How Even a Painful Past Can Shape a Fruitful Future

02 Feb
Dreaming of a Bright Future

Dreaming of a Bright Future (Photo credit: thorinside)

We’re continuing our Saturday leadership series on helping others find their “sweet spot” in service to others.  One of the often-overlooked aspects of helping people connect to passionate and meaningful service is their own life experience.

How?  Read on!

Positive Experiences

Let’s start with the positive!  Author Erik Rees recommends brainstorming accomplishments in 5 areas:

  1. Personal – what has been especially meaningful to you?
  2. Vocational – have you had patterns of success or fulfillment in work?
  3. Relational – have you had excellent friendships?  Marriage?  Mentors?
  4. Education – what do your certificates or degrees say about you?
  5. Spiritually – have you been able to connect your faith to daily life, or successfully share your faith with others?

After creating your list, Rees says to focus on the top three items that have the most meaning to you.  This narrowing of many blessings can help you make decisions between good and great options to move forward.  Where have you had the most success?  Where have you been most fulfilled?

Chances are, these trends will continue.  Use these areas to help focus on finding a place to serve others and you will likely find success and fulfillment!

But don’t stop there…

Negative Experiences

Rees has one more exercise with an interesting twist: create the same five categories as listed above, but add the phrase, “…points of pain” (e.g., Personal points of pain, vocational… etc.).

Why on earth would you want to walk someone through such a painful process?  I can think of three good reasons:

1.  Motivation and Energy.

Nothing provides motivation and energy like a personal connection.  In this case, the energy may be from not wanting anyone else to go through the same painful experience you went through.

And chances are, the deeper the hurt was, the greater the motivation will be to help others.

2.  Turns a negative into a positive.

This is the positive alternative to revenge.  Rather than getting even with the one (or ones) who made your past painful, you’re using that drive to prevent it from happening to others.

Imagine the benefits to not only others, but yourself, as you turn all that energy into something constructive and life-giving.

3.  We can see the hand of God in it.

God is in the redemption business.  God reclaims… restores… and rebuilds, if we’ll participate in the process.  The Apostle Paul says it this way:

“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.” (Rom 8:28–29 NLT)

Just to answer the inevitable question up front: No, God doesn’t cause terrible things so good can come from it.  I believe God allows people to make choices… and not all choices are good ones. That’s where much of life’s pain comes from.

However, God can work through anything if we have the courage to let go and rise above the experience.  And God will provide help along the way:

“But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:26–27 NLT)

It’s not God’s will that a person succumbs to alcoholism.  But who better to minister to someone struggling with alcohol than one who has walked that road and triumphed by the grace of God and the help of the Holy Spirit?

It’s not God’s will that a young girl becomes an unwed mother, struggling to balance survival, guilt, loneliness, and fear.  But who better to administer God’s grace than someone who has walked that road… and now shines in the light of God’s grace and peace?

Our experiences shape us into who we are

…and if we’ll cooperate, God works through our experiences to shape us into who we can be.

When that happens… even a painful past can produce a fruitful future!

How have you experienced God working through a painful past?  What would you share with others who may be in the midst of these painful experiences?

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Posted by on February 2, 2013 in Leadership


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