A few weeks ago I had the privilege of traveling to Joplin, MO, and helping with disaster relief for the tornado that came through on May 22. The destruction was unbelievable – I had seen images on TV and in magazines but I see images like that so often that I am almost numb to them now. It was different driving through street after street of what used to be neighborhoods and people’s homes. It was different cleaning up tons of debris that used to be someone’s clothes or furniture.
The sense of community was also unbelievable. One woman was at Wal-Mart when the tornado hit. She was knocked out by a rack but after regaining consciousness she helped pull other survivors out from under debris. Once they were free, all the survivors went to the front of the store and prayed. What are the chances of that happening if a tornado hadn’t struck? At one site, during the course of one day four different vehicles came by and offered us food and drinks. God causes beautiful things to happen after destruction and loss. It’s when people are at the lowest of lows that God’s work is seen the easiest.
Look at the disciples. They didn’t always seem to get Jesus’ message and ministry when He was alive; they were always arguing about who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-37), who would have the greater position in heaven (Mark 10:35-40), and trying to send away the people who needed love the most (Matthew 19:13-15). The disciples struggled a lot during Jesus’ life and even during His death – every last one of them abandoned and denied Jesus. But something beautiful happened after Jesus ascended into heaven and was no longer physically with them: they got it. The disciples quickly bonded together and realized the importance of their mission, and twelve soon became 3,000 (Acts 2:41). They lost Jesus’ physical presence on earth, but if they had not, they might not have ever understood their purpose and formed that beautiful community of believers.
Maybe you’ve experienced some deep loss in your life. Maybe you’ve lost a parent, a good friend, a sibling. Maybe you are a child with divorced parents and you’ve lost a unified home. Maybe you just got your heart broken for the first time and don’t know where to look for relief. Maybe the thing you’ve worked for and dreamed of didn’t work out, and now you are questioning your purpose. Whatever your situation, know that God can use it for His glory and your good (Romans 8:28). Joseph lost the love of his brothers, became a slave, and then was God’s instrument in bringing the Israelites down to Egypt to ultimately show His power. To paraphrase A.W. Tozer, God doesn’t use you greatly until He hurts you deeply. I have a plaque in my room that reads, “The Lord makes all things new.” He can heal you, fill you, and use you in ways He could not before your loss. Your loss is not the end of the road for you; it is a new beginning. God has plans “to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). God can take your mess and make it His message.