(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Day 30 and 31 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comments section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)
"No pain, no gain!" When I hear someone say this I think of this really muscular strong man with his biceps bulging out screaming this to his work out buddy as they're lifting every single weight around them. "NO PAIN, NO GAIN! Come on buddy you can do it!" They welcome the pain because they know the outcome. They've put in the hours and have worked really hard to work through the pain so that they can get their "gain" that they are looking for. I believe we can take this same outlook on the pain we go through in life. I believe that what you do with your pain, aka what you've been through, helps determine your gain.
I want to spend the majority of this post talking about how we can turn the pain that we are going through with autism into something good. However, before we dive right into this, I want to share with you the points that meant the most in Day 30 and 31. They are:
1. Before God created you he decided what role he wanted you to play on earth. How awesome does it feel knowing that what we're going through is not surprising to God! It may have taken us by surprise but not God.
2. You are the way you are because you are made for a specific ministry. It is so important that we discover what ministry we were born to do.
3. You are a combination of many different factors to shape your ministry. Rick Warren gave us the acronym of SHAPE to help us remember five important factors in helping us discover our ministry. They are:
a. Spiritual Gifts: you can't earn these gifts. They are given to you. Rick Warren tells us on page 236 "...you don't get to choose which gifts you'd like to have." He goes on explaining that no one receives all of the gifts. This would defeat the purpose that God has with us needing each other. It's important that you figure out your spiritual gift and use it. Otherwise, you may not be helping out someone that you're supposed to be helping.
b. Listening to your Heart. Enthusiasm and passion will guide you to what you love to do.
c. Applying your Abilities. These are your natural talents and they come from God. Page 244..."Whatever you're good at, you should be doing for your church." I believe we need to take this same approach to help everyone around us, including outside of church.
d. Using your Personality. Your personality was designed for a specific ministry. Here we're reminded that copying someone else's ministry never works. "God made you to be you!"
e. Employing your Experiences. This is where we go back to the "No pain, no gain!"
On Day 31, Rick Warren explains to us that one of the most important experiences that God uses to SHAPE us for our ministry are the painful experiences. When I got to page 247 and read..."Who could better minister to the parents of a Down Syndrome child than another couple who have a child afflicted in the same way?" my heart just stopped. I literally put down my book and smiled. I read it again but this time read it as "Who could better minister to the parents of a child with autism than other couple who has a child with autism?" That's us guys! Who can help all of the newly diagnosed parents out the most? Believers who have children on the spectrum. We can use our gifts, whether it be the gift of writing, the gift of listening, the gift of researching, the gift of caring, the gift of seeing things positively...we can use our gifts to help each other out. We all need the help. We all need each other's gifts. I think back to the day that my son was diagnosed. I knew no one. Had no one to talk to about this and really wrap my thoughts around the diagnosis. Friends and family tried to be there but they didn't get it. My church family was there to listen but couldn't really console because they didn't get it. Finally, I found a group of moms who have children on the spectrum who were also believers. They used their gifts to reach out to me. This made the biggest impact on me and showed me that I too need to reach out to other parents. Think about it...if we're all there for each other to help each other through the hard times, celebrate the good times and pick each other up when we fall...it would be that much easier. We could all use a little easy. We can take the pain we've been through in life to make that same pain a little easier for someone else. On page 247, Rick Warren reminds us of one important thing..."For God to use your painful experiences you must be willing to share them." It is so difficult to open up about pain especially when concerning our children. I don't know about you, but I know when I first starting sharing about some of the painful things we were encountering with autism, I felt ashamed. Not ashamed of my child. Ashamed of myself. I kept feeling that by talking about the hard thing I was going through with him that others may think I was disappointed in him or didn't like my life/family. It was very difficult to open up. However, the more I shared the easier it was. I realized that people didn't look at me or think of me as not loving my child. In fact, they thought the opposite. They couldn't believe the love, devotion and dedication I gave to my child and my family. However, to know this, I need to open up and share.
It is our responsibility as believers in Christ and as moms of children on the spectrum to reach out to other moms. Yes, it's important for us to be there for each other, comment on the blog when we have something to share and pray for each other. It's even more important that we reach out the moms that aren't the believers, that aren't following this blog, that really need us. I really loved how Rick Warren included Paul and his thoughts on Asia. As you read this again, think of what you are going through in your life. Think of a way you can share your pain like Paul did to help others.
"I think you ought to know dear brothers, about the hard time we went through in Asia. We were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it. We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for he can even raise the dead. And he did help us and saved us from a terrible death; yes, and we expect him to do it again and again..." 2 Corinthians 8-10
Let's go back to our muscle guys mentioned at the beginning of the post. Imagine you just started working out. We didn't realize how much pain you would go through in the first couple weeks, days, even hours. What if you didn't realize that the more pain you go through the better in shape you will be? You'd quit, you'd give up. What if there is a mom out there right now who doesn't realize how these painful experiences will help her grow? We need to get ourselves into SHAPE very quickly and find our ministry so that we can help others.
Remember what Rick Warren says on page 248..."What will you do with the pain you've been through? Don't waste your pain; use it to help others."
Bible Verses from Day 30 and 31
Your hands shaped me and made me. Job 10:8 (NIV)
The people I have shaped for myself will broadcast my praises. Isaiah 43:21
God works through different men in different ways, but it is the same God who achieves his purposes through them all." 1 Corinthians 12:6
You shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb. Psalm 139:13
God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God's many kinds of blessings." 1 Peter 4:10