When Your Pain Becomes a Seed for Your Purpose

October 29, 2016 | 6 comments

I have a friend, Monica, who has this uncanny ability to see and serve people who are suffering. She is one of those people who, when she says she’s praying, you know it’s a promise. You know she’ll literally fall to her knees, praying circles over people in pain.

It’s becoming clear to me why Monica is so sensitive to the suffering of others. It’s because she has endured so much of it herself.

This could have gone, differently, of course. Monica could have grown bitter. She could have been so consumed with her own physical suffering — which is immense, I can assure you — that she became blinded to the pain of others. But instead of her pain becoming a blindfold, it became a magnifying glass. Monica sees the hurting, because she IS the hurting. I wonder often if her greatest pains are the seeds of her greatest purpose, the fuel for her most passionate prayers, the reason she reaches out to the rest of us in our own pain.

This is what Buechner calls the “stewardship of pain.” A person can feel pain so deeply, that she is automatically open to the pain of others. With an uncanny empathy, she can steward that pain as a way to bring healing to others.

What is your pain? It could be the seed of your greatest purpose, too.

Who else but a cancer survivor understands the terrain of the chemo journey? Who else but a recovering addict can better help an addict? If you’ve lost a child, gone bankrupt, went through a divorce … you are an expert in knowing what it takes to put one foot in front of the other.

The very thing that has caused you the most hurt in your life, … might be the thing God wants to repurpose in this life.

That’s exactly what Jesus did. He went to the cross, enduring unfathomable pain. His suffering was the seed of His purpose. He didn’t deserve the pain. He didn’t deserve to suffer. He didn’t deserve to die. But out of his pain was born His purpose: to save a world in desperate need of redemption.

Today, Monica is recovering from yet another surgery. The road will be long. Her pain took her down, but it won’t take her out. I sense that — in time — this trial will only serve to sharpen her vision for those who are hurting.

The same possibility exists for each of us. Maybe it’s too much right now — maybe the suffering is too great. Take the time you need to get through this. But there will come a time when each of us will once again be able to see through the fog of our pain. And in that moment, perhaps we will see how our greatest pains could become the seeds of our greatest purposes.



What pain in your life has become the seed of something beautiful? 

by | October 29, 2016 | 6 comments


  1. Tara Ulrich

    Telling the story of my families journey of mental illness has blessed me in ways I couldn’t even imagine.

  2. Julie

    I have known dear Monica since she was a child, and you’ve captured her so well with your words. Her sufferings have blessed everyone in her circle of influence. Thank you for honoring and encouraging her and all of us. She is a constant on our prayer list.

  3. Martha Orlando

    Jennifer, I am reading a book right now, Heart Made Whole by Christa Black Gifford, which addresses the very issue of how we can turn our unhealed pain into our greatest strengths. I do believe we have trials for a God-intended-for-good purpose. We just need to hold tightly to Him!

  4. Lauren

    I’ve struggled with mental health problems for a couple of decades now. This has helped me to love on and advocate for those with similar struggles. I think it is the idea expressed in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. Our struggles lead to our being able to help in a way that others cannot. I am passionate about mental health and the way the church responds to people with those struggles. I pray that we can be a church that looks like Jesus (loving and not judging).

  5. Theresa Boedeker

    Our pain is never wasted and can be put to good use for others. I have seen this concept over and again in my life and others. When the car my husband and small daughter and I were in was hit by a school bus, we spent years recovering. For 5 months my younger sister of 13 years stayed at our house and was my personal nurse, caring for us all as I recovered in a hospital bed and we struggled with many injuries. Years later she was in an accident and I flew out and cared for her. I knew what she was going through and how she was beating herself up because I had been there. And over and over again she would say things like, “On the third day in the hospital I felt worse than ever, but I remember you had felt the same way so I knew I was fine and would eventually recover like you did.” Our pain and experience can always help others.

  6. Jasmine Ryan

    Hi Jennifer! I read this on Saturday and totally forgot to comment…ironic because my current “pain” is this brain fog that is muddling everything! Blast! Before this illness set in, I am realizing that I subconsciously lived in my own reality where everyone has (more or less) the same abilities and opportunities as me, and I let every experience in my life fall through that faulty filter. In this season of identity-stripping illness, the greatest gift is the empathy I am gaining, which truly cannot grow independent from suffering.

    That may actually be exactly what I commented on your last post! Grateful that God is weaving this thread into my heart, and that your words match my intimations!


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