was falling apart. My prideful heart had been humiliated. My carefully maintained facade of external piety had been stripped away in a moment, and I had nothing to hide behind. It all seemed surreal, as if I was watching from the outside. Even as I write this, I catch myself in a daze, reliving (not remembering) it all over again. I remember sitting and staring out the window at one point thinking I had certainly lost everything. Nothing could make this better. No one could make this go away. My fate, my family’s fate was sealed. I could see nothing good on the horizon, but God was teaching me some valuable lessons.
The priceless lessons
In my last post I talked about asking God, “Why?” in the midst of our suffering. I asked God, “Why?” because I didn’t want my pain to be wasted. These are a few of the lessons he taught me:
- There is a peace that passes all understanding
The apostle Paul tells us about this peace in Philippians 4:4-7, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (ESV).
There is no way to describe this peace. It was the only time in my life thus far that I have ever felt this kind of peace so strongly. It came when I was the most helpless, when my circumstances were beyond my control. It came when I realized there was no way out except through God. At that moment, I knew more than ever that I had to fully trust God to see me through this, and I was willing to accept his will no matter what the result. It was then the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” washed over me. It was in my utter helplessness that I discovered, his grace was sufficient for me because his strength is perfected in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
If I had heard of someone in my situation, I would think, “I could never handle that. I’d never make it. I would die.” But when you have experienced that peace that surpasses all human comprehension, you know that God can see you through anything.
2. God can bring glory to himself even through our failures
I often marvel at the story of Jonah. There are so many things that make me scratch my head in amazement. One of those instances is when Jonah is running from God’s calling. He deliberately disobeys God and gets on a ship going the opposite direction (talk about a guy that is not giving God a good name).
You know the story: God sends a terrible storm. The pagans on the ship are praying to their gods to no avail. They cast lots and discover Jonah is to blame, eventually throwing him off the ship because Jonah explains it’s the only way they’ll survive because he is running from God. As soon as they throw him off, the storm ceases. At this point in the story, you have to think Jonah has not been a good testimony for the Lord (which he hadn’t), but God was able to use his disobedience to convert pagans, who might not have known the true God any other way. What happened after the storm ceased? “Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows” (Jonah 1:16). (Disclaimer: I do not recommend disobedience as a means of evangelism.)
There were unbelievers who saw and acknowledged the power of God in our situation. In the end, one man even agreed that it was a miracle of God that things had turned out as well as they had for us. God doesn’t need a perfect world, with perfect people, and perfect circumstances to bring himself glory; he’s proven that since the fall. He is able to take us with all of our flaws and make a masterpiece of grace that brings him glory.
3. I learned compassion
I had never had compassion or sympathy for anyone who had done wrong. I looked down my nose at them and said to myself (and everyone else), “Well, they deserve it.” I was never a compassionate man before this, but I find six years later that I’m now able to sympathize with people who have made some very poor choices. There is no place in the life of a believer for judgmentalism, gossip, and self-righteousness. We are supposed to be recognized and defined by our love for one another (John 13:35).
Love does not gossip and spread rumors. Solomon tells us in Proverbs 10:12, “Love covers all offenses.” He reiterates this principle in Proverbs 17:9, “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” Peter taught this principle as well when he said, “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
I was the gossip. I was the Pharisee saying, “at least I’m not like him.” I was the one who had no mercy, no compassion, no room for failure. I was the one who had to learn those qualities the hard way -through bitter wounds and major failures.
There are so many more lessons I learned, but these are the major lessons that changed my perspective on life. These are the lessons that made me a completely different person, and I’m so thankful God wounded me to make me a better man. Perhaps my testimony verses would appropriately be Psalm 119:67, 71, & 75, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word…It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes…I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”
Next time I want to share with you the good that has come out of all this. God has brought such beauty from all the ugly. If you are in the midst of a painful experience, I want to encourage you to ask God what he is trying to teach you in all of this. Don’t let the pain be wasted. God bless you in your journey of growth.