I’ve Been There
You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. Exodus 23:9
I recently met a young man who struggles in ways that are foreign to me. Though I could sympathize in general with the idea of destructive appetites, as I had no experience with his particular struggle, I could not empathize. As I could not identify with his defects, I found myself looking down on him. That doesn’t make any sense. Just stop doing it. What a mess.
Those who have struggled with a particular issue or defect – and have had some success with it – are uniquely qualified to help those still struggling with that issue. Those who have not struggled may be able to sympathize, but they will never completely understand.
This seems to be the principle behind today’s passage, in which God told the Israelites that as they had been strangers in a strange land – and had been delivered – they must treat with kindness, the strangers among them. You have been there. You know what it is like. You are uniquely equipped to help those who struggle as you did.
If you had asked me twenty years ago, how I thought God might use me, working with addicts and inmates would not have been my first pick. It is now what I know though. As I have been there, I am uniquely qualified to reach those still struggling. I do not live perfectly, but as I am living in recovery from my drug addiction, I have something to share with those still in the struggle. I’ve been there.
Though we would prefer that God use our eloquence and intelligence to reach others, He often uses our struggles to reach those who struggle as we have. God uses our need to reach those whose need we understand. If we are willing to obey, God can use our own story of pain and recovery to help those who are where we have been.