“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” – Romans 5:3-4

If you walk among the aspens, you’ll notice their scarred trunks. Many of the roundish blemishes are from branches that have fallen off, a natural part of the tree’s growth. Others, though, are more rugged. These irregularly shaped scars are usually the result of elk having chewed on the bark. Over time the wounds heal, but the scars remain as a testament of survival.

We all have scars. They are evidence of our past, and they make us unique. Our scars usually result from trauma – physical or emotional. For some it was abuse or neglect in childhood. Others of us carry scars from broken relationships, losses, accidents, illnesses, or threats. Many older people, looking back on their lives, acknowledge the pains they have endured, and still end up saying, “I wouldn’t change anything.” Why? Because they know they wouldn’t be the people they became over time without the events that sometimes wounded them.

We don’t have to be ashamed of our scars. They record our histories, they give evidence of our ability to survive, to heal. And they allow us to connect with those who recognize those scars as theirs, too.

Jesus was raised from the dead after a brutal crucifixion. He could have had any resurrection body he wanted, but he chose to keep his scars. They verified his identity to doubting disciples, and they still give evidence of his triumphant sacrifice for humankind.

Every scar we have represents pain that, by God’s grace, made us stronger, better, more like Christ. He didn’t hide his scars. We shouldn’t either.

Suffering is arguably God’s choicest tool in shaping the character of Christ in us. – Joni Eareckson Tada

Tougher Tests

“Consider it a sheer gift, friend, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way”. James 1:2-3 (The Message)

My dear friend and mentor had pancreatic cancer. She was living a very full life and one that had been unusually healthy. She had always taken such good care of her mind, body, and soul! Now this. It didn’t seem possible.

Never alone

You are never alone.

But when I talked to her, she was calm, joyful, and looking forward to whatever was to come next. She said things like, “I am never alone” and she led me into worship as never before. When I talked to her a few months ago about one of my own struggles, we compared notes. That’s when she said, “As we grow spiritually, the tests get tougher.”

Really? The tough test I was facing related to the fact that God was challenging me to spiritual growth? I was actually pleased to think that He loved me enough to invite me to go deeper with Him. Then I looked back at Marge and saw the real peace and sustained joy that she had in her trial and realized that she was up for the challenge. I would be, too. God will not give me a test that I cannot handle, but He will give me a test that will make me stronger and will increase my intimacy with Him.

If that’s what it takes to draw me closer to You, bring it on, Lord. I am grateful that You care enough to give me new opportunities to grow.

“Do not let me waste the trial You send me. It is a gold mine I must exploit.” – St. Therese