Sometimes God reveals the purpose of our pain in what seems to us like expected places. However, those places are not surprises to God. He in fact directs us to certain locations at specific times because He knows where we have been.
Although I recently planned a routine visit to Whole Foods, God had something else in mind for my weekly trip to my favorite supermarket. As usual, I started shopping in the produce section where I spend the most time—partly because I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and partly because I have trouble opening those plastic produce bags. The struggle always reminds me of how connective tissue disease affected my hands in the past and still weakens them now and then.
On this particular day, I was not the one having trouble opening the plastic produce bags. I saw the young man who was struggling with a bag when I pushed my cart towards the fresh herbs. The condition that limited the functionality of his hands was much more visible.
When he saw me, he backed up and apologized for standing in the aisle. I realized the condition also affected his legs. I had responded, “It’s okay,” when God nudged me to promptly say and do more.
I approached the man and offered to help him. I shared how I often struggle to open those bags, too. Together, we managed to get a bunch of parsley in the bag. He thanked me and hobbled on his way.
I can’t recall much from the rest of my shopping trip, but I’ll never forget what God impressed on my heart after I loaded my grocery into the car. He had noticed every time I had struggled with anything, including plastic produce bags, and He knew why I had struggled. He also knew that of all the people who saw that young man, one would not just pass by and look the other way. He could count on me to do something.
In spite of the summer heat, I sat in my car for a while with tears streaming down my face. The same compassion that had moved me to instantly lend a hand now moved me to tears. I sensed the Lord’s desire to touch and make whole every broken and hurting person so they could fully function again.
After God revealed His heart to me, I drove home. Along the way, He also showed me the purpose of my pain. My struggles had helped me to understand and be sensitive to that young man’s struggle. God reminded me of how I had always wanted someone to do something to help me and my family in our struggles. He reassured me that He had created and called me to not only help myself and my family, but also to help others who are suffering.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
–2 Corinthians 1:3-4