The Blessing of Painful Moments

The blessing of painful momentsSenior year is ending. Graduation is looming. In this process of packing up my dorm room and helping tear down residence hall decorations, I think I’m finally allowing myself to accept that things are changing. It’s therapeutic in a way, all this packing. Now graduating isn’t some far off abstract; it’s a celebration that is now only two days away. My gown hangs in my closet ready for to celebrate an end and a beginning.

Through all the packing I’ve switched from processing to simply reflecting. There’s really nothing to figure out or wrap my mind around. The season is changing whether I like it or understand it, and all I can do is walk through it. And to be honest, I like reflecting much better.

Not all the memories I’ve experienced during my four years of college have been happy, though. As a student body, we’ve been through a lot. Two years ago we lost a beloved student named Josias. He left an impact on this campus in ways I wonder if he ever knew. He should be walking with us on Saturday, but instead he is enjoying paradise with Jesus. He will be missed.

I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last few years, which has only reminded me just how messy and imperfect I am. I’m a thinker by nature more than I am a feeler; and maybe that’s what has made this year so hard. I feel like it took the last three years to break down my walls to help me see that I am broken and in need of my Savior every single day.

I’m more responsible than I should be–my grandma tells me I was born responsible. Responsible for myself and my actions and making sure I perform well and don’t step on toes; responsible for others, making sure they are doing their best and helping them when they mess up or aren’t walking around with a smile on their face.

I’ve had to learn how to “let lose” which for me consists of going with the flow and not over-thinking and analyzing every nit-picky decision. It’s been hard, and in some ways I feel like I’ve been back sliding. I don’t feel as “righteous” with all my mess hanging out in the open. But maybe it’s just that all the masks and all the hiding are being striped away so that I can see the real me.

In short, I’ve been humbled. I’ve been humbled in ways that are painful to my pride. But I’ve also been humbled to the point of being on my knees before God, so in awe that He used me here. So in awe of the truth that He loves me, and He blesses me far more than I could ever imagine.

Sometimes those blessings come in the midst of painful moments.

Back during my freshman year a friend of mine and I had made plans to join a group for our spring formal. Neither of us had dates, so we kept telling ourselves that Jesus was our date and that was okay. But it wasn’t. Plans fell through and somehow we ended up at a back corner table just the two of us. We tried to make the best of it as we scarfed down the four extra desserts sitting at the table, but our hearts were hurting and bitter. We had been left alone, abandoned, unwanted, and nearly in tears.

After a lonely dinner the entertainment started and one of our Bible professors asked to join us. We nodded quietly and tried to put on a smiling face. In all honestly, I would probably have tossed the memory if that was how our night ended. I would have pushed it away and forgotten about it, or held onto it and let it fester. But something unexpected happened before we headed back to the dorm.

As our professor stood to leave, he looked at both of us and said, “Ladies, if you keep up this good attitude, the Lord will bless you.” He left and I looked at my friend, mouth slightly agape, tears rushing to my eyes. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that us girls at the back corner table weren’t exactly having a good time; but that night our professor offered us encouragement and a blessing that seared itself into my heart and mind.

Every year since then when we reach spring formal, I remember that conversation. Every year our experience has gotten better. And every year since that first formal, I’ve wanted to thank that professor; yesterday I finally got the chance. We wrote him a thank you card and slid it under his office door. Later that day we found this email from him:

Dear Sisters in Christ,

Your kind and encouraging note touched me deeply! (That night had slipped my mind, but now I remember it vaguely.)

Thanks for being servants of Jesus and for being used by God to grace OCU. One of my greatest heroes of faith is Mary (especially in her reaction to the Annunciation Luke 1). I do not say this lightly, but you two ladies have her heart and her spirit. You are the type of women I pray my daughters someday become and the type of women I hope my sons become men worthy of marrying! There’s a lot of nastiness and ugliness in this world; never let the ugliness make you ugly. Never lose the glow of the Shekinah that rests on you and the darkness of this world will retreat before you!

After I finished reading that, I lost it. The walls I put up in my effort to process all this change and not deal with the tears and emotions started to fall. I was left humbled and awed. Even still that professor is speaking life and encouragement, and my heart is full. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. In fact, there have been many days where I have thought that I’m failing and need to do better. Despite all of that, God continues to shower His love and grace over me. Walking away from here, I feel like I’ve only begun to understand the Lord and His ways.

Never underestimate what God can do in your heart, how He can continue to shape you and bless you and meet you even in those painful moments. If you’re in a particularly painful season now, hang in there. Keep pressing into the Lord. And I pray that God would reveal the blessings tucked into this season.

Live in His love!

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