The biggest trials that I ever faced that produced the deepest pain have given me the biggest gains. I have had more thrusting forward movements, grown emotionally, spiritually and gained the most out of the most difficult and painful experiences. I strongly believe that our spiritual and emotional growth and victories are directly proportional to the intensity of the painful experiences.
Just like the challenges of pregnancies, childbirth, returning to school, getting a degree, starting a new business, starting a new life in a new place, all of the these experiences can engender tensions, struggles and challenges, but these challenges are not wasted. Eventually, there is a sweet harvest after the difficult period of sowing, shedding, refining, and growing. The rewards might be the sense of accomplishments in graduation, the safe delivery of a baby at the end of a pregnancy or the comfortable resettlement in a new place.
Life was never meant to be easy but no one wants to be on the receiving end of life’s challenges and curve balls. I have found myself many times on the difficult, lowly and lonely road where it feels like everything failed me. I have been in dark places where I felt God failed me; scripture failed me and all my life philosophies, and the comfort blankets seemed to be useless. Nothing worked to dull the pain; no one could climb the seemingly insurmountable mountain for me. I felt all alone in the misery; I loathed life, God and myself in those days.
What I found true of those experiences is that the more I fought the pain, denied it, and tried to avoid it, the more painful it became. No dulling, no clichés, no hiding, no pretending worked. But, the problems did not change. I had to change.
I had to decide to walk and break through those stumbling blocks, go over them, go around them or die under them. So when I was able to finally garner up the energy to DO SOMETHING, that is when I started seeing forward movements.
When I stopped wasting all my emotional energy despising, hating, criticizing, judging and being angry, and started using those same stumbling blocks as stepping stones, that’s when I began to get it. One second at a time, one minute at a time, one day at a time, slowly but surely, I moved toward the pain and then slowly started walking and sometimes barely crawling past it until I was able to say, alas! I did not die under the pressure, I made it!
The ability to surmount the insurmountable mountains taught me that I was strong yet vulnerable, I am not as easy to crush and decimate as I thought. The confidence I got from knowing that I could rise up again and again and again was truly energizing and as such has been more of a driving force in how I approach life, challenges, goals and visions.
No experience is wasted, even bad experiences. Scripture (Romans 8:28) says that “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them…” For me the working out for good did not mean that the problems did not occur, that I did not experience heart ache, and that there was a time machine that erased the painful memories.
The work together for good for me meant that I had a change in perspective, learned something, grew, and had the courage to press on. There were no real changes in my circumstance but there were significant improvement in my attitude and response to them. I admitted that my situation SUCKED and I pressed forward.
The work together for good for me meant that I was able to use those experiences to connect to others, generate empathy, it helped me to be less judgmental and more accepting and it humbled me greatly. There’s nothing as filling as when life hands you a humble pie. The working out for good did not just end with me, it became a ripple effect.
So in the end those experiences were not wasted, they’ve been used time and time again to open great doors for me, to connect me with amazing people, to create platforms that I could never have had if not for those experiences. The same painful and difficult experiences have brought validation to some, healing to others, hope to some, affirmation to others, sign to some, and inspiration for others. Never wasted, never wasted.
So whatever you might be going through, no matter how difficult, painful, indescribable, unbelievable, unfathomable, unforgivable, I want to venture as to say that those experiences are not empty. Even if you are not consoled by those words right now, there will come a day when those problems will slowly move further and further from your rear-view mirror. A day will come when those experiences do not consume you and trigger as much pain as they used to, there will come a day when you will smile again. And beyond that, there will come a day when you will take what you need from those life experiences to thrust you forward in life. That is when the scab experiences have turned to scar experiences. The scar says there has been some trauma here but it has healed. It is a geographical reminder of a specific experience, time and place. It does not bleed when touched, it can’t be peeled off, it is just what it is, a scar.
Pain is real, fear is real, anxiety is real, depression is real, uncertainty is real, betrayal is real, heartbreak is real, and so is COURAGE; courage to press on, courage to walk, courage to crawl, courage to take wings and fly. You will make it, I know you will and those experiences will not be wasted. You will make it, you have to make it, someone is counting on you to make it, and someone needs you to make it.
I am reminded of a phrase in my son’s favorite animated movie (NEMO) when he was 3yrs old, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming...” You will feel overwhelmed, you will feel every wave hit you, take over you, toss you around like a lifeless fish but keep swimming, dry land is on the horizon.