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Seeing His Scars

Healing for those wounded in the church

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I will never forget that moment in middle school when my parents called me to the kitchen table. With calm, deep concern, they expressed that my Sunday school teacher had been arrested. They lovingly and carefully proceeded to ask if he’d ever inappropriately touched me—a parent’s nightmare. I was embarrassed and angry, and it caused me to question why something like this could happen.

While I was not a victim, some of my friends were. Later, my family discovered some of our church leaders had known about the issue for several years and had tried counseling that individual without involving the authorities, an incorrect approach with devastating consequences.

How can those who are wounded in the Church find healing when the very place that is meant to bring healing is the source of their pain? The road to recovery requires we investigate the truth of our surroundings and rediscover an important aspect of Jesus’ character.

A Scarred Savior for a Broken World

The Church is supposed to be a place of hope and healing for the hurting and lost. It’s supposed to be a place of forgiveness and repentance for the sinful. It’s supposed to be a family for those who are in Christ.

However, until Jesus returns, we’ll deal with sickness, death, sadness, and pain (see Revelation 21:4). Using the analogy of wolves dressed like sheep, Jesus told His followers there would also be some who sneak into the Church with ulterior motives (see Matthew 7:15). Scripture warns us that while following God involves seeking to live righteously, sin will worm its way in (see Genesis 4:6–7). The gates of hell will not overcome the Church, but sin will constantly hound us, nipping at our ankles.

The Church is a waystation in a broken world. She opens her doors and ministers to the spiritually wounded. Some are thankful for the help. Others may quietly resent her mission. And sadly, there are times when the brokenness of the world expresses itself within her walls. We must grapple with the reality that, while filled with redemption, our churches are not perfect places.

However, we must also embrace the truth that Jesus is a scarred Savior, which is pivotal for the Church as she lives out her mission in a broken world. We learn an intimate lesson from Jesus as He interacted with His disciple Thomas. Thomas was a disciple going through crisis. For three years Thomas had followed Jesus only to see Him murdered at the hands of His enemies.

After Jesus appeared to the other disciples while Thomas was not among them, Thomas refused to believe that Jesus was alive. I personally suspect that this was an emotional response more than anything else. Thomas did not want to have his heart broken a second time. Thomas throws down his infamous line: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25).

What does Jesus do? He shows up. He allows Thomas the opportunity to see Him and touch His wounds (see John 20:26–29). Later in the New Testament the apostle Paul tells us that Jesus is the first fruits of those who have been raised from the dead (see 1 Corinthians 15:20). When we connect this scriptural truth with Jesus’ interaction with Thomas, we discover that our resurrected Jesus still bears the scars He received from a broken world.

There’s something so beautiful in this exchange between Jesus and Thomas. Jesus didn’t demand that Thomas repent. He didn’t wait for Thomas to get it together. He just showed up and let Thomas see and touch His wounds. Jesus uses His scars to minister to the spiritually wounded, helping them see that He knows the pain they’ve experienced.

When you’re hurting and in need of hope, Jesus takes the time to let you see His scars. He shows you His scars to remind you that in even your worst moments, He knows what you’re experiencing. He understands betrayal by friends. He understands loneliness, pain, and heartache. Jesus’ wounds are the ultimate reminder that no matter how bad you’ve been wounded, you’re not alone in your crisis or its aftermath.

Helping the Wounded Heal

Jesus does not desire for us to live with the wounds we’ve received forever. He desires for us to heal in the aftermath of our crisis. In order to help us heal, Jesus invites those who are hurting to both rest and receive.

Finding the Rest of God

Let’s start with the concept of resting. In the aftermath of a crisis, you need to rest your body and your soul. It’s tempting to fill your time with distractions. Staying busy occupies your mind and keeps it from wandering down rabbit trails of regret. But you need to be willing to do less. This gives God time to mend you physically and spiritually.

The idea that the first step toward spiritual healing is physical rest is powerfully illustrated in the life of Elijah. In a particularly difficult moment in his life, Elijah found himself exhausted, alone, and afraid. Things were so desperate He asked God to take his life (see 1 Kings 19:3–8).

What I find fascinating is that God’s first response is to help Elijah sleep. Next, God gently wakes His servant and gives him a hot meal and a cold drink. He addresses his immediate physical needs. This is your God—one who is powerful enough to move mountains but kind and gentle enough to let you sleep when you’re weary. God, who in His nature is a spiritual being, doesn’t
overlook that He created you with a physical body. He recognizes it’s often difficult, if not impossible, to do soul work in someone who is physically weary. Rest is important to God. He values it, provides it, and invites you to embrace it in the aftermath.

Receiving Help from God

Receiving is equally important. Say “yes” to God when He reveals Himself to you and provides resources to help ease your pain. This starts with setting aside time to listen to Him while meditating. It could lead to opening up to a trusted friend and sharing how you’re feeling. It could lead to proactively setting an appointment and allowing that trusted friend to pray with you each day for the next several weeks and become your accountability partner.

To know God’s Word is to know God’s heart. Part of the healing process is hearing from God through His Word. You may be surprised to find that men and women in the Bible have relatable stories of crisis and pain. David was attacked by his own son (see Psalm 3). Joseph was betrayed by his brothers (see Genesis 37). Ruth knew what it meant to feel alone (see Ruth 1). Esther faced fear and led with courage (see Esther 3). Read about situations others have faced and how God helped them through with encouragement, enlightenment,
and empowerment.

As you spend time in Scripture and read a promise God makes, claim it. Hold onto it. Cry out for it. God is fine with you reminding Him of His promises. Ask Him to make good on them. This will begin to realign your heart with the truth of Scripture, and this helps you heal. 

Restoring Christian Community

It’s natural to withdraw when wounded. In some cases, you may lose your core community because of the circumstances. In other cases, you may choose to isolate. When you’re left to hurt alone while the rest of the church
family moves on, your pain can be compounded. This is tragic. If this is where you are right now, I am truly sorry.

Please know that God does not intend for you to be alone in your pain. He wants you to be in community with other believers who can lend support and care. When the time is right, I
encourage you to reach out to your community. God created us to be in relationship with others.

Walking with the Wounded

The Church is a waystation of hope in a broken world. The head of this Church is a wounded Savior who is not afraid to show His scars. If you’ve been hurt in the Church, you need to know that Jesus isn’t looking for followers with the perfect résumé. He fully understands you walk with a limp, and that’s not a problem for the Savior of the world who is right at home walking with
the wounded.

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