Every once in a while, I’ll catch someone sneaking a peek at my right hand while we’re chatting. It’s not surprising, since I have a pronounced scar that covers a significant portion of my hand. You can’t help but notice it, especially since I like to wave my hands around wildly to punctuate even the most mundane sentences. What I find interesting is that very few people ever ask about it. Maybe they assume that I can’t talk about it, because of the first and second rules of Fight Club.
The reality is that I had complications and a deep infection from my IV after giving birth. While it was healing, it was quite painful and the bandage was a source of constant embarrassment. It took months to heal. Now, it’s not a big deal. I don’t mind talking about it since it’s a quirky story (even my doctors were puzzled at the time). As far as pain, it doesn’t feel “normal” anymore, but I’m used to the new normal.
Not all scars are external. Some of the emotional wounds we’ve experienced heal into scars on our psyche, reminders of where we’ve been and what we’ve been through. As I’ve heard my pastors talk about losing their son unexpectedly a few years back, I can see their scars. I see them in friends who have gone through painful divorces or breakups. Adult victims of childhood abuse carry such scars. Addiction. Rejection. Countless things cause scars and every adult I know has them.
As I read one of my favorite Bible passages, I see how important those scars are to our faith and in community.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Because of the troubles that Paul and Timothy went through on account of their faith, they experienced God’s comfort. It was deeper than an intellectual understanding; it was personal. They knew in their bones that God is the source of all comfort. Because of what they went through, they also could extend that same comfort to others in their times of trouble. It was bigger than Paul and Timothy.
We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8b-9)
Paul and Timothy literally thought they would die as a result of the persecution they faced. Their troubles were life and death and they were in over their heads. Being overwhelmed led to them relying on God, which deepened their faith.
Our scars teach us is that we lived through it. While the pain is a gaping wound, we don’t always know that we’ll make it to the other side. We don’t know that it’ll be okay. Physical scars say, “This didn’t kill me.” Emotional scars say the same thing.
More importantly, when we own those scars, we can encourage others with their own gaping wounds that even the deepest pain isn’t necessarily fatal. The same comfort and healing we receive from Jesus is the salve that comforts others. It’s bigger than us.
My prayer for each of us is that we’d experience deep healing for all of our wounds from the God of all comfort. May God’s word and God’s people guide us on a path to healing. As we heal, may those hurts grow into scars that we have the courage to own so that we can be a comfort and encouragement to others. Amen.