Do you sometimes feel that much of your life is a waste? Things that have happened to you, decisions you’ve made (or not made), opportunities you may have missed. Could it be divine discontent in your soul that leaves you hungry for more? But in God’s economy, you don’t have to let even your pain go to waste.

When threatened by a sense of futility, I’ve found comfort in the fact that Paul struggled with similar feelings. Paul, the zealous missionary to the Gentiles who wrote a majority of the New Testament, wrestled with being “sure I was not running or had not run in vain.” (Galatians 2:2, see also Galatians 4:11, Philippians 2:16) Paul worried that his efforts were futile, so you and I seem to be in good company.

Psychologists tell us that a sense of meaning and purpose is one of the greatest predictors of longevity and wellbeing, especially for middle-aged and senior adults. And that has relatively little correlation with career advancement or financial achievement.

So how do you move forward when you lack that sense of purpose?

This understanding of God’s economy I’m about to share with you has come through a lot of personal struggle. And it’s something I have to remind myself of regularly. If this isn’t something you worry about, feel free to skip this. But for those of you wrestling with divine discontent, this framework will help you not let your pain go to waste.

Your Life as Anointing Oil

In preparing for worshiping God in the tabernacle, God gave Moses very specific instructions in preparing the anointing oil: “The Lord said to Moses, “Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane, and 500 of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil.”” (Exodus 30:22-25)

Very specific ingredients had to be gathered, and prepared “as by the perfumer.” The various spices were ground together until they were fine, probably with a mortar and pestle, and then blended with the oil. That unique combination was prepared for only one purpose, and could not be used in “common” ways. (Exodus 30:32)

The resulting fragrance was captivating, beautiful, and holy.

That’s a pattern for how God works in our lives as well.

God needs you for a unique purpose, and so He brings you through unique experiences in preparing you for that purpose. Those unique experiences are the various spices that are being blended into the anointing oil you are becoming. He doesn’t enjoy your pain, but this is a prime way in which He uses it.

And notice how those spices were broken, ground up, blended together. Much of the experience you accumulate is breaking, grinding, and blending together things you may have wished to keep intact.

Similarly, consider the baking of bread. It’s only after the flour, salt, sugar, yeast are mixed and kneeded and baked together that it becomes food.

And so your life and all its elements must be mixed, kneeded, baked – and then broken – before it can become bread by which others are fed.

What Are Your Ingredients?

I can look back now and see how every aspect of my life has been invaluable in who God has created me to be – not because I had it planned or did everything right, but because God has taken it all and created anointing oil out of it, or bread by which others can be fed.

The scientific training I went through, the thousands of women I’ve helped as an OB-Gyn, the long period of singleness before getting married, the theological study I embarked on, the beautiful but challenging years of being married, doing media with my husband, the often-confusing stages in building the ministry I have now, the various people I’ve connected with along the way – all have been important ingredients.

Even, perhaps especially, the pains and failures I’ve been through have become priceless in the bread I can now offer. The dysfunctional family I grew up in, my personal severe dysfunction and “years of hell,” more recently the experience of loss and widowhood – God has “baked” all of those things together in preparing me to be who He now needs me to be for His purposes.

What are the ingredients in your unique blend of the anointing oil God is preparing?

That includes everything about you; your family history, your unique brand of brokenness and sin that He is healing you from, your academic or career experiences, the things that have happened to you, the decisions you’ve made, what you’ve learned about life and people and God, the good the bad and the ugly – all of it.

You could not be who God needs you to be without all of it.

What Do You Do Now? Here’s the key:

Make all of your life available to God.

Every single bit of it. Your failures and successes, your history and your present situation, your relationships or lack thereof, the stuff that happened to you and the stuff you did to yourself, your wounds and battle scars, your hopes and dreams, the things you’re proud of and things you’re ashamed of, the things you’ve learned and the things you still don’t know – all of it.

The thing you hesitate to make available to God is likely to be one of the critical ingredients in the bread, the anointing oil, He is making you to be. The very place you most want to hide may be the very thing that makes you most valuable for His purposes.

God is a miracle-worker who who can take the darkest most humanly-detestable parts of you and your story, including what the enemy meant for harm, and transform it into bread by which others are fed. (See Genesis 50:20)

Is it too late? No! Remember the thief on the cross? How many humans do you imagine God may have rescued from darkness by recording his story in Scripture? Even his life became bread.

Don’t hold any of it back.

And the fragrance God is creating you to be will make the kind of difference only He can fully know.

Your Turn: What ingredients in your life have you tried to keep back? What part of you might you need to make available for God to use now? Can you find encouragement in this understanding of God’s economy? Leave a comment below.

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