“Why did God let me go through all this? How could he use this ugliness?”
That was the plaintive question of one woman I spoke to a few weeks ago. Alcoholism, homelessness, drug addiction, death of a child, broken relationships- her life before Christ was a mess. Even now she was haunted by the consequences, and she was struggling to see how God could make good out of any of it.
The answer rolled up out of me instinctively before I even had time to process the question.
“Honestly? For others. God uses every circumstance in the life of the believer, no matter how ugly, for good. Mostly the good of others.”
I must have surprised her with my fervor. Maybe I even offended her with my apparent lack of sympathy for her struggles. She trailed off with nothing else to say.
Don’t get me wrong. I get it. My life before Christ was a train wreck of my own creation. Though I have experienced mighty healing, I still, 14 years later, struggle with so many residual heart issues. I have repeatedly cried out to God, “Why, Lord?!?”
Why am I still plagued with inadequacy and guilt?
Why do I still battle all these compulsions?
Why won’t this cloud of depression lift?
Wouldn’t I glorify you more if I were stronger, more capable, better at this whole righteousness thing?
Desperately, for more than a decade, I have begged God to heal me.
Lately, I have had my answer.
In Luke 22:31-32, Jesus has some strange encouragement for Simon Peter, the very same disciple Jesus called “the rock upon which I will build my church.”
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Satan was going to be allowed to sift them. Ouch.
Jesus himself would be praying that in the midst of that, Peter’s faith would remain intact.
When, not if, when Peter turned back, he was going to be equipped to strengthen those around him.
I have been equipped as well. Equipped to strengthen my sisters.
My life-long wrestling match with guilt and inadequacy has given me a ferocious grace for my insecure sisters. Recognizing those same fears in them, I am quick to speak truth over a woman who feels like she is never enough. “There is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” “You are worth far more than rubies!” “You are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for you to do!”
These compulsions which come up repeatedly in my life, have also grown in me a grace I would have otherwise lacked. By nature, I am not a sympathetic woman. I’m a suck-it-up, princess; buck-up-and-lift-your-chin; quit-your-whining-and-get-it-done-kinda gal. Yet, God has gifted me great weakness in some areas. Left to my own devices, I am powerless to control my eating. Over and over, I stumble into the vicious trap of binging and purging. Relying on the Lord, praying and pushing into him, is the only way I’ve found to gain any bit of ground in that battle. It would have been so much easier for me if God would just have removed this desire from me, as I’ve pleaded with him to do so many times. Yet, the sweet fruit of a “No” from my Daddy has been mercy. When a sister is struggling in a sin she feels enslaved to, my heart goes out to her. Instead of shaking my head and tsk-tsk-ing from the sidelines about her weakness, I am able to come alongside her and honestly say, “I have been there. You may be weak but He is strong! Fall into the Father’s arms and let him fight for you!”
And my depression. O, my depression! How many times have I cried out in prayer, “Lord, take this darkness away”? Instead, he enabled me to make it through one day, one hour, one minute at a time for years. I would never have guessed that, in the end, I would thank God for the gift of depression. But I am so thankful! He used it for my good, yes. God used my depression to show me just how real, present, and loving he is. As I learned to press into him to cope with each day, I developed an intimacy I would never have imagined possible. But this gift extends far beyond myself. Every day, it seems, I encounter another person battling the darkness. Because of my weakness, I can confidently assure them that the darkest hour really does come before the dawn. He has a purpose. He has a plan, even in this. God can use even your depression for your good and His glory.
God allowed Peter’s pain, Peter’s failing, his fear and inadequacy, so that, in the end, he could build up those around him. Graciously, God has done the same in my life. Will you allow him to do so in yours?