God Never Wastes Pain

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Scott Family circa 1960

June 13, 1968 was one of those summer nights both forgettable and unforgettable.  The only reason I remember the actual date is because it’s on the death certificate.  That evening I do remember driving over to my oldest sister’s apartment in our turquoise Ford Galaxy.  We looked like a typical 1960s family.  My dad behind the wheel and wearing close-cut hair and those dark rimmed glasses that are now back in style.  Mom sat shotgun, though I would not have called it that then.  My other sister, older too, and my younger brother and I rode unbuckled in the back seat.  We probably fought over who had to ride the hump.  There was one of those funny, gimmicky songs on the AM radio.  We sang along.

My dad dropped us off.  I don’t remember saying anything to him.  He drove off to his best friend Clyde’s house to work on cars.  I never saw dad again, save several days later at his funeral.

My father’s sudden death from a heart attack pulled the world out from under me and left me hanging in a dark, starless void of emotional space that–still today–colors who I am.

Not our Galaxy

During Lent we are exploring how God is made strong in our weaknesses.  The main problem with this concept, finding God’s strength in human weakness, is that one then has to first face ones weakness.  Me?  I have many, mostly stemming from June 13.


As I wrote in my blog “Jennifer Aniston and Eugene Scott Reflect on the Fatherlessness Epidemic,” I’ve lived many of the statistics on what growing up without a father does to boys.  I’ve wrestled with abandonment, trust, self-worth, failure, co-dependency, and more.


Can God fill such weakness with strength?  God is an expert at such things.  In my frenzied search for belonging and love, I dared call out to the God I knew nothing about and barely believed in.

The funny thing is God answered.  “I will be a Father who will never leave you,” he promised.  God has kept that promise.  And based on God’s faithfulness, I was eventually able to leap into being a father myself.  A flawed one, but one who is learning to trust God and pass that faith on to his own children.

God also turned fatherlessness and broken past into an aching desire to help others.  You might call it a redeemed co-dependency.

I remember being at a training meeting for youth workers.  The speaker asked each of us to stand  if anything from a list he was going to read pertained to us.  “Past drug addiction,” he said.   I stood with many others.  “Divorced parents.”  More stood.  “Lost a parent.”  A tear pooled in my eye.  “High school drop out.”  I was already standing.  “Abuse.”

He continued listing off areas of brokenness and loss.  “Look around you,” he said at the end of his list.  Nearly all 1500 of us were standing.

“Do you think it’s a coincidence that most of us here have painful backgrounds and lives?   No!”  Then he listed the statistics of how many kids were just like us.  “God used your pain to call you into youth work,” he continued.  “That is why you care so much for those kids no one else seems to.  And why they relate to you so well.”

A collective shiver went through us.  We had seen redemption.

Henri Nouwen calls this serving with a limp, from the story of Jacob having his hip broken while wrestling with God.

Years later, when I was going through another period of wrestling with God, a friend wrote and told me, “God never wastes pain.”

And it’s true.  Now when I remember June 13, 1968, there is still sadness and grief.  I miss my dad.  He would love my children.  And he would laugh that I did, as he predicted, wind up behind a desk.  But that weakness, that pain, has not been wasted.  God has filled it with his strength.

And for that I am grateful.

P.S. This blog was also published at tnc3.org/pascha-blog/

0 thoughts on “God Never Wastes Pain”

  1. Georgie-ann

    My father died in 1953 (I had just turned 7), and my step-father died in September of 1968,… the second (to me, by then, very cosmically inexplicable) loss completely turned my inner world upside-down,… I had just graduated from college, but could not even bear to “face my life”,… and had very little idea of what to expect from the future,… I was the oldest child, and felt that I “should have” been trailblazing for the others, but I just really didn’t have a clue,… having learned many collegiate answers, and having passed many tests, I was, nonetheless, now at a complete loss,… and feeling completely blind, as I looked toward very major transitions and changes,… where was the map?,… where was MY map?,…

    was life something you did?,… or was it something unexpected that just “happened” to you,… and how do you know how to respond, when it does?,… why do I feel like I’m only guessing at best?,… well,… for sure, a lot of pain, emptiness,… and a lot of unanswered and open-ended questions,…

    fortunately, we do have more “things” guiding us than we realize sometimes,… “wait and see” is a good approach, studying our options, slowly letting things come together and take shape,… such stumbling allows us to be, perhaps, a little more humble than “the average bear”,… and perhaps able to hear a little more clearly, and evaluate a little more personally and precisely,… we know we really don’t want to settle for garbage and meaninglessness,… we’ve had enough of that already,…

    at some point, if we begin to “clue in” to the vast connection there for us, with God and the Cosmos He has not only created, but situated us in, we can begin a blessed journey to recapture not only meaning and purpose, but understanding, wisdom and love,… then we can understand that not only is nothing wasted, but it is redeemed as well,…

