I was about 12 years old at the time, sitting in the physical therapy room at the pediatric hospital. I had been going there consistently for 10 years, and I would go another 5 before I was finally deemed too old — not miraculously healed. If someone could be a professional physical therapy go-er, I would have earned the title. That’s what life looks like when you’re born with a physical disability.
This time, like every time, I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about being there. It was hard and exhausting and not fun, and I could think of a hundred other things I would rather have been doing. But this time, unlike the other times, something was different.
As I was finishing up my session, the other physical therapists worked with a little boy who was crying and screaming while his mother tried to calm him down. He was too young to understand why he was there or why the nice lady was trying to put braces on his legs. They asked me if I would be willing to let him watch while I put on my own leg braces, so he could see what they were and that they wouldn’t cause him harm. I felt a little awkward and self-conscious, but I really wanted to help.
He suddenly froze when he saw what I was doing. Face damp with tears, he sniffled a little and looked up at me.
“It’s okay, they won’t hurt you,” I told him. The smile across my face was more reflective of my eagerness to help rather than my sentiments about the annoying, clunky things attached to my feet. The truth is, I felt the same way he did. Upset. Scared. Not wanting anyone to do anything else to me. Those 10 years of experience had just taught me how to put on a good face.
But that day, my 12-year-old heart began realizing a profound truth found in God’s Word: No hard thing we experience is ever in vain.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Hundreds of times I had put on those leg braces I was known for hating to wear. Not once had it ever occurred to me that my experiences could bring encouragement and comfort to someone else. My pain – felt both physically when the braces caused blisters and sores, and in my heart when it seemed I was out of place and overlooked for being a little different – could and would most certainly be redeemed. The Lord’s promises are true.
Seeing glimpses of His faithfulness and redemption in my own life softened and soothed my heart.
The redemption of our suffering – whatever our affliction may be – may not be realized while we’re on this earth. The Lord is working your and my circumstances for good, to accomplish His purposes, but we might not be able to understand what He is doing. Often it doesn’t make sense to me, with my limited, earthly-confined mind. Sometimes we will get to see how our lives and faithfulness to God through our trials encourage someone else. But even if not, we can rest assured knowing that when we reach eternity, all the hard things we experience are incomparable to what’s coming next (Romans 8:18).
These hard things will be worth it in the end.
So we don’t have to hide our pain. We don’t have to pretend everything is okay. But we also don’t have to drown in our sorrow, feeling like there is no hope. Christ is with us, guiding us each step of the way. As we walk through the deep valleys, our honesty and dependency on Christ just might be the thing that stops someone in their tracks and helps them see the hand reaching down from Heaven ready to rescue them from despair.
Christ is the redeemer of our pain. The plan is already in motion. And He will be faithful to accomplish what He has started.