Dream, relationship, experience or in my case – a broken finger. Allow me to share some quick insights into what we can learn through painful experiences.
Don’t let Pain Define You
I am much more than my finger. As easy as it is to focus on the pain, that is not who I am. You are more than a broken dream, a broken relationship or a broken experience. Don’t let that pain define you.
This past weekend I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico speaking at a Gospel Justice in Action, beginning with forgiveness conference. The name alone peaked my interest. The point of several speakers was that restorative justice involves forgiveness. And to be fully restored one must receive and give forgiveness.
The gospel begins here. Jesus asked His father to forgive us for we know not what we do. Lk. 23:34. Like the Romans we are enemies of God, until we come to understand and accept his love for us. He restores us through forgiveness so we might be an agent of restoration for others.
The stubbornness of pain.
Here is my confession. I broke my finger a few weeks ago. I was too stubborn to do anything about it. Friends told me to wear a splint. I finally listened.
I think a lot of us are stubborn. Friends might tell us the value of forgiveness but we can’t bring ourselves to receive or offer forgiveness. But the path to healing takes place through forgiveness. Stop holding onto the pain of past hurts, regrets or mistakes. You are only increasing your pain. Release them to God, forgive the offender and trust that God will restore you. Restoration can sometimes lead to reconciliation.
I remember my friends Kevin and Dawn. The court sent them to me in the midst of divorce. Kevin said their problems were psychological – she was ‘psycho’ and he was ‘logical’. She told the story of an angry controlling man. Both had hurt the other deeply. But through a process both were able to confess and forgive each other. They began a path for healing and restoration. Almost a decade has passed and they remain happily married. They recently lost a son in a tragic car accident. The healing of the past provided the strong foundation they needed in the present to trust God even in the midst of pain. As a result they have been a powerful help to many others in pain.
The reality of pain.
I like to share stories of hope and happy endings, but I am painfully aware of the brokenness in our world. Some pain is profound. All pain scars. My finger will never be the same, but it will heal. But healing a finger is easier than healing the emotional and spiritual scars of much pain.
While I did not swear, you better believe I cried out in pain when I broke my finger. That is natural. You need to know it is just as natural to cry out to God in the deeper pains and disappointments of life. I have wept bitter tears of deep pain and confusion when God would not answer my cries for children. I was angry for seeing the abuse some children suffered while loving parents were unable to have children. As gut wrenching painful as those seven years were, I still know my pain pales in comparison to the human trafficking victims I have walked beside, the victims of repeated sexual and physical abuse, those who have been emotionally tortured and much more.
I have experienced deep pain, but I do not know your pain. I know a God who does. He knows your deepest sorrow. Jesus was a man of deep sorrow and suffering. He was tortured and brutally killed for your sake. His resurrection provides hope in a dark and broken world. Trust him and cast all your cares upon him. Receive his forgiveness and courageously forgive others.
For more on my story and the story of many God has let me walk beside read the book Gospel Justice.
Don’t let pain isolate you.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A lot of pain happens when a good desire goes wrong. We want a good marriage, great kids, a wonderful job or to launch a new business and something goes wrong. Circumstances happen but a lot of times we make the mistake of not seeking help.
I had a wonderful idea. With my sons in college, I would be able to work from home more often so I would build a work station for my laptop. My desk has a small work area which would be completely covered if my laptop sat in the usual way. But I thought I could stand it straight up which would allow the screen to be at eye level and give me workspace for papers. The laptop would not balance so I needed to hold it in place. The metal is magnetic so I thought of drilling small holes and putting in two small metal holders which would magnetically attach and hold the laptop in place. My idea was good.
I’m sure you’ve also had good ideas. My mistake was being impatient. I’ll bet that is the root of a lot of mistakes. My drill wasn’t charged so I thought I would take an awl and hammer the hole – well the awl got stuck. I pulled with all my might and – yup – my finger smashed the shelf above instantly breaking and swelling. Ouch.
You’ve been there
Admit it. You could benefit from a tool – maybe not a drill but a trusted advisor, book, or resource and in your impatience you plowed through to resulting pain. I am part of a national group of business leaders called Christian Business Fellowship which exist for specifically this purpose. We don’t want you to be isolated in business and make painful mistakes. Counselors, doctors, lawyers, accountants, other business leaders are all specialist available to help the person who recognizes they shouldn’t do it alone. Pain will be your constant companion if you do.
Don’t let pain stop you
Pain is designed to tell you to stop. With our physical bodies this is God’s perfect design. Don’t leave your hand over an open flame. Or when I once tried to be an electrician – don’t hold onto live wires. But here is where my analogy breaks down. In life we need to persist through pain. We cannot allow pain to defeat us. That is the Devils’ design.
Too many people have suffered pain and live in defeat. “I’m not good enough”. “I’m a failure.” “The last time didn’t work so I’m just not going to try again.” If the disciples had quit at the first sign of pain and challenge, we would not have our faith. Probably every successful business story you’ve ever heard will be told by someone who has a longer list of failures before achieving success. Don’t stop.
I love the story of the widow in Luke 18. She was powerless and in pain. A creditor was wrongly pursuing her. She refused to give in. As difficult, painful and unlikely as justice seemed, she persisted in crying out for justice. She wearied the judge and he finally granted her justice. Great story, but here is the powerful point.
Jesus told us God is a perfect judge. When we persist in crying out to Him, he promises to hear our cry.
“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” Lk. 19:7-8.
The pain of regret is greater
I would have regretted not having a home work station where I can write this article. From this station I will write a book on prayer, and who knows what else might transpire because I refused to give up. I did take a step back and realized I needed the help of the right tool. I waited for the drill to charge which made the work surprisingly easy.
The widow in Luke 19 would have regretted not persevering. Don’t live with regrets of what might have been if you would have pushed through the pain of fear or doubt. Don’t be chained by the pain of past hurts, but move forward in the freedom of Christ.
I hope this article speaks to someone. Please reach out to me if you’d like to speak further. E-mail me and we will set a time – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Specific Application –
Every day across America neighbors like our widow in Luke 19 are in pain. A hurricane destroys their home and a flood of legal issues follow. Mom’s trying to support their children face confusing contracts and unfair loans. Women and children suffer abuse. They need us to hear their cries.
We need lawyers to push past the pain of the lie that they are useless in poverty areas. We need lawyers to see the opportunity of demonstrating mercy and compassion to neighbors in need. Will you explore this opportunity?
Get a copy of our free guide, “How to use your law degree for life-changing impact”
We need business leaders to see they can have eternal impact by using resources to launch a powerful ministry to those in pain with one-time seed money. Will you explore this opportunity?
Listen to a quick message from myself and a couple of my business friends to learn how to take action.
And we need individuals to step up and serve on teams that provide prayer support, hospitality, secretarial assistance, community resource connections, interpreting and phone follow-up. No one should face pain alone. Let’s serve our neighbors and build justice communities together. Contact us to get started – email@example.com.