Embrace the pain

Sharper Focus

by Linda Manhardt – 

It was another sultry day in Nairobi. Each month, I left the training college compound in Thika to take care of business at THQ. While I was in the “big city,” I took advantage of the opportunity to do some shopping. The streets of Nairobi are always crowded with people—shoppers, tourists, parking-boys and beggars—always lots and lots of beggars. And this day was no different.

I was in a hurry. It was hot and I was uncomfortable, sweaty, and feeling defensive. A “mzungu,” or Westerner is always presumed to be rich in Kenya; therefore, a single woman would be considered easy prey by the thieves and beggars on the street. I was careful to remove my watch so it would not be snatched from my wrist. As I walked, it seemed that at every corner, there was a beggar pleading for money.

Money was tight for me. I was trying to live solely on the allowance that the Kenyan officers made—about $450 a year. I was raising chickens so I could sell the eggs, growing much of the fruit and vegetables I ate, and I got my milk from the cow down the road. It annoyed me that I was considered rich by these people. They didn’t know!

There was one particularly persistent woman who kept following me and begging for money. I repeatedly told her that I had no money to give her, but she followed me for several blocks and would not leave me alone. I finally snapped. I turned around and said (rather loudly and rudely), “No, I told you, I have no money!”

Her reaction was amazing! Her eyes instantly grew cold and filled with hate and she hissed at me while reaching out and touching my head. And then she turned and hurried away. I cannot describe the immediate feeling of the mixture of her hate, and the fear that filled me. It was like a panic that swept over me. I knew that I had been cursed. I felt the evil. Praise God, he gave me the presence of mind to know what to do!

I ran and caught up with her. I reached out and touched her shoulder. With all of God’s love that was in me, I smiled and told her, “God bless you.” I truly meant those words as God gave me the grace to speak them, and as I spoke, I was filled with peace. She looked at me with confusion, hesitated, and then walked away.

I learned something from this experience that I carry with me today. It is this: Don’t give evil a place in your life. Return good for evil, love for hate and blessing for curses.
What does this look like in “real life”?

A couple of months ago, I received an undeserved, attacking email. My immediate reaction was one of anger and frustration. I wanted to respond in a not too positive way. I shared the situation with a godly mentor in my life, and her advice to me was simply to “embrace the pain.”

By embracing the pain that comes our way, we are identifying with the wounds of Christ. He did not deserve the pain that was put on him, yet he suffered through it with amazing grace, compassion and love for those who persecuted him. As we travel on this road of becoming more like Christ, that we call “holiness,” there will be times when we must allow God to use difficulty and pain to do his refining work within us.

My prayer is that we learn and grow through the painful experiences of life and, like Christ, embrace the pain that comes our way. He calls each of us to choose love instead of hate, and graciousness instead of bitterness. If we allow him, his grace will carry us through even the most difficult situation. It is through the constant turning over, and turning to Christ, that we grow in our relationship and resemblance to him.

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