Ever heard the name, Phoebe Palmer? No worries, few have even though her fingerprints are visibly seen in every big city across the United States today. In the mid-1800s her name was printed in most newspapers, used in political speeches, and spoken at most dinner tables across America. So, what was her source of fame? Was she an author, songwriter, politician, inventor or entrepreneur? None of the above.
She was an inspiration.
But the virtues of her life came with a price. Phoebe was a mother, but her motherhood was short lived. She gave birth to two beautiful babies but lost both of her children before their first birthday. The grief of losing one child can easily bury a mother with unbearable pain. Double that, and you have a toxic mix of emotional trauma that few could survive. Phoebe, however, took her pain to the Cross of Christ and received comfort in the arms of Jesus.
No one enjoys pain, and Phoebe was no exception. But her pain motivated her to do something extraordinary. In midtown New York, Phoebe Palmer held a prayer meeting for grieving women who suffered the same fate as she did. Only a few showed up for her first meeting. And then, a week later, 25 more women gathered. Within a month, the numbers swelled to 2,500. Eventually, more than 25,000 women attended a simple prayer meeting. So what drew such a large crowd? Can you guess?
Not grief, but compassion. Phoebe Palmer cared about people. By God’s grace, she turned a lethal brew of pain and despair into a fountain of Living Water.
She gave people hope.
A lot of great things are birthed from painful loss. In Phoebe’s case, it birthed the first inner-city mission founded in the heart of New York City. She offered shelter to the homeless. A movement began, and soon inner-city missions were established in every big city around the country. One of her disciples was a woman named Catherine Booth. Catherine founded an organization later known as, The Salvation Army.
So much pain… but so much good!
As a pastor, you will suffer pain. It’s a unique pain that is found only behind the pulpit. It’s a pain you could avoid, but you volunteer for it every day. Every day you give yourself a funeral, because every day your pain leads to your death. Every day you lay your life down for those you love.
But don’t let your pain go to waste. It’s often the teacher that God uses to craft you for great moments. Your greatest moments are ahead of you, Pastor, and someday you will look back and understand the purposes behind it all.