It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.
- Philippians 4:14 The Message
I recently had my first root canal. I was having some persistent problems with my teeth, and as the possibility of having to have a root canal loomed larger, I earnestly prayed that the Lord would spare me from it. As it turned out, this dental procedure that I had always dreaded was my only recourse, and I couldn't avoid it any longer. I prayed through the entire thing, and I trusted the Lord to walk me through it. When it was over, I was brooding about having to go through this unpleasant experience, and I sensed the Lord reassuring me that it was not in vain--that He would bring much good out of it. A week or so later, I was at a family gathering, and I found myself exclaiming to one of my relatives, "I had my first root canal!" I realized that I was taking some perverse pleasure in experiencing this unpleasant procedure firsthand, and initially, I was baffled by my attitude. Then it hit me. I was feeling a tremendous sense of satisfaction and joy in being able to say to others who have had root canals--"I understand how you feel. I've been there, and I know what you're going through."
One thing is clear--it's scriptural to pray for protection and deliverance from trouble. But I do think that there are times when God allows us to experience adversity firsthand, so that we can develop a heart of compassion toward others who are suffering. I know that this has been true in my own life, and I have seen trials soften the hearts of others, too. I certainly don't recommend praying for trouble. But I also don't recommend succumbing to despair or doubt when adversity is staring us in the face. God is a mighty and compassionate God, and He can--and will--bring good out of even the most daunting circumstances, if we will firmly place our trust in Him, and maintain a right attitude during these times. Having to go through painful and difficult experiences can also help us to pray more effectively for others who are in trouble. When I hear from parents who are dealing with harrowing problems with their children, it's easy for me to feel their anguish, because of my own painful experiences as a parent. I believe that my prayers for these parents are much more fervent and effective, since I've developed a greater understanding and empathy toward their plight.
David wrote: "I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul." (Psalm 31:7 NIV) Though these words refer to the Lord, they can also apply to those of us who have become more Christlike through our trials and tribulations. We, too, can have a greater depth of love and compassion toward others. We can relate to their suffering, and feel their pain. And we can be a great source of comfort and joy to them. Today, I encourage you to ask the Lord to help you see your problems from a heavenly perspective. Pray that God will enable you to believe that He can turn your misery into ministry. Then you will know firsthand the joy and satisfaction of being able to say with all sincerity--"I understand what you're going through, and I'm praying for you!"
Prayer: Lord, teach me how to pray in faith for protection and deliverance from trouble. When I do experience tests and trials, help me to understand their value. Give me the faith I need to believe that You will bring good out of every adversity I face. (Romans 8:28) Thank You that by Your grace, my difficulties will make me a more compassionate person, and a more effective intercessor!
- J. M. Farro