Observations on Life, Faith, Media & Technology

Lessons Learned

A pastor friend of mine is fond of saying that God never wastes an experience. I recently heard a powerful testimony of the truth of that statement.

I had the opportunity to talk with a friend who is the Communications Director for a well-known, high profile church. Over the last couple of years they have faced some really, really tough times. I was encouraged to hear from him that things had stabilized there.  It was even more encouraging to hear how the pastor and staff at the church viewed their experience.  There were several things he said they had learned:

God has a purpose behind our troubles.  He said that through all of this they became absolutely convinced that God brought this into their lives and ministry to teach them a lesson.  With that in mind, they were able to look past the hurt and anger and concentrate on finding out what God was trying to teach them.  Make no mistake, though – It is a very hard thing to see your tormentors as part of God’s plan.

We should welcome criticism – even when it’s not what you want to hear. It is so important to be willing to take an honest look at yourself, even if that look is provided by the mirror of harsh criticism.  My friend told me that the church commissioned an outside survey to discover how they were viewed in the community.  The results were not flattering.  They learned that the community viewed them as arrogant.  The temptation was to reject the conclusion and marginalize those who brought it.  Ultimately, to their credit, they embraced the results – even though it was painful to do so – and they began taking positive, strategic steps to change that perception.

So often when you talk to people who have gone through a deep valley in ministry – or in life – they are bitter, angry, and tend to lash out at those who have opposed them.  It is a sign of deep spiritual maturity and insight when they instead reflect on what God’s purpose was for them through that trial.  It speaks well of someone’s walk when they view those who intend hurt toward them as agents of God’s instruction.

As I reflected back on my conversation with my friend I realized that all too often I try to have it both ways: I seek to learn lessons from the trials I’ve gone through, but I also reserve the right to harbor bad feelings toward those that God used to teach me those lessons.  Those two things are incompatible.  When Joseph confronted his brothers who had tossed him into a pit, sold him into slavery and convinced his father that he was dead, Joseph was fully aware of God’s hand in those circumstances so he could say to his brothers in all honesty, “You meant it for evil, but God intended it for good!”

That is where I want to be. I want to be able to see opposition, criticism and trials as instruments of God in my life to more fully manifest the character and attributes of Jesus in me, and in so doing to be totally free from bitterness, anger and resentment.

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