Use Me

Hello there! Remember me? I used to blog here. Well, I still do but more rarely these days. Here’s what I’ve learned: I can write blogs or I can write a book, but I can’t do both. I’ve got a deadline for a book tentatively entitled Seventy Times Seven: The Call to Radical Forgiveness. So that’s taking up most of my writing time.


I thought I’d ramble out a few thoughts tonight. Not so much theological thoughts, which is what I tend to do here, but pastoral thoughts. I’d like to try to explain your pain…or some of it anyway. And again, not so much from theological analysis, but from pastoral observation. Here is what I’ve observed…

People who experience an adult conversion to Christ often do so during a time of personal pain—it is their pain which compels them to look for a Savior. And having found the one who says, “Come unto me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest”, they do find rest, they do find respite, they do find relief from their pain in Christ.


That’s not the end of the story. As you well know.

To become a follower of Jesus is not a magic talisman to ward off all potential sources of suffering. (I’m sorry if you’ve been told it is.) Yes, in Christ there is freedom and deliverance from the destructive works of sin and Satan, but that being so, it is not a guarantee of floating away to heaven on “flowery beds of ease.” To put it plainly: Faithful followers of Jesus Christ regularly suffer pain—pain that comes from the hardship of being human in a broken world.

But why is this? Why does God allow his children to suffer the same pain as the rest of humanity? He could prevent it, could he not? Yes, he could, but it would not serve his purpose. God allows his people to be found in the place of pain, because that is where they are most needed. If we are to be those who carry the healing of Christ into a broken world, we cannot expect to live a life that is exempt from all pain and suffering. If you are going to be used by God, God is going to use you in the place of pain. And if you are used in the place of pain you will not always be above the fray—sometimes you will be a wounded healer.

We are familiar with what Peter said about the wounds of Christ—”By his wounds we are healed.” But I would like to suggest that there is a sense in which to be used by God is to carry some of the wounds of Christ in your own life. And lest you think I am out of bounds, I’ll remind you of what the Apostle Paul said about his own participation in redemptive suffering: “I rejoice in my suffering…I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” (Colossians 1:24) Yes, sometimes the wounds of Christ which bring healing to others are, at least in part, borne in your own life.

In rejecting the doctrine of divine impassibility (that idea that God cannot suffer), Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Only the suffering God can help.” And this is what we find at the cross—the suffering God who can help.

And in a similar way only Christians who know what it is to suffer can truly help other sufferers. If you take to the battlefield of life to give the aid of Christ to the stricken, you will not be immune to the potential of sharing in their suffering. In fact, it seems that one of the ways in which God aids the sufferer is to send them people who will join them in their suffering. It is in the place of shared suffering that the comfort of Christ is found. This is part of what Jesus meant when he said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” And this is certainly what is meant when Paul enjoins us to “weep with those who weep.”

If you are a maturing Christian, part of the explanation to the reason for your pain is that God is using you where he needs you—in the places of pain.

Or let me put it another way.

Have you ever prayed this prayer? Lord, use me.

Of course you have. And why? Because the Holy Spirit put a desire in your heart to move beyond a self-centered existence and to be used by God. So you prayed, “Lord, use me.”

And then you complain, “Lord, I feel so used!”

Yep, that’s the way it works. You pray to be used…and then you get used.

Instead of complaining about being used, redefine it and call it what Paul called it: “The fellowship of his sufferings.”

In fact, Paul desired to be used by the Lord so much that he called his previous life of prestige and respectably just so much rubbish (actually he uses a much stronger word…I’ll let you guess), and now the great desire of his life was this:

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” -Philippians 3:10

So Paul prayed to be used…and he was. Read the second half of 2 Corinthians 11 to find out what it was like for Paul to be used by God.

At the beginning of this blog I said I wanted to try to explain some of your pain. So here it is: It’s your prayer, “Lord, use me.”

Well, I’ll just stop praying that prayer then.

Oh, really? Is that what you want? Do you want to be set on the shelf and not allowed to participate in what God is doing? I don’t believe you. Or at least I hope you don’t mean that.

A couple of years ago I met Jesus in a dream. It was both wonderful and terrifying. As I knelt before him in tears he asked me, “What do you want?” Somehow I knew that what I requested would be granted. My request was this: “I want to be a part of what you are doing.”

That really is what I want more than anything—to be used by Jesus.

I know it is volunteering for a mission where to be wounded is almost a certainty. So be it.

It’s the life worth living.

And when you know that your suffering is not purposeless, but is fellowship with Jesus in his sufferings, there is a mysterious joy in it. Yes, I mean that. Amen.

And maybe this helps explain some your pain. I hope so.




I’ll have more to say along these lines this Friday night. I think I can help you. I really do.

The painting is Burdens by one of my favorite artists: Solomon Raj—a Lutheran theologian in India.