Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV
Friend to Friend
When I was a little girl, my mom did her grocery shopping at White’s Supermarket on the corner of Tarboro Street and Pearl. Other grocery stores were close by, but only White’s gave out S&H Green Stamps with every purchase. On shopping days, I stood on tiptoes, bug-eyed as the cashier push the buttons and rang up my mom’s purchases. My mom’s eyes lit up every time she heard the cha-ching, knowing that meant more stamps were on the way. After the cashier tallied the purchases, she pulled a lever and the register spit out two streams of large and small stamps. We never put the stamps in books right away. Mom stuffed them in a brown paper bag and stored them in a cabinet over the oven.
About every six months, Mom pulled down the grocery bag swollen with S&H Green Stamps. “Okay, Sharon,” she’d announce as she spilled the contents on the kitchen table. “Today we’re going to paste the stamps in the books.”
For hours it was lick, stick, lick, stick, lick, stick. The large stamps representing fifty cents spent went one to a page. Smaller stamps representing cents spent went fifty to a page. I liked doing the big ones.
After six months of collecting stamps and hours of pasting them in the books, my mom and I excitedly drove down to the S&H Green Stamp Redemption Center. With bags filled like a Loomis Fargo transfer, we plopped our day’s work on the clerk’s desk.
“Whatcha gonna get?” I’d ask as we strolled up and down the aisles of housewares.
“I don’t know,” my mom would reply. “But it’ll be something good.”
After much consideration, Mom would decide on a treasure such as an electric can opener, a steam iron, or a shiny set of stainless steel mixing bowls. Oh, it was an exciting day when we made the trek to the Redemption Center to trade in our S&H stamps for a fabulous find.
Redemption. It can be a daunting church word. One of those fuzzy concepts that leave us pretending we know what it means as the seasoned saints toss it about like common knowledge. The dictionary defines redemption as “the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil; the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt; to exchange something such as a coupon for something else.” Each of these definitions can be boiled down to trading one thing for another.
The S&H Green Stamp Redemption experience is a very simple picture of a complex word. We took our stamps to the center and exchanged them—redeemed them—for tangible items. That’s what God can do with our scars if we lay our wounds on the counter of trust, and allow Him to exchange them for tangible stories of triumph. He can heal our hurts, and redeem or exchange them for someone else’s hope. But it requires our cooperation. He will never pry our stories from our clenched fists and force us to tell how He brought us through the most shameful or painful parts of our lives. But He woos us to make the exchange because He knows it is only when we turn our pain into purpose that we will be truly free.
Beth Moore once said, “Satan will do everything he can to tempt you not to trust God because he knows your willingness to place yours stories in God’s holy hands will lead to full redemption where the pain is treated and turned around so thoroughly that it not only loses its power to do you harm but also gains the power to do some good.”
Paul wrote: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)
Those two little words, “so that” are poignant. So now it’s time to trade in that pain, and use it for something good. Redemption at its best.
Father, there are some parts of my story I would rather have been left out. But I know that You can turn a bad story into a good purpose. Give me the courage to tell others about how you have healed my broken places, especially the ones that have been wrought by my own decisions.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Why do you think those two little words “so that” are important in today’s truth?
What is a difficult story, one that you are now on the other side of, that you think God is calling you to share so that someone can have hope?
More from the Girlfriends:
We all have pain in our past, but we can turn that pain around and use it for good. God doesn’t want to remove our pasts, but repurpose them. Sister, when you begin to use your past mistakes and hurts for the glory of God, Satan has no more power over you! He can’t use it against you any longer. I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to shout! Are you ready to turn your hurt into hope, your pain into purpose, and your messes into ministry? Then see my book, Your Scars are Beautiful to God: Finding Peace and Purpose in the Hurts of Your Past. I’ll be cheering you on!