A few months ago, Noah got spooked by a low-flying very loud airplane that flew over our house. We had a large bay window in our bedroom, and for weeks following that moment, anytime he heard a loud noise or any kind of airplane, he ran to us with full tears.

James or I, sometimes both, would hold him close, stroking his hair or his face gently, reminding him, “It’s okay, baby. It was just an airplane.”

This morning, I was getting dressed for church, leaving the boys alone in the living room. Mascara wand in hand, (the final touch on my make-up), I heard Cole begin to cry.

Since I am a a single mom on Sunday mornings (as are most pastor’s wives), I decided to finish my make-up quickly, since I knew Cole was probably just hungry. But when the crying stopped, my curiosity got the best of me.

I exited our bedroom, peering around the corner where I had left Cole lying in his bouncy seat.

Tears filled my eyes as I saw Noah leaning over his little brother repeating over and over, “It’s K, baby Tole. Just a pear-plane.” (Noah Translation: “It’s okay, Baby Cole. It was just an airplane.”)

Noah alternated between gently stroking his brother’s legs and his arms. I got over to them just in time to snap this photo of Noah kissing the top of Cole’s head.

To my knowledge, there was no airplane that flew over. In his 3-year-old logic, though, Noah knew that’s what had made him cry most recently, so he took his experience & comforted his baby brother.

James 1:2 encourages us to consider it joy during hard times, but I doubt many would admit to enjoying pain, fear, persecution, or trials. It’s not comfortable. It’s not convenient.

But if we use our pain to help others, it’s also not wasted.

Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverence; perseverence, character; and character, hope.”

I once heard it said:

“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”

I’m consistently asked if I wish my eating disorder didn’t happen. And while it was a very dark time in my life, I’ve seen God use it so many times for His good and the benefit of others that I can’t wish it away. Too much good (though unknown at the time) has come from it.

But it doesn’t simply mean you have to have gone something unusually tragic to be able to minister to others.

Maybe you just remember what it was like to deal with the stress of high school, and you can spend time loving & serving the students in your youth group.

Maybe you just know how hard it was to get a shower when you were a young mom with small kids, and you can volunteer to come over once a week to give her an hour to herself.

Maybe you just remember a time when unexpected encouragement turned your entire day around, and you can pay the encouragement forward daily.

What “airplane” do you have in your past that you can use to draw others to Him?