A friend of mine works with those struggling with depression. She knows a lot about it and does a brilliant job. But until recently, she had no experience of it herself. That changed when she felt in herself the things that her patients described. She’s now feeling much better, but the experience hit her, she says, like a truck. ‘I do the same things as I always did – but somehow it’s completely different. The way I see myself and the way I see other people. Like a light going on. This is what it feels like. This is what you meant.’ Many of her patient recommendations are the same – but she is not; and neither, I suspect, are those she treats.
Our experiences matter. Even – and perhaps especially – the bad ones.
At the time, they just feel rubbish. Pointless. Painful. Meaningless and empty. Sometimes we never work out what they were about. But they’re always a gift from God to us. And they’re also a gift from us, to others.
Dependence is a funny sort of gift – up there with batteries, Christmas jumpers and soap-on-a-rope. I’d rather have an iPod or a remote-controlled tank. But without the batteries, your tank’s going nowhere. And until I know my need for Jesus, His blessings make no sense.
The Bible talks a lot about gifts. We’re all given them, but they don’t belong to us. Some are easy to spot: teaching, hospitality, generosity, service. But what about this as a gift…
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him. (Philippians 1:29)
Really? Brokenness, sadness, hard times? Can these also be “gifts”? In a sense, yes.
Sometimes, those who’ve faced similar darkness can bring the most light. When you’ve lost someone you love . When you’re tired or depressed or addicted or sad. It’s a lonely place. And being understood makes a world of difference.
For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ,so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. (2 Cor 1:5-6)
Don’t despise your gifts. They might not look the way you expect. But God will use them and use you too.