My scars and what they teach me

 I have a sizeable “V-shaped” scar on my right forearm.  It looks like I was bit by a Pit Bull.  In fact, I often tell people who ask that is what happened.  Or I’ll claim it was an injury I sustained “in ‘Nam” even though I was five when the Vietnam War had ended.  It always raises an eyebrow when I say it, which gives me great satisfaction.  I’m not sure why I enjoy saying that.  I’ll have to work that one out with my counselor.

My scar is the result of a freak accident when I was ten years old.  During an intense backyard baseball game (think Sandlot), my moving arm caught the bar of a nearby swing set.  As my forearm struck the metal pole, a rusty screw was sticking out and grabbed the flesh, severing  nerves and tearing tendons.  Game over.  Six hours and eight surgical staples later, my arm was “fixed.”  It happened to be Mother’s Day.  Nothing says “Happy Mother’s Day” like seeing a child in the E.R. on her special day.

We all have scars.  They seem to be the by-product of life.  Some of our scars are physical.  Others are emotional or mental.  But if we are honest, we all have some.  Some we can show off to others and even laugh about their origins.  Others are so painful to discuss or even reveal – we do our best to hide them from sight or even our own memory.   Some may affect our lives for a day or a week or a month.  Others are life-changing.  I have a combination of both.  I have come to appreciate the scars (physical & emotional) I have acquired in my first forty-two years.  Having said that, I am hoping to receive less scars in my last four or five decades on this planet.  Regrettably, because of foolish decisions and poor choices, I have unknowingly given some scars to others in my path.  For that, I am truly sorry.

Scars reveal a past hurt.  Scars hide a previous pain.  They normally point to a regretful experience and a painful past.  Some scars are the result of a true “accident”.  Other scars are because of foolish decisions.  The hardest scar to heal from is the one received unwillingly by another’s selfish action.   Children of divorce understand that scar all too well.

As I look back at some of my scars (physical & emotional), I have come to appreciate them in a new light.  That appreciation has not come easily or quickly.  Whereas before I might have tried to make up a palatable story to explain the scar’s existence, now I just tell the story “as is.”  Whereas before I might have tried to cover up the mark and avoid talking about it, now I embrace it as part of the “new me.”  Some people, depending on their scar or the pain that caused it, will not be able to reach my same level of transparency.  Others, over time, might come to a point where they are even thankful for the experience that caused the scar.  For the most part, I am at that stage.  I am grateful for the experiences and their scars as it has taught me some valuable lessons I could not have learned without them.

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.  As a result, I tend to think my scars exist in order to teach me a greater lesson.  Sometimes I wonder if some of my scars are not for me as much as they are for others.  Seeing that God’s ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts (Isaiah 55), God could allow me to receive a scar for the sole benefit of others.  Being that He is multi-dimensional, He could also use one scar to teach multiple people multiple lessons.  The book of Job is an example of that.  Because I do not know the cause of your particular scar, I will not assume that the lessons I glean should be applied to you.  That is your call.  Having said that, here are a few lessons that my scars have taught me.

  • My scars remind me of where I have been.  Depending on the scar and it’s cause, this can be an extremely painful reminder, particularly if the scar is from someone else’s selfish act. But I have found it is a good reminder (from time to time) as I can better appreciate where I am today.  Those who deny the existence of the pain that caused the scar or the scar itself cannot ultimately heal like they need to.  Too often we try to cover the scar instead of embracing it, to our own detriment.  At the very least, we need to work through the pain and do what we can to reduce the scar tissue.
  • My scar reminds me to be careful in the future.  Every scar comes with a lesson.  For a burn mark on a toddler’s hand, the lesson is do not touch a hot stove.  The physical scars usually communicate a very clear lesson like – do not run into swing sets.  The emotional or mental scars may be harder to discern what the lesson is.  They can certainly take more time to uncover.  Even so, there is always something we can learn from our scars and therefore it is always worth the time invested to discover it.  Take the time to do the research on what caused it and what needs to happen so you don’t experience any more.  Needless to say, I no longer play backyard wiffle ball with a rusted swing set near the bases.
  • Each scar helps me empathize with others who have similar scars.  If I have the scar of surviving cancer, I can empathize with those who are in the midst of receiving their cancer scar.  If I have the scar of losing a child or losing a job or losing a relationship, I can help others through the same painful loss.  There is a great power in empathy.  There is a special bond that is created when you are truly able to relate (experientially) to another man’s pain.  As II Corinthians 1 reminds us, “…the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  The goal with every scar is to eventually get to a point where you can help others deal with theirs.  We are on this planet together for a reason.  We are our brother’s keeper.  In that place of comforting others, you often find an unexpected healing in you.
  • A scar is a sign of healing.   “Every significant wound results in some degree of scarring.  A scar results from the biological process of wound repair in the skin and other tissues in the body.  Thus, scarring is a natural part of the healing process.” (  If there wasn’t a scar, it would still be a wound.  The fact that there is a scar reveals that there has been some level of healing.  Some of the scars I have experienced have taken me years before I could get in a position to talk about it or help others.  Other scars I can talk about relatively quickly.   The fact that there is a scar is a good sign.  The painful experience is over.  Healing has begun.

