OPINION: Do not let grief, pain grow a harvest of bitterness

"Let your misery become your ministry."

Have you ever been grieved, hurt, despondent?

How did you respond to the pain?

Pain, loss, brokenness is a part of life and no one is exempt. Each of us experience loss in different degrees and frequency. How we respond will determine the course of our life.

The quote above is from Dr. E.M. Ernst and a book entitled "Let Your Misery be Your Ministry: How to Turn Your Tests into a Testimony." I have not read the book and am not, therefore, endorsing it, but I recognize that the concept is essential for each of us.

When I was young, I remember repeatedly pondering why some people grow bitter and some grow better. It certainly wasn't the depth of the loss or pain or trial experienced.

There were people I knew who had grown up in poverty and experienced extreme loss who were sweet and kind and a blessing to others.

Other people become bitter, hateful, cynical and hurt others.

Far too often, fractured people impose their own pain and brokenness on the next generation who will replicate the very thing they hate.

"Hurt people hurt other people" is a concept far too true and one that may help us understand and empathize with people who offend us.

If we can grow from our pain, rise above the grief and heal, we can minister to others who experience similar hurt.

People are flawed. There is no one perfect and even the best people make mistakes. How we can grow and heal from those mistakes is to recognize them, own them, and repent. We must forgive ourselves and our offenders and not carry grudges.

Many people stay angry at God or others when they experience loss and are imprisoned with their own bitterness, projecting antagonism into every relationship they touch.

In Scripture, it states: "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ." (II Corinthians 1:3-5)

Have you lost a loved one through death? Maybe your spouse, parent, child has died and you're angry and blame God.

Have you been betrayed by a loved one and experienced divorce or abandonment?

Have you been abused, rejected, cursed by a friend or family member?

The police reports, courts, social workers and psychologists offices are full of accounts of betrayal and pain and the ensuing reactions. Pain is real. It can be debilitating. But, it doesn't have to be imprisoning.

There are people who have risen above the valley of despair and who become encouraging and counsel others through their pain.

Ruth June Hunt, daughter of oil tycoon H.L. Hunt, is founder of Hope for the Heart and author of the Biblical Counseling Library. She speaks openly of her life and the challenges that she faced and also of her faith in Jesus Christ and her ministry that is a direct result of the pain she suffered as a child.

Another person who has allowed her suffering to become a ministry is Joni Erickson Tada, speaker, artist and author. She was paralyzed from a diving accident when she was just 17. She is found of "Joni and Friends" an organization that "accelerates Christian ministry in the disability community."

Many of the old hymns that have comforted and blessed thousands were written as a direct result of suffering. A prolific hymn writer, Frances Jane Crosby van Alstyne, better known as Fanny Crosby, who was blinded as an infant due to a doctor's malpractice.

We may not be able to choose our circumstances, but we may select our response. Grief is not wrong, it's natural. But, allowing that grief to take root and grow into bitterness and self-centeredness is self destructive and will result in far great pain for all concerned.

Editor's note: Annette Beard is the managing editor of The Times of Northeast Benton County, chosen the best small weekly newspaper in Arkansas for several years. The opinions expressed are those of the author. She can be reached at [email protected].