This world isn’t perfect. I think we can all agree on that.
There is hurt and suffering all around us. Living in South Africa it is apparent to me on a daily basis. Every day I am approached by children with torn clothes and no shoes asking for food – not even money. The sad reality is that the suffering is all around us.
Sadder still is the nonchalance of the elite in society. The South African President, Jacob Zuma, had improvements on his personal home done at the taxpayers expense, something that caused short term outrage. But it hasn’t been mentioned for several months in a major story by the state-run news media. Nobody wants to rock the boat.
If the money, several hundred million Rands (tens of millions of dollars) had been used to help the truly needy it could have provided shelter for thousands of child-headed homes, or education for the poorest children, food for the homeless. The list is endless.
Now I’m not writing a political blog, and whilst I despise the corruption in the power circles and cronies that goes on here it’s not my point.
We have an opportunity as Christians to let God help when we hurt or see another person hurt.
Our pain we feel when we see injustice, avarice, greed, nepotism and apathy from the “leaders” whether they be in South Africa, England, Canada, USA or wherever gives us a glimpse of God’s heart for the broken. If we let Him, He can turn our hurt into an opportunity for His goodnss to be shown.
I love the story of Joseph in the Bible. Reading and re-reading it I have yet to find any point where he is “disciplined” by God in some way. God gives him a dream so he shares it and his brothers throw him into a pit and sell him as a slave. Once a slave, God Blesses him incredibly and he faithfully serves God first, then Potiphar. To avoid dishonouring God he refuses to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife. She accuses him of attempted rape and he is thrown into prison. Again, God Blesses him in prison and he virtually ends up running the place. He interprets two dreams of two other prisoners, one of whom is subsequently restored and the other executed just as Joseph had interpreted. The restored man forgets about him for some time until Pharaoh has a dream his wizards can’t explain. Then the former prisoner remembers. In a single day Joseph is then catapulted from imprisoned slave to second in power only to Pharaoh himself in Egypt – the modern equivalent would be a death row inmate made vice-President after talking to the President once.
Joseph must have hurt when his family betrayed him, but he saw God could turn it around – it was an opportunity.
When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him and falsely accused him it would be easy to despair, but not Joseph. He kept hold of God’s promise in a dream so many years before and waited for its fullness to come.
He could have let hurt overwhelm him when he was forgotten by his cell-mate. He didn’t.
He held fast to his vision. It gave him hope. His hurt allowed God to use it as an opportunity to ultimately save many lives.
His hurt became God’s opportunity.
Look at your own life. Consider the pain you’ve been through, but remember the promises God has given you.
Part of my testimony is that when I was sixteen I felt God inspire me to pray for my children. I’m now in my forties and married, but no kids yet. Over 25 years later I hold onto the promise. It doesn’t remove the hurt of being childless at this point, but I trust it will change. (Soon I hope!)
Another part was that I would preach and teach in many nations. To date this blog has reached over 20 separate countries. Many of those I hope to visit one day.
I’ve had much hurt in my life. My brother was killed in a terrible road accident 30 years ago. But from the hurt of that loss God was able to break into my life in a new way and I was Born Again. My dad died of Glioblastoma – brain cancer. It affected his daily functioning and he died by inches over four months. I had just moved church at the time and God used my hurt to surround me with more love and care than I’d ever have believed possible.
There’s more, but another time.
Every hurt I’ve experienced has allowed me to find an opportunity to either draw closer to God or reject Him. Rejecting has never been an option for me. I looked briefly at other religions before I was found by Jesus. I found only dead gods demanding sacrifices and rituals. Wash before you pray and don’t touch a member of the opposite sex or you have to wash again before you’re “clean” enough to come to their “god”. I prefer Jesus’s concept of “come as you are – I’ll fix you” He demonstrates in the Gospels and Paul and the other writers extol in the remainder of the New Testament.
Hurt becomes opportunity for God to do something wonderful. He even gives it to us in nature as an example. A couple of months ago a terrible fire destroyed much of the mountain near my home, but from the ashes of the fire the Protea plants shoot new growth. Their beauty is only released after a fire burns off the dross and allows the new to come forth.
We are no different.
Just as the fire gave God an opportunity to demonstrate His beauty in nature’s rejuvenation, so our hurts, physical and emotional, give Him a chance to demonstrate His power in our lives.
Hurt drives my family at the moment to seek answers. We have a business that is growing in Cape Town, but we have offers from overseas as well. There is the potential to follow both courses, run the business from overseas and have a manager take the day-to-day running of things. Or we could reject either of the two, stay or leave. We’re praying to see which is God’s opportunity for us. Whatever it is, we’ll grasp it with both hands.
Our hurts are deeply personal and right now I don’t want to go into details. Suffice to say the decision is quite literally a life-or-death one and we need to hear His voice clearly.
Hurts become opportunities, but we must take them.
They may not come again.