The Stewardship of Pain

“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  1 Peter 4:10-11 [NASB]

I periodically wrestle with feelings of insecurity about continuing to share our family’s painful journey.  I realize that there are varying views regarding the appropriateness of speaking so openly about the intimate details of the deep heartache of grief.  I also recognize that some say there are limits to how long it is appropriate to discuss the pain of the death of a loved one, that doing so may reflect a lack of desire to “move on.”  I am confident those who say the latter have not had the experience of walking this path or they would recognize the grotesque fallacy of that line of thinking.  None the less, these realizations trigger insecurity by causing me to think perhaps continuing to acknowledge our pain will only serve to weary those around us, and in so doing will alienate us as well.  As I’ve recently taken a short break from social media and blogging this has been one of my primary focuses of prayer.

We all know as believers we are called to steward our finances, material resources, gifts, abilities and skills for the glory of God.  But as I have been praying over how God desires me to walk through this painful valley, I am convicted He is calling me to wisely steward my pain and suffering as well.  The most costly experience we can ever have or offer is that of suffering.  I would give every dollar and possession I have ever had or ever will have, along with my very life to have Sarah back in my arms, even for just one moment.  The pain I bear because of her absence is the most expensive possession I have to offer my Lord.  I am confident I am called to be a wise steward of it.  I am to prayerfully seek His face and counsel to understand how He is calling me to offer it up to Him, or “invest” it, so that He may multiply it for His glory.

In 1 Peter 4:10 we are called to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  According to Strong’s the word translated “manifold” here can also be understood to mean divers or various in character.   It is through His manifold grace that we as His children are beckoned, comforted, convicted, chastened, rebuked, exhorted, forgiven, restored and healed, just to name a few.  The same grace both carries us through the refining flames of fiery tribulation and binds our wounds on the other side.  The same grace that provides new mercies each morning to soothe our aching hearts, also opens our eyes to sin and convicts and chastens our wandering hearts.  Recognizing this, I hold my open hands before Him and plead with Him to continue to use my pain as an investment to be multiplied through teaching and refining me personally, to continue the process of purifying my heart that I may be increasingly used for His glory.

In addition to stewarding the pain and suffering by requesting and allowing God to refine me personally through it, I am also to steward His grace that has been given to me through sharing our pain and suffering.  As I pull back my flesh revealing my shattered heart to others, it affords me the opportunity to boldly testify of His manifold grace.  It is His abundant, amazing grace alone that sustains us and enables us to persevere through the heartache.   Our pain and suffering is a stage upon which His grace can be boldly displayed as we testify of His faithfulness to meet our every need.  We share our pain and suffering as a means to testify of His provision “so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 

I am also realizing that the ability to find the words to communicate both the pain and the provision is “a special gift” from Him to be stewarded as well.   In the middle of the time I had set apart to pray over how God would have me steward this painful journey, our pastor preached a sermon on the account of Paul and Silas in Acts (16:16-40).  After they had been beaten with many blows and shackled in a dingy prison cell they were praying and singing hymns at midnight.  Every time I’ve read that account I’ve been amazed by their faith and God’s sustaining grace in their lives, but it wasn’t until this week that I was struck by the last part of verse 25, “and the prisoners were listening to them.”   From the very first post after Sarah’s death, my intent has consistently been to glorify God through sharing His provision and all that He is teaching us through this valley.  I will continue to acknowledge the cold metal bars of earthly death that now separate my family, and the open wounds of the attacks of the enemy, and the weight of the shackles of grief because through acknowledging them the power of God’s grace in our lives is magnified.  I will tell of the pain and then sing of His grace because the prisoners are listening.

Sarah’s death was not a gift of God, but Sarah’s life and the outpouring of His marvelous grace that sustains us are His gifts.  The tremendous Hope of the knowledge of Sarah’s present ongoing eternal life and our promise of joining Him and her in His presence is the pinnacle promise of His grace about which we are called to testify.   I will continue to pull back my flesh and expose my shattered heart because in so doing I am able to expose the grace of God that is greater than all my pain.   I will join with Paul and Silas as I sing in this prison cell because as He said to Paul, He also says to me, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

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23 thoughts on “The Stewardship of Pain

  1. I have read most of your posts. Have you considered that God may want you to write a book? You are excellent with a pen. I do mean excellent. Or perhaps a study book for a ladies Bible class. It might be way too difficult at this point, but I definitely see in the future you could be a speaker at Ladies Day at churches around the Southeast, or even further. God bless you in whatever endeavor you take on.

    1. Tina,
      Thank you so much for your encouragement. I don’t have a clear understanding yet of what He is calling me to, but I am praying He will clearly reveal it in His time and strengthen me to walk in obedience to whatever it is. Thank you again for your kind words.