Though most of us would not have chosen many of the negative experiences we have gone through, as we look back we can see some good that has come out of it.  God has the unique ability to make an ugly scar beautiful (Romans 8:28).

When I was five years old, my Dad died in front of me.  As he took a nap on the couch, I was playing nearby on the floor with my brother.  While he was asleep, his lungs inexplicably collapsed and he died.  It is my only true memory of my father.  For the last 37 years I have carried that scar of a lost relationship.  I missed out on all the typical father/son activities.  To my frustration, I grew up watching many children not appreciate their parents.  One of the lessons that particular scar taught me is that life is short and precious and to appreciate those you have – while you have them.   The loss of my Dad has also made me a better parent – another valuable lesson gleaned from that scar.  Though the scar is painful, even to this day, much good has come out of it.  Over the years I have been able to help comfort dozens of children and teenagers who have lost a parent suddenly.  Without my particular scar, such comfort would have been impossible.

Perhaps the next time you look at your own scars, you will have a different perspective? Perhaps one day you will have the courage to embrace a particularly painful scar or the reason for its existence? Maybe there is a lesson for you in the scar?  Maybe the lesson is for someone else? Maybe even one day you will get to the point of helping others handle theirs?  Your scar, though created by pain, could end up being something very beautiful to behold.

One last thought…

On the night that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, He appeared to His disciples (John 20).  After greeting them, the very first thing He did was show them His scars – the scars given to Him as a result of the cross.  The scars on His hands, side & feet were significant as they pointed to an extremely painful past.  Jesus could have covered them up.  He could have gotten mad at the Jews for giving them to Him.  He could have blamed the Romans for scarring the hands that made them.  Instead, He was quick to show them off because He recognized the purpose behind them.  His scars revealed that healing had occurred.  As the prophet Isaiah wrote 700 years before, “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities;  He was beaten so we could be made whole.  By His wounds, we are healed. (verse 5)”  In other words, His hands were scarred so ours don’t have to be.

When I get to Heaven, I want to see His scars.   After all, without them, I’d never be there.

His scars are visible for a reason.  So are yours.

God approved my flat tire?

When I was a youth director, every year I had the privilege of leading members of my church overseas on our annual mission project.  Every year, prior to my departure, I had the same conversation with a relative about the apparent dangers of air travel and foreign countries.  Every year I tried to explain to her that if God wanted to “take me out”, He could do it just as easily in aisle 3 of Wal-Mart as He could on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic.   Although there is intellectual consent to this truth, I find my relative is not alone in her thinking.   Most Christians, although claiming to believe in a sovereign God – somehow question His sovereignty as it affects their daily life.  And if they do not question His sovereignty directly, they do so by allowing worry to infiltrate every area of their life.  This contradiction leads me to the question, “How sovereign is God?”   In other words, is He in control of things or is He not?

I recognize that my friends who are Christians might be quick to say that He is in control of everything, because the Bible tells them so.  It can be easy to understand why my non-believing friends might scoff at that idea – particularly as you watch the evening news and see all the chaos that is around us.  With the newspaper in one hand and my Bible in the other – I am learning how to walk by faith (though feebly most days) instead of sight.  My physical eyes see one world.  His spiritual eyes see another.  I’m trying to get more of His vision.

Having said that, I have come to realize that there is no doctrine more comforting to the soul of man than the doctrine of God’s sovereignty.  The doctrine of God’s sovereignty simply means that God does WHAT He wants, WHEN He wants, HOW He wants, WHY He wants, WHERE He wants – simply because He is God.

As Psalm 115:3 reminds us, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”  As Abraham Kuyper – Dutch theologian & one time prime minister of the Netherlands once wrote, “In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare,“THAT is mine!”

Proof of His sovereignty is all over Scripture:

