"You had to have been there."
I appreciate survivors:
- Those who have experienced cancer and now encourage others who struggle with the disease.
- Those who have experienced divorce and now encourage those who are going through it.
- Those who have gone through great difficulties with a child and now have come alongside other parents who are in the midst of great difficulties themselves.
- Those who have battled depression and now encourage those who are experiencing depression.
- Those who are recovering alcoholics or drug abusers and now have a ministry with others who are recovering themselves.
I have seen this time and again. I suspect you have as well. I have seen God use survivors in powerful ways to encourage others. God has a way of using such experiences along with God-given gifts to encourage another.
Yet, this is what concerns me.
At times, I have seen those who have never gone through such experiences feel as if they really have nothing to offer. Some feel as if their gifts are useless unless they have been through a similar experience. Some may feel as if their story is rather boring and vanilla because they have never gone into the "far country" nor are they a survivor of some sort.
Yet, isn’t there a place in the body of Christ for such people as well as survivors? While I recognize that survivors can have a significant ministry, could it be that in some way God will also use others in the body who don’t have a similar background? Could it be that survivors might minister to someone with similar issues while other believers might be used in other very significant ways as God uses their gifts to minister to another?
Again, I thank God that he uses survivors in very significant ways to minister to those with whom they can especially identify. However, I want to be very, very slow about saying or suggesting that valid ministry requires prior experience with a particular sin or ailment or history. While Jesus knew temptation, he was perfect in every way. Yet, I don’t think he was lacking in any way.
What is the point? I am thinking about ways to encourage all women and men in the body of Christ, in whatever gathering of God’s people, to know that God has gifted his body and can use us all. One should never feel as if she is lacking in some way simply because she has never committed a particular sin. God is mighty and is able to use the body of Christ to minister in ways we have not dreamed. It could be that some of the most significant encouragement that I will ever receive in the body of Christ will come from some of the most unlikely people. Perhaps this encouragement will come from people in whom I seem to have little or nothing in common. I have experienced this a number of times.
What do you think? How can we communicate value to survivors, as well as appreciation for the ministry that might take place through such people? How do we communicate value for those who have never had such experiences and yet are very much a part of the body that God has gifted for ministry?