Turning Pain Into Purpose

purpose - isolated text in vintage letterpress wood type stained by color inks

Right now it feels as though my heart is going to explode.  It feels like it’s going to explode with love and joy and a depth of emotion I haven’t felt in such a long time.  I sit here amazed, not even knowing what to write.

For the last few months, I’ve been working on turning my past experiences into something useful and hopefully helpful for others.  The pain and suffering I have experienced in life often gets stuck inside me until I’m able to turn it around for good.  It feels like I’m some sort of human transformation machine where pain comes in and good must come out or else it gets stuck inside me, turns toxic, and I start to self-destruct.  The only way to find resolution is to help other people and turn it all around for good.

The first project I started was the idea of my therapist.  She saw that I was struggling to make sense of the sexual assault I experienced a few years ago and that until I turned it into purpose, I would continue to walk around the same emotional cul-de-sac of confusion and pain.  She had the most brilliant idea that has not only helped me but is also helping others.  I’ll write more on that project after it’s finished…but it’s a good one!  🙂

When I felt how much that project was helping both myself and others, I decided the principle needed to be applied to more than just the sexual assault.  I decided to start speaking out about my experiences of being psychologically and emotionally abused as well.  At first, I didn’t think anyone would care, much less listen.  But in just a few months I’ve been shown that my experiences are being used to help many other people who are also struggling to make sense of their lives.  This new reality I find myself in is both a healing balm and a huge motivator to continue.

This morning I got an email from a man saying he’s been tremendously helped by my story and experiences.  He said he felt like he wanted to give back somehow.  He offered to donate to a charity on my behalf and I told him about the charity I just went to Africa with.  He is going to donate to them as a way of giving back to me for the help I gave.  And the circle is now complete.  Except it isn’t, because those kids are going to be loved and helped in ways they will turn into good as well.  And the light of love will just keep growing and growing.

I sit here overwhelmed, with tears in my eyes and a huge knot in my chest, knowing that God is turning my pain into purpose.  That even while I am still healing from it all, part of that healing involves helping other people heal too.  And the results are overflowing to others to spread goodness and light and love in ways I never would have imagine.  All I can do is sit here in utter amazement and gratitude, knowing that God has a purpose for the pain and that my pain will be used to help others.  For the first time in my life, I can look at it with a sense of thankfulness.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
– Romans 8:28

Into The Light

Life finally seems to be making more sense.  That may sound rather anti-climactic, but for me it’s incredibly refreshing.  As someone who thrives off structure and logical reasoning, the last few years have been anything but comfortable.  In fact, they’ve been almost purely maddening.  For things to finally start making sense is more of a relief  than most people realize.

While I don’t believe our God is one of chaos or confusion, I do believe he allows our lives to be confusing and chaotic.  Realities of evil, sin, and their consequences mean that life will inevitably be both confusing and chaotic… and sometimes worse.  Sometimes it becomes downright excruciating and destructive.  My life has been lived mostly in the latter and yet my deepest pains have not come from evil actions against me but rather from not being able to make sense of them.  It’s impossible to move past things you can’t even make sense of, so understanding has always been my unrelenting pursuit.

Throughout my life, I’ve learned that all manner of evil can be endured with patience if we’re able to see the end game.  If we know the purpose of a particular pain before we experience it, the pain is much easier to endure.  For example, if I have asked God for patience and all of a sudden my life becomes annoyingly complicated, I take a great deal of comfort in knowing that God is growing my character and internal strength.  I then ease into the discomfort and find myself working with God instead of resisting him, and life almost magically becomes easier.

On the other hand, there are some sufferings so tragic, so deep, and so damaging that they’re as senseless as they are painful.  And this has been my greatest struggle – enduring pain that is not only excruciating but also seemingly senseless.  What purpose is there in being repeatedly victimized in such a way that your wounds never heal but only compound into something not even recognizable?  What is the purpose in abuse by parents, friends, or people who claim to love you?  What is the purpose in being raped?  What is the purpose in being lied to and manipulated and coerced?  Those are hard questions to answer when you’re in the thick of things.  But with time and space have come perspective, and with perspective comes a great deal of peace.  It may be over 30 years coming, but important answers are finally arriving.

In the same way that we are blessed by God in order to be a blessing to others, I also believe that we are allowed to endure great trials in order to help others through the same.  God would not have allowed me to survive the assaults on my life and very soul if he didn’t want me to help others survive as well.  And I firmly believe that one day, the balances will shift in the right direction.  That survivors from all walks of life will find their voice, speak out against the abuses they have endured, and enact positive change that shines a bright light into the deep darkness of pain that has threatened to overtake so many lives.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”  I pray that no matter what darkness you find yourself in, you’re able to gravitate towards the light.  And as you find yourself moving more and more into the light, you will become a light for others as well.