“You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, shall revive me again, and bring me up again from the depths of the earth” (Psalm 71:20).

Francois Fenelon wrote to someone who was enduring deep disappointment, “Do not waste the suffering. Let suffering accomplish what God wants it to in your life.” His wisdom has endured the years. “Don’t waste the pain.” What a paradoxical statement. we don’t usually think of pain as valuable, even though books have been written on how necessary pain is for the body to avoid damage. Might emotional and spiritual pain have its own unique value? How would we waste the pain? What might pain bring into our lives and souls?

Think about what Fenelon said, “The events of life are like a furnace for the heart.” If we’re alive, we are in that furnace. As we submit to the heat, our impurities are melted and we’re refined like gold and silver. That’s why Fenelon tells us to embrace our circumstances, no matter how grueling—even when they seem to overwhelm us. “Allow God to mold you through the events he allows to enter your life. This will make you more flexible toward the will of God.”

Well, do we have any choice? We seldom can change our circumstances, but we can change our perspective. If we believe God is at work in our pain, we see our pain differently. “The intrusions that God sends you will no doubt upset your plans and oppose all that you want,” writes Fenelon. “But they will chase you toward God.”

Adapted from The One Year Book of Encouragement