As a younger man, I was fired twice and three times demoted. In my view, I’d performed well and was the victim of office politics. I stored up a lot of angst and pain in the wake of those ego blows.
Only later in life did I understand them for the gifts that they were.
Later I came to see that if you’re going to look like Jesus and share his ministry of setting the captives free, then you need to be equipped as he was. I learned that the one piece of equipping that seems hardest to receive is pain. But I’ve seen that it is also a gift that will turn you into a formidable foe.
Why is that? It seems paradoxical that God would give us affliction to conquer affliction. But that’s the way it works.
Think about all the prisons of pain that people are locked in. The prison of bitterness or depression, for example. They trap us because of some loss or betrayal. As if the original pain wasn’t enough, we have to daily do battle with a litany of lies that fill our minds:
“I could have prevented it.”
“I can never forgive him.”
“I’ll never be happy again.”
Every day we wake up and live as captives of these swirling thoughts. And the good news is, it doesn’t have to be.
We were meant to live free. Our spirits know that. In spite of all the countervailing evidence, no one has to tell us that we were meant for freedom. The founding fathers called it an “inalienable right.” The pilgrims risked all in its pursuit. The movie Braveheart resonates because of the way William Wallace gave his life for freedom.
Only someone who understands the lies that hold us captive can set us free. It helps to understand the nature of the jail cell if you’re going to attempt a jail break. Most of us who feel trapped by something that may be a lie won’t let anyone near it. We tend to lash out at those trying to point out a lie that we’ve believed.
But someone who can identify with our pain and has walked a mile in our shoes may be able to get close enough to help us get free. Someone who has felt the pain of betrayal, for example, may be able to show us that it is possible to forgive. A person who has lost a loved one to cancer can comfort someone who is struggling with their own loss.
We don’t want to be equipped with pain, but it is what we need to help others walk in freedom.
Do you have pain in your life? Consider it from God’s perspective. Perhaps you’ve recoiled and assumed the posture of a victim. But maybe that pain is actually gift. What if it was God giving you what you need to help set others free?