I can still remember it so clearly. I was a young pastor at a church in Santa Cruz, CA, and I was under some incredible pressure. The church was growing. We were in the middle of a capital campaign, and I had no idea what I was doing. So, one Sunday afternoon, I went to play basketball with a few friends to blow off some stream.
I was about to throw an off-the-ball pass, when out of the corner of my eye, I realized someone saw it. I reared back, and in one split second I tore two ligaments in my knee – my ACL and MCL.
My doctor put me on crutches and then referred me to see a physical therapist three times a week. As you can imagine, this only added to my stress! I wondered how I was going to have time for this.
My physical therapist turned out to be a young divorced woman with a small child. And as I got to know her, I discovered that she had been abandoned by her husband and was pretty bitter about it. She also let me know that her father was an atheist, and the only people that she was angrier with than God were people from church.
At some point, I tried sharing my story with her, and at first, she wasn’t open to hearing me. Then, I flat-out asked her, “Have you ever just explored who Jesus is for yourself?” She said no and acted uninterested.
But I persisted. I challenged her to read John 1, and made the argument that at the very least, she should be educated to know for herself what the Bible says. She hesitantly agreed.
It was a long rehab, but by the end of our time together, God miraculously brought that young woman to accept Christ!
Now the story gets even better…
Soon after my recovery, I moved to Atlanta. Then about two years later, my old church asked me to come back to Santa Cruz to speak. And I’ll never forget what happened next. As I walked off the stage, there she was, tears flowing down her face.
She gave me a big hug and said, “Jesus is so real! Thank you so much! And I want you to meet my little girl. I’m reading Bible stories to her.”
Afterward, I remember thinking, that was worth a knee!
Usually, when we’re going through something difficult like an injury, a divorce, a bankruptcy, or job loss, all we can think about is our own problem. But what I realized in the midst of my hardship was this:
Sometimes our worst times are God’s best times to use our lives.
In the midst of our pain and suffering, God says, I want to come close to you during your difficulty. I don’t promise to wave a magic wand and make everything wonderful overnight, but I’ll be with you through whatever the most difficult, painful issue is in your life.
What about you? Are you facing a difficult situation right now in your life?
Satan’s strategy is to destroy you through intimidation, fear, and isolation. He wants to take the difficult issues in your life and make you fearful. He wants to convince you that your marriage will never work out, your son or daughter will never come around, your health issue will never go away, you’ll never find a job, and you will never break your addiction.
But God wants to take your suffering and do great things, so that it’s not “wasted suffering.”
What our enemy intends for evil, God intends for good “to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
Even though, initially, your hardship might make you feel isolated and fearful, it could also be the greatest opportunity that God ever gives you to preach the Word.
Hebrews 4:12 says: For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
I wasn’t very convincing – my physical therapist didn’t come to Christ just because of me. Her decision to follow Jesus was because – for the first time – she explored the living Word of God for herself.
But God calls us regular, normal people to preach the Word – not judgmentally, or with “I’m-better-than-you attitude,” but winsomely, lovingly, and by sharing our life and inviting them to explore what the Bible says.
God has an agenda for your life, but so does Satan. To learn more about how to recognize and protect yourself against the enemy’s schemes, check out the series Diabolical.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip