I read a verse in my Bible today that I don't remember reading before. It was when Jesus was talking to Peter in Luke 22, fortelling his denial, and he said, "And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." Jesus knew Peter was going to go through a difficult time when he denied Christ, but when it was over and he was forgiven, Jesus wanted him to "strengthen your brothers." Peter's failure was devastating to him, but today's believers are encouraged and strengthened by reading how Peter overcame this failure and became such a strong disciple.
This made me think of the times in my life when I was going though some really difficult spells, but later I was able to "strengthen the brothers" by sharing my story of overcoming trials. At the time I was going through each stressful period, I had to do a lot of praying and was often very discouraged, but the Lord always heard my prayers and restored my soul.
Our years in the Army gave me lots of stressful times. Watching your husband go off to war is a hard thing. Not only do you have to deal with fear for his safety, but you also have the daily life struggles of the broken washer or flat tire or sick kids to handle alone. But after I had been through it a time or two, I was able to comfort and counsel other young wives.
My sweet but impulsive ADHD kids gave me lots of trials -- I could write a book!! But my experiences raising them helped me encourage other moms who were struggling with the same problems. I knew what it was like to get bad notes from teachers -- I had been there -- and because of those experiences, I was a more understanding teacher. Parents of my problem kids listened to my stories and it gave them hope.
I also know what it is like to face cancer, Alzheimer's, and the death of my parents. Those days were so hard -- but again, because I have been through it, I have been able to empathize and provide some comfort and encouragement to others who are facing these difficult times.
It would have been nice to live a life without problems, but it looks like God expects us to use our hard times to help others get through their hard times. Psalm 30 says, "Weeping may tarry for the night, but JOY comes in the morning." And in Psalm 46 I read "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." God has been with me through every situation, and if my problems can help me strengthen my brothers, then that is a blessing for both of us.