“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, NKJV).
Anyone who has been a follower of the biblical Jesus for more than five seconds knows at least one thing—Christians still suffer. Unlike some popular teachers, theological streams, and spiritual movements would teach, becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that all of your pain, struggles, challenges, trials, and pressures just go away. And this makes sense because the biblical Christian life is about following Jesus who suffered more than any other person who ever has, does, or who will exist. In Isaiah 52 and 53 we get a bit of a biographical synopsis of the life of Jesus. It describes Him as “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). And surely Jesus’ grief included everything from not being physically attractive (Isaiah 53:2) to being ostracized and rejected by those He loved (53:3), bearing the weight of wrath due to every sin that has or will be committed (53:4-6), and being unjustly accused and convicted of crimes of which He was not guilty (53:7-9). And yet, though His life was full of the most intense suffering imaginable, Jesus gladly went through it all so that His scars, hurts, suffering, and death could ultimately provide a bridge of escape for us from sin, shame, and guilt. He endured it all because He knew His suffering and death was the only pathway to the possibility of our ultimate healing and forgiveness.
What the passage above in 2 Corinthians tells us is that the early Christians followed directly in the footsteps of their suffering Savior. They experienced many scars physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually in their life with Jesus. And yet, they weren’t about to let those scars go to waste. First, they allowed the Lord to bring them through extremely difficult seasons of suffering. They experienced all of His “comforts in all . . . tribulation.” They knew what it was to feel at the edge of death, persevere by God’s grace, and still be standing on the other side of the crucible. And second, they then used their experience of enduring suffering by the grace, empowerment, and comfort of Christ to comfort other’s they would meet who were then currently going through the kinds of suffering they’d previously endured. And as they shared their hurts and the way that Christ had sustained them and strengthened them through their suffering, their very experiences of suffering became instruments of nourishment, perseverance, and grace in the lives of those to whom they were relating. As they let their scars become bridges of healing and ministry to the suffering people in their lives, they became a living picture of Jesus, who has suffered the most, that the world might receive the best kind of spiritual healing—regeneration (the new birth) and salvation.
And thus, one of the greatest realities of biblical Christianity shines forth from the example of Christ and His early followers. And that is the truth that for followers of the biblical Jesus there are no such thing as wasted scars. God teaches us through them. He comforts us through them. He shows us our dependence upon Him and His care for us through them. He convinces us that He is still the God who heals the feeble, raises the dead, and gives life to the lifeless. And further, He then desires to use our suffering and healing to produce healing in the lives of others as we share our testimony, avail our lives to the hurting, and help them apply the gospel to their situation.
Thrice is one of my favorite bands, and Dustin Kensrue (of Mars Hill Church), who is their singer, is one of my favorite song writers. In the song For Miles, Kensrue wrote one of my favorite lines, which relates to what we’re thinking about: “And as long as we live every scar is a bridge to someone’s broken heart” (by Thrice from the album “Vheissu”).
That’s true for followers of Jesus. He gave His life that we might have life. He comforts us through our suffering that we might be instruments of comfort and perseverance in the lives of others who are suffering through the kinds of things we’ve experienced.
Let me leave you with two practical applications:
1. Share your scars for the sake of others.
If you don’t share your suffering and shame, you can’t be an instrument of healing to your greatest potential for others who are going through similar issues. Because he knows that when Christians get real about their dark pasts and how Jesus has healed them and people begin to be set free from his power, Satan will do all he can to keep you quiet. He will use shame and lies to get you to keep a lid on it, and if he is successful, who knows who is missing out on the healing comfort of God because Jesus wants to comfort them through you, but He can’t because the enemy has a muzzle on you. Are you sharing your scars?
2. Shift your focus to others.
Many times we miss out on chances to be God’s comfort to other people because we are so focused on our own pain. There is a time to weep to be sure. But the enemy would prefer we continue to wallow in self-defeat and shame so he can keep us shackled. If you start asking, “who can I help through my testimony?” rather than, “why does this have to happen to me?” you will find deeper healing for yourself, and greater use in the kingdom of God and His healing work. Do you need to shift your focus to asking who you can help instead of asking “why did this happen?”
Here’s a final text of encouragement for you:
“Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us . . .” (2 Corinthians 1:9-10, NKJV).