  • God is sovereign over creation (Genesis 1:1, 4, Acts 17:24).   Just ask the sun, moon & stars (Psalm 19:1-6).
  • God is sovereign over mankind (Genesis 1:26-27).  Just ask Adam (Genesis 1:29-30, 2:5-8, 15-25).
  • God is sovereign over the affairs of man.     Just ask Joseph’s brothers (Genesis 50:20).
  • God is sovereign over the hairs of man (Luke 12:7).
  • God is sovereign over the thoughts of man.   Just ask the Pharisees (Luke 6:6-11).
  • God is sovereign over court decisions.    Just ask Pilate (John 19:8-12).
  • God is sovereign over the kings of the culture (Proverbs 21:1).  Just ask Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:28-37).
  • God is sovereign over relationships.   Just ask Boaz (Ruth 3 & 4).
  • God is sovereign over where we live (Genesis 12:1-9, Acts 17:26).   Just ask Ruth (Ruth 1).
  • God is sovereign over what we do for a living.   Just ask Moses (Exodus 3:10).
  • God is sovereign over money.
  • God is sovereign over greed.    Just ask Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).
  • God is sovereign over clothing.    Just ask the wandering Israelites (Deuteronomy 8:4).
  • God is sovereign over food and drink (Matthew 6:25-34). Just ask the 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21).
  • God is sovereign over the womb.  (Psalm 139:13-16)   Just ask Sarah (Genesis 18:9-15, 21:1-3) or better yet, the virgin Mary. (Luke 1:26-38)
  • God is sovereign over health.
  • God is sovereign over birth defects.   Just ask the man born blind from birth. (John 9:1-12)
  • God is sovereign over paralysis.   Just ask the roofer in Mark chapter 2. (Mark 2:1-12)
  • God is sovereign over illness.   Just ask Peter’s mother in law. (Matthew 8:14-15)
  • God is sovereign over chronic pain.   Just ask the man by the pool in Bethesda. (John 5:1-9)
  • God is sovereign over disease.   Just ask Naaman. (II Kings 5:1-14)
  • God is sovereign over “accidents”.   Just ask Malchus. (John 18:10) or Just ask Eutychus. (Acts 20:7-12)
  • God is sovereign over the weather.   Just ask the disciples. (Mark 4:35-41)
  • God is sovereign over the clouds. (Isaiah 5:6)
  • God is sovereign over the elements.   Just ask Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego. (Daniel 3:19-27)
  • God is sovereign over angels. (Luke 1:26)
  • God is sovereign over Satan (Job 1:8-12, 2:3-6) & his demons. (Luke 8:26-39)
  • God is sovereign over sin
  • God is sovereign over betrayal.  Just ask Judas. (John 18:1-11)
  • God is sovereign over rejection. Just ask Peter. (John 18:25-27)
  • God is sovereign over genocide. Just ask Herod. (Matthew 2:13-23)
  • God is sovereign over tragedy.   Just ask Job. (Job 1:13-22, 2:7-10)
  • God is sovereign over murder.  Just ask Cain. (Genesis 4:5-16)
  • God is sovereign over adultery.  Just ask Hosea. (Hosea 1:2-3)
  • God is sovereign over life. (John 1:3-4, 14:6)  Just ask the thief pardoned from the cross. (Luke 23:39-43)
  • God is sovereign over death (Acts 17:26).    Just ask Lazarus. (John 11:1-46)   Or better yet, ask Jesus. (John 20:1-18)
  • God is sovereign over salvation. (Acts 4:12, John 14:6)   Just ask Zacchaeus. (Luke 19:1-10)
  • God is sovereign over time.   Just ask Joshua. (Joshua 10:12-14)
  • God is sovereign over space.   Just ask Phillip. (Acts 8:38-40)
  • God is sovereign over eternity.   Just ask Him. (Revelation 22:13, John 1:1)
  • God is sovereign over the future. (Matthew 16:21-23)
  • God is sovereign over animals.   Just ask Jonah (Jonah 1:17).   Or Balaam. (Numbers 22:23-35)
  • He is well aware of birds (Luke 12:6) and when He chooses to end their flights (Matthew 10:29).
  • Even the movements of a single fly are under His control. (Exodus 8:31, Isaiah 7:18)

In our fallen world, there will always be evil and as a result – such evil will create events that make us question whether God is able to do anything about it.  It can make us wonder whether He cares.  We have all heard sentences like “How can a loving God allow _______? (fill in the blank).   But just because He does not choose to supernaturally intervene in a particular situation does not mean He cannot.  It also does not mean He is impervious to our suffering.  God is a cause and effect God.  He is a reaping and sowing God.  We see this most clearly in the natural law of gravity.

God placed the natural law of gravity into effect and allows that natural law to govern our physical world.  What goes up, must come down.  If I were to walk off a bridge, I would immediately fall.  No one questions that.  No one complains that God is unfair when He lets people violate that natural law.  You do not hear questions like, “How can a loving God allow that man to fall to his death after he walked off a bridge?”  We understand that is the natural consequence of violating that natural law.   Can God stop or suspend the natural law of gravity?  Absolutely.  But does He?  Not often.   And because He chooses not to, that does not mean He is not sovereign over the law of gravity.  It also does not mean He does not care about what is falling.  He put the law into effect and we learn best when He does not tamper with those laws.  Likewise, it is the same with His moral law.

So, next time you are taking an overseas trip or becoming concerned about when your teenager is coming home with the car, remember that God is sovereign.  Whether you lose your job or get diagnosed with cancer, remember that God is sovereign.  Next time you lose a relative or lose some money or get a flat tire or get a speeding ticket – remember He is still sitting on His throne and paying close attention.  He is simply letting the law do what it does best… point to your need for grace.

Like a Grandmaster of chess, He allows us to make foolish, sinful moves.  He is never caught off guard with our poor decisions or their natural consequences.  He can even take the most sinister evil move and make good come out of it… eventually (Romans 8:28).  Sometimes He even lets us see that good end result this side of eternity.  Though He allows us to move some pieces the game will end exactly as He plans.  (Gotta read the Bible for that – I am not spoiling that spectacular ending here). And regardless how you may feel, at no point does He stop caring (I Peter 5:7).

God is in complete control of all areas of life and nothing comes across your desk unless it has first been approved at His desk above.


In God’s world, “everything happens for a reason” – HIS reason.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?  And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?  And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.   But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!   Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’   “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25-34