God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.
No one on earth is exempt from pain.
The pain of losing someone you love dearly. The pain of living in a home filled with alcohol, drugs and abuse. The pain of finding out you have a fight-or-die illness. The pain of being beaten up by your own father. The pain of being sexually abused.
When things like these happen, while it is only justified to feel depressed, it becomes easy to be bitter, to blame God, and worst of all, to lose the will to live. Naturally, the pounding question is, ‘Why did God let this happen to me?’
The truth is, I’m not sure why bad things happen to good people. Why someone close to you has left this earth far too early or why I still battle with depression because of an abusive and broken family life, I’ll never understand. Maybe it’s not our job to try to explain it.
Growing up in a home prominently of abuse, with the men being alcoholic drunks, wife-beaters and money thieves with a shady criminal record, it was only about time that I experienced first hand verbal and physical abuse beginning since the age of five. However, I remember vividly one moment of physical abuse that changed me. I was sitting on a couch, crying and drenched in tears after I was abused by my family. My phone laid smashed on the ground for fear that I was going to call a friend or the police. Feeling abandoned and unloved by my whole family, with no one to call or comfort me, I called out to God. And without any logic or reasoning, a peace came down on me so strong, so profound, so intense than I have ever felt before or since. I knew at once that God was in this place of brokenness with me, that He was kneeling beside me and comforting me at the time I felt the most alone. He has also met me during vivid moments during my depression when I would find myself sprawled on the ground crying uncontrollably, unable to contain the pain I felt for fear that my heart would burst.
As I look back on those moments, there is a unshakable certainty in my heart that God was not far from my pain, but in the very midst of it. Time and time again, in those moments and many more, He has come through for me as my comforter and strength when I feel like I couldn’t go on anymore. And I believe with every ounce of my being that it is in your pain, not from it, where God dwells, too.
Although that is now behind me, I was determined more than ever to help those who were struggling through the same things I had been through. During my healing from depression, suicidal tendencies and low self-esteem, I received a deep love and a grace from God and loved ones. Though I am still on that road to restoration, I was fueled by my past pain to inspire and encourage other girls, too. It was in this that I found my life’s passion and purpose. I found my dream. Often, though, there were times where I would succumb to suicidal thoughts and fits of tears, and when I asked God why I should keep on living when everything felt pointless, he would remind me again and again, “Do it for the one girl who needs saving.”
Someone who inspires my dream is Somaly Mam. She was just twelve years old when she was taken from her home in the forests of Cambodia and sold to a man who posed as her grandfather. Soon, she was being beaten and violated by him. He then sold her to a brothel in Phnom Penh to pay off his own debts. There, she was raped, beaten, called worthless and almost lost her will to live.
One day, everything changed and she escaped the brothel to France. Unable to live a life of luxury and close her eyes to the other thousands of girls who needed her help, Somaly decided to do something with her pain and rescue those girls she saw herself in. Even though the pain is still raw for her and she has nightmares about the raping everyday, even though her own daughter was kidnapped, her will to help those young girls being sex trafficked is even stronger.
Since beginning her non-profit organization The Somaly Mam foundation in 2007, she has helped rescue over 4000 girls from sexual slavery, some even as young as four or five. She once said, “I have never looked back on returning to Cambodia. I fill my centers with love, and the women we serve give us all hope for the future. I forgive those in my past because life is love, and love has no condition.”
Rick Warren, a world-renowned pastor and best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life, along with his wife, tragically lost his son Matthew to suicide by shooting himself with a gun he had illegally brought online. Even in the middle of horrific pain, he said something which touched me. “I have cried every single day since Matthew died, but that’s actually a good thing. Grief is a good thing. It’s the way we get through the transitions of life. I know God is a good God, but not everything that happens in the world is God’s will. I’m certainly not going to waste this pain. One of the things I believe is that God never wastes a hurt and that oftentimes your greatest ministry comes out of your deepest pain. I remember writing in my journal that in God’s garden of grace, even broken trees bear fruit.”
Isn’t that beautiful? It reminded me of something Kandee Johnson, an inspiring Youtube make-up artist, once said: “The more broken and shattered you are, the more light and grace you can reflect.” To me, it means that if you are broken and you’re hurting, there is so much more light to give to the world because of it. The beauty of a million shards of glass reflecting in sunlight is that it radiates in every direction. Likewise, a million broken pieces of your heart can also reflect hope for many others.
I think a big misconception is the belief that we need to be fully healed before we can embark to heal others. I’d like to challenge that – often, our pain can be the very thing we need to drive us and give fuel our passion to change people’s lives. And as I reflect on these stories and my own, I realize that maybe the reason God allows us to go through deep waters and scorching fires is so that we can find comfort in His arms. It’s humbling to know that we can’t go through life alone. God didn’t make us to be self-sufficient and independent. He made us to need each other and to lean on each other in our deepest pain.
There’s going to be seasons where those painful hurts will take time to heal (and maybe it never does, and that’s okay), but that season of grief is so crucial to deepening your empathy. Take your time. What is created in that secret land of mourning and tears is a deep passion to help those who are going through the same pain.
The world desperately needs people like you who have endured suffering to be a beacon of hope and light to those who have a great need for it. You never know how much of an impact you can have on someone when you choose the road of restoration instead of bitterness. I encourage each and everyone of you to reach out through your pain and help others who are struggling through the same thing. Turn your pain into fuel for an unquenchable passion to help others. That’s a legacy worth leaving behind. Like my best friend once said: “When you turn your pain into a passion to help others, that’s the best thing you can do with your life.”
And how right she is.