  2. Karen, Thank you for using your gift of writing to share your journey with all of us. We don’t need to
    be shielded from the real and honest and raw truth of the pain you’re living in this valley. While we may not be able to fully understand all you’re experiencing, I’m convinced God is using I‎t to teach and prepare us for life. I’m also wondering if the Lord is going to have you write a book and also speak to many sharing your faith and suffering. Thank you and bless you and your precious family.

  3. I thank God for you and your blog. We lost my 15 year old step son on May 7,2017. I am definitely am one of the other prisoners listening
    God Bless.

    1. Tobi,
      I am so very sorry you are on this excruciating journey with us. I am lifting you up in prayer at this very moment asking God to pour out His grace and new mercies on you and your family today in such a way that you will tangibly feel the peace and comfort of His protective wing wrapped about you.
      “He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.” Psalm 91:4

  4. Karen, I am so sorry for your loss, I don’t really have words to express how sorry I am. I very much appreciate your writings and the way your words seem to flow so naturally and perfectly for my eyes to read. I don’t know if you know that I lost my dear husband William last year, March 7. It is the absolute hardest thing that I have dealt with in my 62 years. After 21 months, some days are just like the first one, some are a little easier, but my biggest adjustment has to be the different me. I was someone else prior to March 7, 2016. I had a whole life…a life with my best friend, partner in life and the love of my life, a fine man who made each day wonderful just to know that that was us, us together. Now the us is over and it’s just me. I’ve never lived alone. He’s everywhere I look. The plans that we made for our future after retirement are everywhere I look, but without being a reality. He retired Dec 31, 2015 and died two months later. If I didn’t have my friends, family, God, and a few resources to read, I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t still be here. I understand your thoughts totally on this last writing, but please don’t stop. You’ve been an inspiration to me and I know many many others. William and I have two dear dear friends who lost a daughter nearly 10 yrs ago and they continue to share their sorrow, their life adjustments and their continuing to live this life without their complete family. They have helped countless people who walk this road of sorrow and loss. Please keep sharing as long as you feel it and wish to….there’s someone who needs your words to read. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Prayers for you all and much love, Marynell Cole

    Sent from my iPad

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    1. Marynell, Thank you so much for your encouraging words, and for sharing your heartache with me as well. I am so, so sorry for your loss. My heart aches for yours. I am so thankful God has strengthened you and surrounded you with friends and family to enable you to persevere. I am praying for you right now, and will continue to each time He prompts, as I am certain this Christmas will be very challenging for you as well. Much love in Him – Karen

  5. Karen . . . Thank you for being so open and honest and caring. May God continue to minister to you and your precious family. In His Service!

  6. Dearest Karen,

    Because today we celebrate the birth of my precious Danielle and the 32nd anniversary of the death of David’s sister, my heart was already in an emotional state. Then, I went to your blog to print some of your words to comfort some others that are grieving. When the blog came up, there were the words of November 30, and as I read them, the tears fell. Journaling has been such a comforting part of your Christian walk for years that this time should be no different. Should you continue to share your journaling? As long as your beautifully, articulated words continue to encourage others in their pain, then would our Lord not want you to continue doing so.

    The one thing I have learned from David’s mother and other friends with tragic losses is there are no right or wrong ways or timelines to deal with part of your heart being cut out. Some who grieve are very private and never share their feelings of pain with others. Some take much comfort from going through Griefshare one, two, three times to deal with their pain. Some may journal. Some may have other ways that works for them. God created every precious person’s DNA as unique, and with that, reactions to pain and loss are going to be different. Your loss is unique to you as the Mom to Sarah. Scott’s loss is unique as her Father. Each sister’s loss is different as each had a different relationship with Sarah. Just keep doing whatever works for each of you as the Lord determines your steps (Proverbs 16:9b).

    No one involved in that bus wreck or in any other devastating tragedy (like Texas church) needs anyone but our Lord guiding them as they deal with their personal pain. If you feel like sharing with others, I would pray that they would listen and love on you – whether that is today, next month, or two years from now. In the meantime, may Proverbs 10:7a make this moment hurt a little less. “The memory of the righteous will be a blessing.” Because of Sarah’s walk, it is so easy to read that as the memory of Sarah will be a blessing.

    May God be with your hurting Mommy heart. Hugs.

  7. My sister shares your words. When I read them, I am so touched by your perseverance, your toughness, your vulnerability, your love, your heartache but most of all your openness. Please don’t stop writing. Whatever the situation is, there are so many “prisoners” and God is using you to help us.