    1. Georgie-ann

      and one little extra thought: with all the human vulnerability, helplessness, and isolation that we feel, when faced unequivocally with the ultimate fragility (and precious essence) of all things living, and our own powerlessness to alter some paths of destiny, or to re-establish connections with “unfinished soul business” that has been left hanging ~~ as “loose ends” dangling, crying out for denouement/resolution ~~ the unanswered “whys?”, the unsaid “good-byes” or “I love you”s or “do/did you love me?” ~~ questions that now float out, as if searching, into the universe ~~ and the “where are you?”s

      these questions will lead us on to “seek and to find” many things,… the most basic of which is: “It is GOOD to be alive!”,… to breathe fresh air,… to share a meal with loved ones,… to “comfort those who remain”,… to have one more day,… to be grateful,… to love God and to trust Him with the rest,… after all, He gave His all for us!,… as we feed our faith (and doubt our doubts), and as our faith grows, we realize that Life itself is a re-newing miracle that we are privileged to be partakers in and of,… not necessarily “on our own terms” but surrendered to the blessings possible in each passing moment or day,… and we discover a wonderful “secret”: no matter what else, God is and always will be our very best friend,…

    2. Georgie-ann

      Psalm 56:8 “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?”

      Psalm 30:5 “For His anger is but for a moment, but His favor is for a lifetime (or, in His favor is life). Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

      Psalm 126:5 “Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy.”

      Psalm 126:6 “He who goes forth bearing seed and weeping [at needing his precious supply of grain for sowing] shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

      Isaiah 25:8 “He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken.”

      Isaiah 65:19 “And I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; and the sound of weeping will no more be heard in it, nor the cry of distress.”

      Jeremiah 3:21 “A voice is heard on the bare heights, the weeping and pleading of the sons of Israel, because they have perverted their ways, they have [eagerly] forgotten the Lord their God.”

      Joel 2:12 “Therefore also now, says the Lord, turn and keep on coming to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning [until every hindrance is removed and the broken fellowship is restored].”

      Revelation 5:5 “Then one of the elders [of the heavenly Sanhedrin] said to me, Stop weeping! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root (Source) of David, has won (has overcome and conquered)! He can open the scroll and break its seven seals!”

      Revelation 7:16,17
      16 “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun smite them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb Who is in the midst of the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will guide them to the springs of the waters of life; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

      Actually, to imagine “life without pain” ~~ that life “should be”, or even could be, without pain (efforts, losses, hurts, strife, conflicts, accidents, misunderstandings, disappointments, lack, illness, injury, suffering, “dreams that don’t come true”, and of course “stress” and “death and taxes”) ~~ must be a fairly modern “sanitized” version of what mankind for centuries has endured, for better or worse,… and with often very great, even heroic, efforts to “make the best of it”,… finding heart-warming joys and consolations in the middle of very great trials,…

      Hebrews 12:1-3
      1 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God
      3 “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”

      Often, some of the most poignant songs that unite the folks and cultures singing them, have been of the shared woes and struggles that they’ve experienced in common with one another,… sharing “good times” and fun can be a very pleasant way to pass the time, but sharing another’s painful moments may actually forge a stronger and deeper kind of bonding,… “sympathy” is often born from an awareness of pain that only comes from experience,… and “sympathy” is a very good quality,… it reaches deeper than surface interactions, and is able to touch the truer qualities of our being,…

      Hebrews 4:14-16 [Our Compassionate High Priest]
      14 “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

      1. Once again Georgie, you take things so deep and personal. Thanks for your poetic insight. I’m sorry for your losses. And by now you have weathered even more, I imagine.

