Monday, April 2, 2018

Empathy, Encouragement, and Endurance

A few months ago, there was a Christmas party for the leaders at church. Everyone got a special word from God that had been prayed for just for them. When I read mine, it didn't really resonate with me. I wasn't sure how it really applied other than the many tears I had been crying from being in so much physical pain. I thought maybe it was a nice way of saying that God saw my tears and my pain; that I didn't have to be ashamed of what I was going through. It was comforting, but didn't seem to completely fit because of that first sentence; particularly the words "gift", "offered", and "sacrifice." Those words had the ring of "it's not about you". Whatever it was about, it just wasn't clear to me. However, that word had been given to me for a reason; even if I didn't grasp it yet. I put it in my coat pocket with the intent of permanently holding onto those precious words; believing that it would eventually be revealed to me.
A few days ago, I was emptying my coat pockets when I saw it again. I opened it up and re-read it. It was like I was reading it for the first time and I TOTALLY understood! It is talking about my intense empathic gift which has seemed to be deepening over the last year or two. The physical pain that I've experienced has drawn me closer to God and has made me even more compassionate and understanding when it comes to the pain of others (whether it's physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.). I've been feeling, sensing, and discerning a lot more when I encounter people. I can't seem to help but cry with them if they're pouring out their heart (my pantry visitors at work can attest to that). There's been times I've tried to be strong and not show it, but I've actually had someone outright say "thank you for your tears." There truly is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to weeping for/with people and allowing yourself to feel what they feel. To be present with someone in their hurt and brokenness can make your heart ache something fierce, but it's also soothing at the same time (especially for them). There is nothing more precious than seeing someone light up because they see that someone loves, accepts, hears, and understands them. The tears, the hugs, and the prayers that I get to be a part of is something that I fully embrace and that I feel blessed to be entrusted with. I am overjoyed to show the love and tenderness of Jesus in this way and to see that people are relieved, refreshed, and comforted. I praise God for this and give Him the glory! I'm in awe of what He does and how He stirs me for others; whether it's in person or personal prayers for them in private. It makes me incredibly grateful and awed that He would pick me for a gift like this and allow me to witness such miraculous healing power!

As I repeatedly read the words on my card, there was a quote that kept coming to the forefront of my mind. It's a line from "X-Men: Days of Future Past":
It's not their pain you're afraid of. It's yours, Charles. And as frightening as it may be, that pain will make you stronger. If you allow yourself to feel it, embrace it, it will make you more powerful than you ever imagined. It's the greatest gift we have: to bear their pain without breaking. And it comes from the most human part of us: hope.

God truly empowers and strengthens us when we walk through our pain and help bear the pain of others. We build endurance as we let hope fuel us for the long haul: 

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. - Romans 5:1-5 (NLT)

Grace and peace to you, my friends! My encouragement to you is to accept the uplifting and encouraging words that people affirm you with. Even if it's a struggle for you to accept and embrace the ways God has gifted and created you, I hope that you will work through it for His Kingdom's sake. Don't allow Satan to steal and hide the truth from you about who you are! It is MORE than ok to acknowledge and embrace how God uniquely crafted you! In fact, it is downright necessary to do so! Denying the beauty of who you are will diminish your ability to serve in the ways that the Father has made you to serve; cheating yourself and everyone else out of countless blessings! Embrace and live out your special place in the body of Christ so that we all can glorify God together as one and hold each other up! God bless you!