A wound to the heart is like a wound to the flesh. It tears into living tissue and the pain can leave us barely limping along. Healing comes slow, and even then we’re vulnerable to infection and disease and the need for continual care and cleansing leaves us anxious for the day when the wound is finally gone.
But when the wound is gone, a scar follows. To some, scars become a badge of honor in which they loudly shout of their heroism and bravery. For others it becomes a haunting or embarrassing reminder of the helplessness of being hurt.
We can be tempted to respond the same to the scars left in our wounded hearts — fixating more on our unfair affliction than the redemptive healing to be had in Jesus. We speak of little else, pray for little else, and think of little else than the ways we were grieved, and we begin to cast our worship toward our own selves and suffering. Our story of pain can become an arrogant anthem of victory or a shameful song of defeat, yet in either response, our hurt is sitting on the throne of our hearts. We make idols out of our wounds and scars.
YOUR PAIN IS VALID
First, I want to empathize with pain, not diminish it. Apart from God, suffering does all it can to break us, and it doesn’t matter if it’s brought about by our own sin, someone else’s, or simply a product of the death and destruction that this world endures.
And as all this suffering leads to pain, pain should be felt. It is the right response to affliction and its absence could indicate hearts that have become cold and hard. So in the midst of being wounded, do not dismiss the injury. Feel it deeply, find others who will bear this burden with you, and honestly cry out to the Lord. For just as there are seasons to rejoice, there are also seasons to mourn. Times for birth and times for death, times for laughing and times to weep.
But in the weeping, recall God’s promises to be near to the brokenhearted and to bind up their wounds, even if your pain has clouded that reality. Trust that the Lord does not afflict from His heart or despise the hurting. There may always be unbearable pain as you think back on where you’ve walked, but I encourage you to fix your eyes upward instead.
So do not callously reject pain, but rather endure its blows through a strength not your own.
YOUR WOUNDS DO NOT DEFINE YOU
But as you feel this pain and care for your wounds, be careful of your response to the scars they will produce. There is no sanctifying effect of suffering if we believe we survived by our own power or if we’re overcome by hopelessness whenever we remember our story. At the root of that response is idolatry, either of self-glorification or self-preservation.
Remember this: if you are a believer in Jesus, you are not your own. You’ve been crucified with Christ and you now live by a faith in Jesus who loves you and gave His life for your sake. The old is gone, the new has come. To identify more with your hurts than you identify with the merciful healer who has made you new — clinging to them as worthless idols — is to forfeit the grace that can be yours.
Instead, find your identity in Him and walk in the reality that Christ creates. You are no longer the captive, but the liberated who’s experienced freedom from bondage. No longer the victim, but the victor who waits expectantly for a life beyond death. It is only by His wounds that we are healed, so cling to the cross.
THEREFORE, BOAST IN JESUS
This does not mean we forget our suffering or become numb to the lasting pain of living in fleshly dwellings in a broken world. Rather, we boast in Christ. Let your affections be stirred as you remember His faithfulness to call you out of sin, to heal the hurt that others caused, and to save you from destruction.
Because if you walked through seasons of pain — if you find yourself there now — it is not in spite of God. Throughout scripture, all attempts to thwart His plan only lead to its most perfect fulfillment. We see this clearly in the story of Job, a man who lost it all and suffered evil under the permission of God. Yet Job’s story ends with this humble response after quarreling with the Lord’s power and sovereignty, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3). Rather than continuing to be marked as the man who lost it all, Job stands in awe of the God who gives and takes away.
So as God is using suffering to accomplish things too wonderful for you to know, rest in the power of the One who authors this story. Do not fear your past in order to preserve your future, but use your wounds and scars to minister to others. Let the Gospel permeate every inch of your experiences and recount all the ways God brought you from darkness to light.
And when you are tempted to idolize your pain and forsake your redemption, look to Jesus. Do not wrongly believe that you somehow saved yourself, but allow the thorn of woundedness to push you to God’s glory. For when you are weak, then you are strong, as the power of Christ is made perfect in your inability to heal and save yourself.
Let Jesus rule your heart, allowing His story be glorified, not just your own. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, and while sorrow may last for the night, find your identity in the joy that will follow.
Kristina Shiddell is on staff with Lightbearers Ministries International and serves as the children’s ministry director at The Hill Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.