Let Empathy Lead
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit in the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” - Maya Angelou
I was born with legs turned in so far, it appeared my feet were having a conversation. For three years, I wore braces belted at the waist, which ran down my legs and connected to my Stride Rites. I wore the contraption to bed, only removing it to bathe. I was “It” on the playground because “It” couldn’t catch anyone. I was often bullied and learned quickly those first three years of school how mean the world could be.
By 13, I was molested in a swimming pool because I was a Christian and the gang wanted to teach me a lesson for it. The leader of the pack clamped my mouth while passing me around to his buddies encouraging them to put their hands where they needn’t be.
At 19, I fell hard for a handsome architect and after house-hunting and talks of a wedding, I was left on my front porch as his car drove away. The next time I saw him, his face was smiling in a newspaper picture standing next to his bride.
More recently, I watched my sister battle breast cancer until it finally took her life in 2014. It was the most heart-wrenching hurt and her passing left a crater in my life only God could fill.
Brace yourselves now…I thank God for all the tough stuff. Every one of those heart- wrenching events has brought me closer to the Lord as I’ve fallen into His arms of grace; He has grown and strengthened me. I find if I’m not going through a difficult time, it’s only because I just came out of one. It is the natural consequence of living in a fallen world. God never promised us we’d have an easy life, but I believe God takes that tough stuff and grows us through it.
For instance, when I was “Ms. It" on the playground, I learned how to treat people with kindness, take up for those weaker than I, and not to judge or look down on those that are physically different than myself.
Twelve years after the molestation while living in Florida, I flew to Virginia for a visit and my father took me to the only place open to get a bite to eat. Sitting in Dairy Queen, I saw the leader of the pack and he was discussing rather loudly with a lawyer his defense. He’d been accused of hurting someone else. What are the chances of witnessing his conversation with his lawyer? It could only be God who placed me in that restaurant that night, so I could see He was bringing judgment on someone who hurt me.
“…since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you…” (1 Thessalonians 1:6, English Standard Version)
Through my experience, I’ve been able to minister to other women who’ve fallen victim to sexual predators. How could I relate without experiencing it for myself?
And that handsome architect who left me sobbing over his wedding announcement? Today, I thank God he left me. I experienced college, a career, travel, a move to Florida, and after discovering who I was, at the age of 29 I married a commercial real-estate developer. God has blessed us with four children and that man still makes my heart flutter.
I admit it’s been a battle being grateful for the pain of losing my sister Tricia. It’s only been recent God has brought me full circle to His plan in taking her. Before my sister passed she said, “If God doesn’t heal me in this life, He will heal me in the next. Besides, if my cancer reaches one person for Christ, all my suffering is worth it.” Tricia’s cancer reached many, but there is the one lying in a hospital bed tonight that my sister never met. Vanessa has brain cancer and knew of Tricia through her blog. Vanessa contacted me around my sister’s passing and we became friends. She is a new Christian and claims Tricia brought her to me. The truth is God brought Vanessa to us, for my husband and I led Vanessa to the Lord and have discipled her. I’ve found joy in my sister’s passing through witnessing Vanessa’s salvation because of it. Isn’t God amazing? He brought two women who both have cancer and linked them eternally together without them ever meeting in this world. Although, I know my sister will meet Vanessa in heaven and Tricia will know her suffering did bring a special one to Christ.
Looking back over your own life, are you glad God doesn’t protect you from the difficult seasons? Consider the reason’s why. He wants to use you to empathetically minister to others. God also wants to strengthen us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually so the small disappointments in life do not warrant an exclamation point. Furthermore, God wants your life to bring Him glory, by being a light in the darkness.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12 ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.