There are three aspects of ourselves that we bring to serving God: our talents, the lessons we have learned from the pain and suffering we’ve endured here on earth and the spiritual gifts that we have been given. Our talents and strengths, like abilities for organizing or teaching or leading or managing or creating or an ear for music to cite just a few, are given as we are created, before we are born. Like anything, a natural talent needs honing and practice in order to be really useful. Often we are unaware of our own talents, unless there are something like a great musical ear, because they are so much a part of us that we just don’t notice our own gifts.
In addition to developing our talents and strengths we learn the most from the challenges that life has put before us. Losses of loved ones or of a job, illnesses, difficulties at work or with peers, abuse, and other kinds of troubles can be the source of much wisdom if we take the time and energy to ponder why we had to suffer and what strengths the suffering developed in us. Often these are just the areas where we most need God’s healing touch in order to realize the lessons we gained from our troubles.
As for using what we have learned from our challenges, we need to be in a place of healing and maybe even transformation to use what we have learned from others. For example, an ex-addict might be called to work through Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous which are filled with people who have suffered and started the healing process from the same challenges that he or she did. Or an ex-con works with prisoners and other ex-cons. Chuck Colson, who became an evangelical Christian before he was incarcerated for his participation in the Watergate scandal, founded Prison Fellowship after his release from prison, a non-profit prison ministry. A person who has suffered from a particular disease or conditions is called to help others with the same situation. There are support groups for practically every kind of disease and condition in which the sufferers help each other to cope with the effects of their challenge.
A “wounded healer” is what such a person is called, once he/she has been healed and can really help others enter into a healing process, too, and accept what is already in his/her life. The advantage in helping others with the same condition that a person has overcome is that he knows how to get out of the addiction or behavior that is problematic in the other. She speaks the language, understands the difficulties. He knows the traps, the excuses an addict will use, for instance. She doesn’t have to preach at the one still caught in the problematic behavior or difficult situation; she will be listened to because she knows from her own experience what the other is going through. And he knows how to get out of the addiction/problems that another is having.
The third aspect of ourselves we bring to serving God is our spiritual gifts. Are they given at our creation as a potential to be used if certain conditions are met and then activated or are they just given when God is ready to bestow them, as it happened on Pentecost to the disciples. In 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11 Paul lists spiritual gifts: a message of wisdom, message of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues. Later in the same chapter he names them apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healing, helping, guidance and different kinds of tongues.[v.28]
The nature of spiritual gifts is such that the Holy Spirit 1) bestows these gifts or awakens their potential in us and is active in guiding us to use them and 2) is also working in the onlookers of these gifts to enhance their acceptance. For the Holy Spirit to be so involved means that the person with the gift has a pretty deep relationship with God before the gift is activated or bestowed.
Spiritual gifts, talents and lessons learned from our challenges—these are the tools that we will use in serving God, as we serve other people. They are the sum total of what we need to share the love that God expresses to each of us, as we allow that love to flow out again to the world through these tools. God will show us how to use them and call us to use them as his plan unfolds in us. As God directs our days, He sends us the people He wants us to help; He shows us what to say and what to do in helping them; He supports our work making sure we have everything we need to be successful. And He loves us, calls us into a deep partnership with him, so that we can be most effective at what we do—using our talents and strengths, the lessons learned from suffering, and our spiritual gifts. It takes all of who we are, all we’ve been given, all that we’ve learned, to serve the Lord our God.
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I know what talents and skills make up some of the gifts I bring to serving God? Can I list them? Have I asked God to help me heal from the traumas and suffering in my life? And to help me realize the lessons and strengths I have gathered from going through them? Have I been able to realize any spiritual gifts of teaching or preaching or healing or helping or guidance, to name a few? If not, have I asked God to help me realize them or to gift me with them in his service? Am I aware, more than ever, of God’s help in sustaining my calling, in bringing people to me to serve, in using all that I bring to his service?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who use all our talents and lessons learned and gifts in God’s service. May we know, not just day to day, what God is calling us to do and to say throughout our days. May we be full partners of God in our lives, our spiritual eyes and ears always attuned to His call.
Link to my website for the full blog for this week and the archives of my blog going back to 2011 at bythewaters.net/blog.html.