Circumstances – Everyone’s got some. Those situations in life when you feel like no one else quite understands how difficult things are (for you). And when you find someone with similar circumstances, you actually believe you will find comfort in discussing them over coffee (ad nauseam) until you are even further convinced not only how wrong you’ve been done and how much more difficult your situation is than anyone else’s. Oh! But also how no one who hasn’t been through the very same set of circumstances would ever, ever understand the extent to which you’ve suffered. Am I right?
My circumstances included being a single Mama, and all of the challenges that came along with that role. I’d love to admit here (and have often verbalized) that I was NOT a whiner, and that I NEVER played the “single parent” card, but the truth is that I have played it over and over in my head.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s GOOD to have friends who walk alongside us, listen to our fears, our disappointments, our struggles, and our worries. It’s good to have encouragers who will take all of those frustrations and hurts, and turn them into something positive, and help you see the good in your circumstances. I was blessed to have several of them.
Raised with parents who sacrificed in more ways than I can list here – they gave up their hobbies, their own interests, and things they would have loved to do, in order to instill a good work ethic in me. They POURED everything they had into my brother, sister, and I as children. When I became a single mother, I had two friends who cut coupons for me, and gave me hand-me-down toys and clothing for my children. I had friends and family who stepped up and cared for my children when I needed a break. Sometimes, they even brought us food, or invited us over so that I would not have to cook. They did not let me go on and on and on and on, whining about how difficult things were. They listened, they encouraged, and then always cheered me on!
It was easy once my grown children left home, to slip into a “poor me” mode. It IS difficult to have a constantly quiet home, no reason to prepare a full meal, no one to discuss ideas or wrestle over decisions with, and no one in the evenings to say goodnight to. (And it would be easy right here for me to go on and on about the discomforts and struggles about being completely alone in life). After all, every now and then, I love myself a pity party! And lately, I’ve often felt like “there MUST be something more to my life than punching in and out at work, and washing my uniforms while I’m home. There MUST be.” You see, because like MY parents, I poured everything I had into my children. It often feels like my “mission” has ended.
He was listening. The God who has ALWAYS known the desires of my heart was intimately aware of how useless I was feeling. But you know, He NEVER wastes our circumstances!
I had asked several of my friends to write short and encouraging notes to some single mothers in Brazil at an organization my friend runs there. All of their circumstances are different, and much more difficult than mine EVER were, but I knew somehow, exactly how to encourage them. I know intimately what happens in a Mama’s heart. Our circumstances may differ (single Mom, divorced Mom, widowed Mom, Grandma raising grandchildren Mom, spiritual Moms who never had biological children of their own, Step-Mom Moms, and on and on). But our “Mama’s Hearts” desires are similar! We “get” each other! And we know just how to encourage one another.
Something incredible happened. At first, one letter at a time came. They were beautiful, each of them. Every letter was so individual, so personalized, so different than the last. They were so uplifting and encouraging, yet, I found myself unable to keep back my own tears as I read each one of them. Every single letter I could relate to! Each and every one of them were an encouragement to me! I finally sat down, and I wrote a few of my own, and cried and cried through each one of them!
I can DO this! I KNOW how to do this! I KNOW how to encourage these women! I’m GOOD at this!
And then it donned on me, just this morning as the letters just kept pouring in! I’ve heard it said that our circumstances don’t define us. Well, if we whine about them, and look for people who will listen to us continuously complain about them – they most certainly will define us.
But, what if we took our circumstances and used the comfort we received from others in order to encourage others with similar circumstances? We would then find great joy in seeing how God can not only use us, but use what we have walked through, in order to lift up, comfort, and encourage others!
What are YOUR circumstances? Don’t waste them. Someone, somewhere NEEDS to hear your story – and not your “Whoa is me” story….. No. They need to hear your “But God” story!
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4