Pain and suffering need not have the final word in our lives. God can use our pain and suffering to grow us and help others.
The Discussion Starter:
Twentysomething Lizzie Velasquez was born with an incredibly rare medical condition that keeps her from gaining weight. At birth, she was so tiny that she could fit inside the hand of an adult. Though she has a fully functioning brain, most of her body is a bit disfigured because she cannot put on any weight. (She weighs well under 100 pounds even as an adult.)
Of course, her condition created a harsh reality for her as a child. Lots of kids picked on her and teased her, but it was a bit later in life when she discovered that she had been chosen as the ugliest girl on the Internet. It was a heartbreaking moment for Lizzie, but fortunately for her and the thousands she’s helped since then, she allowed God to make the most of her pain.
Her story is a fascinating one and a challenging one. This small group discussion will help you show your students that God can use their pain if they let Him.
The video clip can be viewed at the link below.
Lizzie has a really cool story to tell. But it wasn’t always that way. In her short life, she has suffered in ways most of us haven’t. But in spite of her suffering, God has used her in mighty ways. On her personal website, visitors can see that she’s written not one, not two, but three books. She’s traveled the world speaking about the hope that God gives her. And she has finished her college degree with plans to start a family soon. What Lizzie learned was a simple truth, but a hard lesson: pain and suffering need not have the final word in our lives. God can use our pain and suffering to grow us and help others. That’s what she has chosen for her life. Will you?
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share our names and a YouTube video that has greatly impacted you somehow, either negatively or positively.
- ASK A FEW: How would you have felt if 4 million people thought you were the ugliest person on the planet?
- ASK A FEW: Lizzie said that the world considered her ugly. How did Lizzie describe the power of those people’s words and the effect they had on her?
- ASK A FEW: What would you do if you were in Lizzie’s situation, suffering from her medical condition?
- ASK A FEW: In the video, Lizzie said of God, “You made me the girl that I am for a reason.” What do you think that reason was?
- ASK A FEW: Can God use people’s pain, struggles, and suffering for His purposes? Why or why not?
- ASK A FEW: How is God using Lizzie in the midst of her suffering?
Read the following passage:
ASK A FEW: Be honest. Does it sound silly to actually (literally) consider trials, suffering, and pain as something to be joyful over? Why or why not?
ASK A FEW: What does James say that the testing of our faith produces? How do you think that happens?
ASK A FEW: What is “steadfastness” and why is that important to have?
ASK A FEW: What does James mean by “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”? Do you know anyone who lives like that?
ASK A FEW: James says to “count our trials as joy.” Why do you think this is the first statement that James makes after greeting his recipients? (Leaders – James wrote during a time when the Church was being persecuted and its teachings were being attacked by false doctrines. He launches into his letter with this command because he wants his friends and disciples to really understand that their suffering won’t be the final word in their lives and that God can use their struggles to move His Kingdom forward.)
ASK A FEW: How did Lizzie move from seeing her medical condition as a “curse” to seeing it as a “blessing”?
ASK A FEW: How does it make you feel knowing that God can use your pain and suffering and trials to help you grow or to help others?
AROUND THE CIRCLE: What “trial” will you let God use in your life this coming week?
Lizzie could have slipped into the pages of history quite anonymously. She could have just been another person with another rare and incurable disease. She could have just been the punching bag of the world. Hardly anybody would blame her if she allowed her life to become that. After all, she has dealt with a trial that’s far tougher than most of us will ever face.
James 1:2-4 (ESV)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
But, she didn’t allow her suffering to get the best of her. She didn’t allow the taunting of others to trap her in a tailspin of doubt and bitterness. Instead, she asked God to help her and He changed her life.
Only God can do that because only God can use the worst of humans to bring about the best in His Kingdom. God has a history of using broken people to do mighty things. For instance, God used an old man named Noah to save humans from the flood. God used a fearful farmer named Gideon to rescue his people from the terror of the Midianites. God used a kid named David to become the greatest king in all of Israel’s history.
But that’s just in the Bible! If we look across the pages of history, we see hundreds, if not thousands, more examples of God using people AND their weaknesses. God used a shoemaker named William Carey to preach the Gospel to thousands upon thousands of people in India. God used a nobody named Hudson Taylor to preach the Gospel to millions in China. God used a blind woman named Fanny J. Crosby who lived 120 years ago to write songs still used in worship today. God has used Nic Vujicic, a man born without arms and legs, to travel the world and talk about the hope and purpose God gives people with struggles.
So, what’s your struggle? What’s your trial? What are you facing right now that you could turn over to God and let Him use in a powerful way?
You don’t have to face that trial alone. God has given His Son Jesus to not only save you but help you. Further, God has given us one another to bear each other’s burdens. Before we close, let’s spend some time sharing our struggles with one another and asking God to use us to help each other.
If, after we pray, you think you need/want more help, hang around and speak with one of our adult leaders. We’re here for you.
Close in Prayer
Written by David R Smith