      2. Georgie-ann

        Eugene,… there were some other definite scenarios that were long-standing situations of “resistance”, that needed clarification and resolution so that the struggles became “clear” and meaningful in the Light of God’s Will and truer spiritual realities,… needless to say, I learned a lot along the way, but I also asked a lot of God, and studied His ways of healing, restoration, deliverance, etc,… although some “miracles” seemed to come quickly, many/most were long-term projects of faith and persistence, and, little by little, “breakthroughs” and understanding were rewards of “believing God” for virtually everything,… However, my greatest devastation was that which followed the loss of my two fathers by death, and the process of healing from that involved seeking, praying, suffering, hoping, believing, living, faith, and so on,… I have no doubt that God “has touched me and made me whole”,… for which I am, of course, eternally grateful,… as you said, “God IS Good!”

      3. Georgie-ann

        I remember being very amazed to hear that one of my neighbors’ children (who were all girls) were avidly desiring to become Olympic stars (btw, they were seriously “desiring”, but not particularly seriously working at it),… they were my children’s age (who were both boys),… it was a signal to me that “something” in the culture had changed drastically since my own youth and before,… In my day, although talented, most people were not seeking to reach exclusive “stardom” as a sign of having attained the pinnacle of achievement, while anything less would be a “disappointment” or might even be considered “failure”,… huh?,… good is good on its own merits (and good should also be enjoyed and be enjoyable!),… such competitive “superman goals” seemed to immediately diminish the value of the “ordinary man” in ordinary life, and traditional customs and wholesome wisdom,… Where co-operation and mutual appreciation had been the unspoken, but prevailing, cultural theme for ages, now each one was seeking their own “personal glory and admiration”, to become noticed and somehow elevated above “the others”, the lowly, the less endowed, the less esteemed,… there is no way these two concepts of “who I am” (Very Important) vs “who we are” (all important) can co-exist easily across-the-board in a mutually beneficial/supportive way,…

        I don’t recall ever thinking that way,… ever,… the “collective” aspects of life were so obvious,… our intertwined needs and services rendered created a very meaningful (and often enjoyable) matrix of relationships, connections and interactions, where we all knew we needed each other, and knowing and appreciating your neighbor was fairly easy to do, and also meaningful and uplifting,… instinctively, I think we shunned a “spotlight” that would illuminate one over another, because it very honestly “just didn’t feel right”,…

        well,… it’s obvious that we find human “idol seeking” very culturally entertaining these days, and there are aspects of this in modern “religious circles” as well,… using and developing talents is a wonderful thing, but losing sight of our divinely-interconnected mutually-subservient “humanness”, while over-emphasizing “unique stand-out importance” as a measuring rod of comparison, can really throw things “out of balance” and create a sense of lack, where really there is no lack at all,…

        Romans 15:5-9,13
        5 “Now may the God Who gives the power of patient endurance (steadfastness) and Who supplies encouragement, grant you to live in such mutual harmony and such full sympathy with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,

        6 “That together you may [unanimously] with united hearts and one voice, praise and glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah).

        7 “Welcome and receive [to your hearts] one another, then, even as Christ has welcomed and received you, for the glory of God.

        8 “For I tell you that Christ (the Messiah) became a servant and a minister to the circumcised (the Jews) in order to show God’s truthfulness and honesty by confirming (verifying) the promises [given] to our fathers,

        9 “And [also in order] that the Gentiles (nations) might glorify God for His mercy [not covenanted] to them. As it is written, Therefore I will praise You among the Gentiles and sing praises to Your name. …

        13 “May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope.”

        With God as the supreme stand-out and “giver of gifts”, we can sit back and enjoy not only Him, but all that He places in our midst,…

        John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease. [He must grow more prominent; I must grow less so.]”

        If in our suffering and “smallness” we find God, we have found the greatest treasure,…

      4. Georgie-ann

        Ephesians 4:1-3,14-16 (edited)
        1 ” … walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (And …) 14 “that we …15 … speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

        Our lives “in the world” (and on the world’s terms) can be inescapably treacherous, and/or treacherously misleading,… Even those who “take the world’s bait”, sincerely believing what ultimately shows itself “to be an empty lie”, are victims of bad information, bad impulses, and negative reinforcement in these things,… In turn, some may continue and entice, and effectively — knowingly or unknowingly — victimize others, in a dog-eat-dog world, where the blind are leading the blind,… It is virtually impossible to completely escape these influences, and not easy to discern or understand what is happening/”going on”, especially when we are young,…

