Using Our Failures for Good
I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women . . . Acts 22:4
To truly find recovery, I had to stop using drugs, but that wasn’t all. If I really wanted to live by faith, experiencing authentic recovery from the old life, I had to turn from one path and take the opposite one. Where I once used drugs, I now must help others who are still using. Had I never used, I doubt that this would be the mission God would have given me. As it is though, I understand the addicts thinking and behavior, so now, I use that experience to help those still struggling. It’s precisely because of my greatest life failure that I now work with the addicted.
Though you don’t have to be a recovering addict to help someone struggling with drugs, God often uses addicts to help other addicts. This is the model that AA is built on – peer support groups. No one understands an alcoholic like the recovering alcoholic. For the one struggling, it’s important to hear, I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. This can get better. You can recover. I’m proof of that.
In today’s passage, Paul told his story of redemption and how God used his greatest sins for good. In the story, Paul returned to Jerusalem, a city obviously hostile to his Christian faith. Paul didn’t back down and was soon attacked by a mob. When given a chance to defend himself, he described to the crowd how he had once been on their side. He too, once persecuted, jailed, and killed Christians. Since he met Jesus though, his life was turned around and he now freely gave his life to spread the gospel of Christ.
It wasn’t enough for Paul to simply stop persecuting Christians. God’s plan for him was that he turn around and go the exact opposite direction, making disciples of Christ. This how repentance works. Whatever we’re struggling with, whether it’s drugs, pornography, anger, greed, or gluttony, as we kill that behavior in our lives, God often asks that we use our experience to help others who are struggling in the same way.
It’s profoundly powerful when we can say to the one still struggling, I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. It can get better. Let’s do this together. When we’re obedient, God uses our worst life failures for eternal good.