Recently, I was speaking about Jonah and his need to complete his assignment of speaking to a city after being puked up on the shore by a large fish. There is no indication that he had a change of clothes or took a bath. He describes himself as having seaweed wrapped around his head. No doubt he got some of the residue off of his body such as the seaweed, but a fishy smell doesn’t improve over time. I love fish, but I am not a fan of “fishy”. Fishy just stinks and gets fishier.

It seems this condition would handicap Jonah in his ability to accomplish the mission he was assigned. It does not seem like he was “dressed for success”. As a matter of fact, his situation would appear to be more of a repellent than an attraction. In spite of what seems to be a handicapped situation, his predicament may have actually been a benefit. Often the very thing that we think weakens us is actually the thing that makes us more effective.

How can it be that some horrible misstep or act of rebellion could suddenly be used as a tool to help us relate and help others? It seems to be the opposite of what we are taught, especially in the church. We have this image to protect and project. Is it possible that our brokenness and pain makes us more effective than we would be without it? I think that is the case sometimes. Here are four reasons why the ugliness of life you have experienced will help you fulfill your purpose.

Makes us humble

In the story of Jonah, he appears to be very self righteous. He knows what repentance and forgiveness looks like. He has obviously experienced the mercy of God. But he has no desire for the people of Nineveh to experience the same. Nineveh was an oppressive enemy of Israel and certainly were not friends of Jonah. But, if someone is willing to repent we should be thankful and not resistant. Arrogance makes us believe we get to decide who gets mercy and grace and who doesn’t. Humility reminds us of our own need for mercy and pushes us to be gracious when others receive it.  

Makes you more relatable

Experiences help us relate to others with the same experiences. This doesn’t mean we have to create turmoil in our life, it just means we should be open about the turmoil we have experienced. Every single person has seen pain and brokenness. Hiding it keeps us from healing and prevents it from being used to help someone else going through a similar problem. People will be drawn to you if they feel you have some understanding of their situation whereas they may avoid you if they feel you are clueless.

Give us insight to help others

If you have been there you know the pain and the problems of that situation. I think of pain I have experienced and problems I have faced and that experience gives me insight I would not have had otherwise. I can see things they have not even seen yet. You will find this to be true for your own situations. As a matter of fact, your experience and insight will not only help people get out of situations, but also help them avoid traps to which they may be blind.

Makes us more dependent on God

When we think we have it all together we can become very self reliant. As followers of Christ it is important for us to understand that not only do we not have to walk alone, we shouldn’t. He is our refuge and our strength, which means God is a place of safety when in trouble but also our source of strength to live each day. When we smell like fish puke or walk with a limp, it forces us to seek strength from God to follow His purpose and calling in our life.

We all have places in our past we are not proud of and pain that has left a scar. Some of it inflicted by others while much of it self-inflicted. Wherever our mistakes, pain or brokenness came from, don’t let it go to waste. Allow it to make you more useful and successful as you walk through life. You may be surprised at how it benefits you.

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