  8. “Invest” is the perfect word, Karen. You will know the answer to the question at some point in time about when to end this, if ever. I have told other friends that we miss those who leave us behind until we are reunited with them. Love is one of the strongest emotions we can afford in this life, and it is an extremely hard bond to break or relinquish. I also believe that this is something that is worth sharing in the format of a book. You have done the hardest part, I think. Your writing is eloquent, timeless, and gives comfort to many, even those of us who have suffered losses long ago. You have a perspective, a contemporary voice, and you are sharing a part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that few can share. You are the balm. You have gone from needing comfort, as L.B. Cowman wrote about in the January 20th devotional from STREAMS in the DESERT, to being the one who is providing comfort for others. I am in awe of your strength and clarity while walking through this valley. YOU are a very special person, Karen, God sent you into this maelstrom to take up your battle station and fight the enemy and what he tries to convince us is the end. You know better. You are helping to equip others with the answer to the question that has plagued the human race since Cain slew Able. Some may never believe that Christ tore the veil to give us access to our Heavenly Father, but you are showing others the way we can approach Him in our anguish and pain. You are showing others that there is a dialogue in which we can engage with the Father and how to search out the answers we need. In His Word is life, a life that sustains us and uplifts us, and gives us hope in dire moments. Death has been swallowed up and we do have victory, thanks be to God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. We can live confidently in knowing that Jesus paid the price and won eternal life for us. This that you are doing now daily sometimes, weekly, and on a continuing basis, wins that battle inch by inch, hour by hour, and day by day. We do have hope just as Paul and Silas did. I never considered stewarding such an experience as this and thinking of it as an investing the experience, but it is like paying it forward. I know you have a book and I feel you will be guided into how to proceed from here. It may be a way for fund missions Sarah began to dream about taking. She could have been the torch bearer not only for you and your family, but for many others. I know the Lord is doing a good work through you now and has plans for you. He will lead and direct your path. I know you will listen for His direction. Love to each of you. Prayers for each of you. Cookies coming soon.

  9. Dear Karen,
    Thank you for sharing your pain and the grace of God with us. I pray for you and your family. My daughter lives in Huntsville and shared your first blog and how my heart was broken for you and your precious family. I cannot tell you how much the sharing of your pain and the grace of God has helped me walk through a painful divorce ( which has been like a death to me) after 52 years of marriage . I do not know you personally but I do know we are sisters in Christ sharing pain of loss and knowing the grace of our loving and comforting Father God. Thank you again for sharing your heart and your walk through this painful valley. Please continue as I am sure so many can relate and receive comfort from your blogs.
    Love in Christ,
    Lyda Miller
    Peachtree City, GA

    1. Lyda,
      Thank you so much for your words of encouragement, and sharing your pain with me. I am so very sorry you are walking through your own valley as well, but I am very thankful God is ministering to you through the sharing of His grace in our lives. I can’t know the depth and complexity of your pain, but can imagine that aside from the obvious pain of the life you have known for 52 years being suddenly stripped away, that the betrayal of trust you have now experienced is equally devastating. I am so, so sorry. I am praying for you right now. Much love in Him – Karen

  10. Please continue to share as you feel led. Others who are suffering the loss of a loved one need to know that even as Christians we feel the loss but continue to rely on God’s grace to walk through the valley. Praying that God blesses you for sharing your story.

  11. Karen,
    Keep singing my sister…people are listening. Your words are from the well spring that God has given you. I thank God for how you pour His living water into a spiritually dehydrated world. You share your brokenness with the mending power of who your potter is and that all will be restored one day. Praise God!

    I see Sarah’s shirts almost everywhere I go. I see them in schools, grocery stores, and the post office, etc., and I smile at the power of a beautiful, godly young lady who by her faith and testimony is impacting the world. Not just her church, not just her community, not just her nation, but the world. I see you and your beautiful family picking up her torch when she completed her race here and y’all are continuing to fight the good fight. Karen, I can’t tell you how much your family has blessed me. I have your names on my mirror and I pray over you. I stand in awe of your strength and I know Almighty God sustains you. I am so proud of you. Please know we are listening. Don’t ever let the enemy discourage you from writing, you are knocking walls down sister and setting captives free with your testimony. Keep singing!!!! Love you friend! Jenny

    1. Jenny,
      You are such a precious encourager, thank you so much for your kind words and love. Thank you especially for keeping our names on your mirror and lifting us up in prayer, what a blessing that is to my heart. ❤

  12. Thank you. Our son Andrew passed away in 2004…he was 12. The intensity of the grief has changed, but it has never left. I thank you for sharing. God has ministered to my heart today through you. I also read your post rejoicing through the grief….there are some other health issues going on with some family and friends and my heart has been heavy….this morning i read Oswald Chambers, “what shines forth and reveals God in your life is….your genuine living relationship with Jesus Christ, and your unrestrained devotion to Him whether you are well or sick.” then the parable of the sower and those who run when it gets hard…and now your posts…..God is ministering to my heart this morning….

    1. Rebecca,
      I am so sorry you know this pain as well. Thank you so much for sharing that God used me to minister to you, that blesses my soul this morning. You caught me going through old pictures with tears streaming, so the timing was perfect to be reminded God is using this agony. I’m praying for you and your heavy heart right this minute.

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