The R.E.M. song is true- everybody hurts. Everyone has a story of some storm they’ve been through in life. I’m on a team teaching a class right now called GIFTED and this past week we talked about how God can use our experiences. Everyone worked though an exercise where they charted their biggest life experiences. (I’ll share the exercise in another post.) As people sat there, examining their life on paper, we explained that God can use your life experiences.
Your greatest passions probably stem from the biggest moments of your life, this includes your moments of joy, but also your pain. We often try to distance ourselves from the greatest source of pain from our past. But, those are often the places God seems to work best.
After class, the biggest question I received was, “How can God use my most painful experiences?” The process isn’t always fun, but I want to give you 4 steps you can use to allow God to use your past.
Step 1.Take Time to Heal
Have you taken time to heal from your hurts? God can’t use what you don’t even acknowledge is there. If you want God to use your past experiences, you first have to acknowledge they’re there. Then, you have to do what it takes to heal from them. This could mean going to counseling. You could find a book or blog written about the subject. There are also many groups out there dedicated to healing from our past.
You know you’re moving towards healing when you’re able to forgive those who’ve hurt you and feel like you’re gaining perspective on the whole situation.
Step 2. Offer Your Story to God to be Used
As you’re moving towards healing, offer your story to God to be used. Continue to give those places you’ve been hurt to God and allow Him to use them to help others. Ask Him to do so. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “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.” In the ways God has helped you, He will be able to use you to help others!
Step 3. Share Your Story with a Trusted Friend or Group
If you want God to use your story, there will come a point where you need to share it. A great place to start is with a trusted friend. I’ve been in numerous small groups where people felt comfortable sharing vulnerable stories from their past. I find when someone shares their story and receives grace, love, and acceptance, they receive even more healing in that area of their life. Everyone has issues, why not be the first in your group to acknowledge it.
If you don’t have a trusted friend or group to which you can share, I’d encourage you to start there. We need people in our lives who know us. 1 John 4:7-8 says, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Loving others and being loved by others is a powerful way we know and understand God’s love.
Step 4. Repeat Steps 1-3
As you share with others, continue your healing process. As you heal, continue to ask God to use your story. As you ask God to use your story, look for opportunities to share that story. As you continue this process the wounds you suffered will turn from a scab to a scare. Forgiving yourself and others will eventually become easier. As you continue in this process you will increase your perspective on your pain. And, as God uses your story to comfort others you will find meaning as you see God working through you!
If you really feel passionate about using your experience to help others, find a group you can go to. There are many groups offering support for and recovery from our past (grief, recovery, etc). You don’t have to be perfect, but you can offer comfort to those a few steps behind from where you are.