Every leader I know has been impacted by painful life experiences. Whether it was the unjustified dismissal from a ministry position, chronic health issues, or a difficult upbringing or home life. No leader, in fact no person, can escape pain in a fallen world.
The good news is that pain is not wasted. God uses it for His good purposes. Romans 8:28 and Genesis 50:20 are two familiar Bible passages that help establish this truth.
Another favorite Bible verse that demonstrates the formative use of pain is 2 Corinthians 1:4. Paul the Apostle writes, “He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Paul is teaching the Corinthian believers, and us, that God not only meets us in our pain but that He uses our pain for good.
How might pain help us become better leaders?
1. Pain may help us relate to the suffering of others: In a period of a few short years my Grandfather, Mother, and Brother all passed away. That was a difficult time for our family. God used that pain to help me learn to be a pastor who cared for others who were going through similar pain.
2. Pain may help us rely on God: Some of us are far too self-reliant. We are like a child who had a successful experience learning to ride a bike who then signals to a helpful parent, “I’ve got this,” only to end up later with a scraped knee or bruised elbow. The failure experienced from trying to do ministry or leadership in our own strength may help us depend more fully on God in the future.
3. Pain may help us resist temptation: Leaders are talkers and sometimes we talk too much or say the wrong things. Most leaders would love to retrieve a few unthoughtful words or comments. Many leaders have had to apologize for speaking harshly or saying more than was needed. For some it only takes a few of these mistakes, and the pain of having to fix the resulting relational hurt, to make us more careful the next time we speak.
4. Pain may help us remember our calling: Each member of the family of God has spiritual gifts to enable us to serve others. Every believer has a place in the family—one believer can’t do everything. Each of us has a lane in which we can best contribute to the work of the Kingdom. Sometimes an overly zealous Christian gets out of his or her lane and experiences the pain that results. That pain can help us remember our unique contribution to the plan of our King.
5. Pain may help us represent our Lord Jesus: My guess is that Peter the Apostle never completely got over the fact that he denied Jesus three times. Certainly, he was forgiven, and we all know he was restored to ministry. He was used greatly of God. I surmise, however, that when Peter was tempted in the future to keep quiet about the Gospel that he remembered the pain of his previous denials.
This list serves as a reminder that while pain is painful, it is not wasted. God uses it to shape us into the leaders He envisions us becoming. If you are in pain today, be assured that God will comfort you. You should be equally assured that God wants to use your pain for His glory, your good and the good of others. He is too loving and kind to let you suffer needlessly.