        For this reason, God has given us His Mighty Word(s) of Powerful Truth(s), as a beacon, to help us avoid following a sorrowful path to destruction, and sent a Mighty Savior, Jesus, to rescue us from however “the world” would try to lay claim to us and influence us,… The world’s messages and binding tentacles are many and varied, but God’s Words, taken seriously, can cut a much clearer path through the jungle, show us a “way out” and separate us unto “the Master’s” calling and better purposes,…

        I don’t think anyone can escape some form of confrontation with the sorrows and disappointments inherent in the structure of “this world”,… and we, ourselves, are “part of the problem” too,… we will have blindness, lack, emptiness, and “a lot to learn”, but God is such a willing Teacher — His greatest desire being to shine His Light into our darkness, no matter how dark it seems,… once we “take hold” with Him and become joined to His nourishing Body (as above), we will have found a “cure” that keeps on giving and New Life that keeps on growing within us,…

        “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, … “

      5. Georgie-ann

        Dear Eugene,… I’ve been thinking about the “taking things personally” concept, and I guess I feel better talking/writing about things that I HAVE experienced/”proved” to myself personally (especially about “God stuff”), than to theorize about general things in the abstract,… “pain”, as a general human issue, runs the gamut of causing people to “hate/resent God” and to feel justified in doing so, feel sorry for themselves, find ways to anesthetize/escape the perceived-negative experiences, live “in denial”, cause more pain/add to the pain quotient in the universe, suffer, get tired, lose hope, look for a “way out of this mess”, firmly turn away from sin and turn to God, desire to help others, and on and on,…

        I can’t say that in all cases the pain that we know exists is “necessary” pain,… a lot of it (but certainly not all) could certainly be avoided or mitigated, and to this end the Wisdom of Proverbs is given to help us “not be foolish” slaves to pain-inducing lifestyles and attitudes,… For those who are drawn to find “help”/relief in the shelter of God and His ways, their initial pain can become transformational in the movement from “helpless/hapless human” adrift on the unpredictable waves and slippery sands of life, to the rescued appreciative soul “standing firmly on the Rock”, Christ Jesus,…

        Romans 8:1-38 (edited a lot)
        1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. … 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. … 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. …

        14 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

        18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. … 21 … the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. … 23 Not only that, but we … ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, … 25 … we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

        26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

        28 “And WE KNOW THAT ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. …

        31 “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? … 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

        “For Your sake we are killed all day long;
        We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

        37 “Yet in all these things we are MORE THAN CONQUERORS through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

        Amen, Brother Paul,…

        If you’ve ever had an enemy that hated you so viciously and with such mind-boggling determination to eradicate your very existence, and blame you for EVERYTHING, including theirs and the world’s problems, then hopefully you figured out (1) that this was a very troubled and damaged human being spewing (impersonal) negativity (personally) like a fountain of acid, and (2) this is EXACTLY the way the devil feels about you,…

        There are forces at work “in the world” that want nothing more than to de-humanize us, de-personalize us, render us useless, “steal our soul”, make us disappear for good, or at least hurt for a very long time,… BUT GOD!,… but GOD has much better plans for us! ~~ AND the power to make them happen!,… In part, it is up to us to purify and clarify our “Way” so that we don’t passively submit to being used as satan’s punching bags or becoming pawns in his cruel “games”,… For those, in this “day and age”, with a taste for Truth and Adventure, the current “challenges and possibilities” should prove very interesting indeed,…

        I don’t think St. Paul was any stranger to this aspect of spiritual things,…

  2. Michael J. Klassen

    Eugene, thanks for sharing your brokeness with us. Your life is evidence that God doesn’t waste pain.

  3. Hi, Eugene.

    Given all that our family has gone through these past six months, your blog really touched me. I passed it on to S and J. I so often don’t know what to say, and you expressed the hope of unwasted pain so eloquently.

    1. Julie: I keep you all in my prayers. I am honored that my writing could give hope or help in any way. I hope your birthday was as rich as your gifts and faith. Thanks. Eugene

  4. Camille Redding

    Thank you for sharing your story of childhood hurt. You’ve transformed the lives of many. God’s plan for you is still unfolding. Happy Spring, Happy Easter!

    1. Camille: Thanks for reading and it is so good to hear from you. I think of you and Ken and the girls often. You all have a happy Easter as well.

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