When God created mankind, he made us with a purpose. In Genesis 1 and 2, when the writer records the creation of Adam and Eve, we see purpose and meaning inherent in God’s design for people. God made people to live in communion with him and with each other. He made them to fill and subdue the earth. God intended for people to cultivate his creation for his glory.
After the fall of man in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, the nature of man’s purpose changed, but the mission-oriented fabric of humanity did not. Sin fractured man’s relationship with God, creation, self, and other people. As a result, God’s mission, which we see as the dominant storyline in the Bible, is to reconcile all things in heaven and earth to himself until the world becomes a perfect place.
The Lord did not decide to snap his finger and instantly fix the problem. Instead, for whatever reason, he chose to perform this mission of restoration and redemption through human beings. He first attempted this mission through the Israelites, whom he made to be a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). Through their moral purity, kindness to the poor, justice for the oppressed, and worship of their merciful and holy God, the Lord intended to draw all nations to himself. However, the Israelites failed miserably.
The story of the New Testament involves God doing through Christ what Israel failed to accomplish. Paul described the Lord’s purpose and will, which he performed through Christ, as “unit[ing] all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:9–10). Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection set off the total remediation of all effects of the fall, which will culminate at Christ’s second coming, when he makes the world perfect again. Until then, God has sent his Holy Spirit to work through the lives of people for his redemptive mission in the world.
Why am I offering this brief biblical history of redemption?
When the Worst comes, you feel as if the storyline and purpose of your life have either been seriously disrupted or totally terminated. Before the Worst, you had dreams and aspirations. Now tragedy and pain have shattered your vision.
As the tides of sadness flow through your heart, it is natural to feel as if the waves have carried away the purpose of your life. Many people experience a disorienting sense of apathy and purposelessness in the wake of their Worst.
However, we must believe that no tragedy possesses more force and determination than God’s plan of redemption for the world. No disappointment can expunge the inherent mission that God envisioned when he conceived your life. No trial can extract you from the redemptive narrative that Christ called you into when he saved your soul and enlisted you in his redemptive mission. No difficulty can nullify the intrinsic purpose inherent in God designing you.
In fact, your Worst further equips you uniquely for this mission. God’s mission involves remediating the effects of the fall. This means that Christian mission fundamentally engages sadness, injustice, poverty, depression, despair, sickness, grief, and death. God’s mission is a work of healing, and no healing can occur without seeing and touching the wounds.
Your Worst deepens your capacity to enter into and confront the brokenness in the world around you. As the Lord heals your heart, you gain a strength, toughness, and courage that did not previously exist. You inherit greater compassion and empathy for other sufferers because you understand their pain more deeply than you did before your Worst.
In some cases, doctors say that when a bone breaks, it grows back stronger. Indeed, when we allow the Lord to heal our heart after our Worst, our mission in the world grows back with added strength and fortitude.
Furthermore, your wounds become credentials that give you credibility and trustworthiness as you minister to those who share your common suffering. Before my son died, I had very little to offer parents who had lost children. Since Cam passed away, God has opened many doors for me to care for people in the same situation.
We all know how this works. People who have not experienced our same sort of tragedy can help, but their comfort and advice only go so far. We all value the wisdom and compassion of
those who have gone before us, those who truly know what we are going through. If you struggle with mental illness, you want to talk to someone with your same condition. If you have cancer, you want to talk to a survivor. If you’ve had a miscarriage, you want to talk to a woman who has experienced one too.
Again, your wounds become your credentials. They serve as a card that grants you access and entry into the lives and sadness of other people. In time, after you have started to heal and recover, the Lord will expand your mission field. You can become “that person” who shows up for, listens to, advises, and cares for others. When people with the same struggle or tragedy say, “Nobody understands,” you have the credibility to respond, “I do.”
At the same time, we must exercise caution. This new ministry that comes out of our Worst can become an idol that we use to escape our pain or to justify our loss. This ministry can become a means by which we try to x ourselves.
At times, I felt as if helping enough people after Cam died would in some way make my tragedy feel worth it. In reality, I started to have a false expectation that serving others out of my tragedy would heal me. Only God’s grace in God’s time can heal us.
Still, what I want you to know is that your life continues to have meaning and purpose on the other side of your Worst. In fact, that sense of meaning and purpose only deepens if we allow God to heal us and then open ourselves to the redemptive call of God in a broken world.
Content taken from Therefore I Have Hope: 12 Truths That Comfort, Sustain, and Redeem in Tragedy by Cameron Cole, ©2018. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.