It had been a few years since God healed my heart of the shame and regret of past mistakes, and now He was calling me to a new purpose. I believed God could never use me for anything special, because I felt I had nothing special to offer in light of my past. But after one powerful encounter with God, I knew He had a plan for me after all. That plan began to unfold slowly but surely.
A few years after that encounter, and after God had done a great healing in my heart, I hesitantly agreed to volunteer at my local Pregnancy Resource Center. They soon wanted me to counsel young women facing unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, to encourage them to choose life over abortion, and help them understand how much they were loved by God. This was a little more than I bargained for, and I could feel my anxiety bubbling up in my chest. Just the thought of it made me break out in a cold sweat.
How could I encourage young women to choose life for their unborn and unexpected babies when I had not chosen life for my own?
How could I inspire young women to look to God and trust Him, when I hadn’t done that myself? << Click to Tweet
You see, I was afraid that trying to encourage women to behave in a way I hadn’t behaved would be hypocritical. Yet that is exactly what God called me to do in that season. Not to be hypocritical -- but simply to be real. He didn’t want me to pretend I had always had my act together and never made mistakes, while tossing Scripture and moral lessons at the women at the center. He didn’t expect me to act like a degreed counseling professional, and convince them I had all the answers.
God merely called me to embrace the privilege of reaching out to these scared and hurting women, not through ministry but through my own mess-ups.
He wanted me to rely on my past experience and the things I learned as a result of being healed and redeemed. I made the wrong choice, lived with the consequences, and could share with these sweet women and girls the perspective of someone who had been in their shoes. I could minister to them by being someone to talk to without making them feel judged or condemned. I could help them look beyond the present circumstance and think long-term, fill them with courage, and offer advice on how to share the difficult news with their family or boyfriend. I could inspire them to stand strong in what they knew was right, even when everyone around them had differing opinions.
I could also speak into the hearts of women who had already had abortions and were faced with yet another unexpected pregnancy. They didn’t want to go through it again, but believed it was their only choice—again. I could help them understand that forgiveness and healing are possible, and that Jesus loved them no matter what they had done or what had been done to them.
I allowed God to heal my soul years earlier, but I had yet to take the final step toward full healing. It was time to truly allow God to use my past for His purposes in whatever way He asked me to. To turn my mess-up into my ministry. To transform my story into His story in my life.
My heart could never be completely healed from the pain of my past or the remorse deep in my spirit until I allowed God to use that pain to help someone else find hope and healing in Christ. I needed to allow my newness in Christ to help someone else become new in Him too. I could carry out endless acts of ministry, but until I was real and ministering out of my own broken past, living as an example of how God turns ashes into beauty, God could not do His very best in me or in my life.
God knows how our mess-ups, and the messiness life brings. He can use our mess-ups in ways we would never dream of. He sees potential in us we could never imagine. We might think we have nothing special to offer, but God sees something special and unique in all of us no matter what our past holds.
If we are willing to say yes and trust Him with our futures, even when we can’t see where He is taking us, we can impact the lives of others through our humble and faithful obedience. When we let the real us emerge from the shadows, we can begin to see true purpose springing up out of the pain of our past.
Your life still matters to God, and He is ready to help you turn mess-ups into ministry and discover purpose out of your pain. He is ready when you are.
Tracie Miles is a national conference speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries. She speaks God's truths to empower and motivate others to depend on Christ in their everyday lives, and lead them to a place of peace and purpose through learning to live intentionally for Christ. Tracie is a contributing writer for Encouragement for Today online devotions that currently touch over 500,000 lives each day around the world. She is the author of Stressed-Less Living: Finding God’s Peace In Your Chaotic World, and Reinventing Your Rainbow, and lives in North Carolina with her husband and three children.