Many of us probably have friends who post a faux version of their lives on social media. They present personas without scars and lives unhindered by challenges or failures. That’s nothing new if you’ve been on any social media platform for some time. In truth, it’s how many of us live – seldom willing to be vulnerable, even with those closest to us. We hide our scars, often going through life as though we glide through challenges unscathed. For those watching on, that can be a little disconcerting, especially if they’re struggling. If you’re going through the slough of despond, it’s unlikely you’ll be keen on the company of someone who seems all put together. You probably want someone who can relate to your experiences in a way that resonates with you.
As Christians, God instructs us to comfort those in affliction with the comfort we received from Him in ours [2 Corinthians 1:3-4]. That instruction presupposes that we have scars, and more importantly, we’re prepared to show and share them. Christianity isn’t for those who have no struggles [Matthew 9:9-13]. It’s for people who need a Saviour. How would God get the glory if you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps? Where’s the testimony of God’s faithfulness if you’ve never had to face a situation beyond your capabilities? The truth is no one is self-sufficient. No one gets through life without scars. But, will we allow God to use our past and present scars for His glory?
The natural human predisposition isn’t humility. We don’t like to be seen as meek, vulnerable or weak, even though God’s power works best in our weakness [2 Corinthians 12:9], and Jesus literally asked us to emulate Him in being meek and humble [Matthew 11:29]. For many of us, the axiom that “God’s address is at the end of our tether” is a lived experience. For years, we schemed and hustled our way through life with varying degrees of success, but success nonetheless. We mapped out various strategies that would get us what we desired on our terms. As is the case often, something we didn’t account for or a situation beyond our resources emerges when we least expect and confounds us. Then slowly but surely, our idols, those machinations we trusted in instead of God, are exposed for what they are – worthless. Humbled and helpless, we find ourselves in a place of brokenness.
If we allow it, brokenness can be a prerequisite to encountering God’s grace and mercy [James 4:6]. That was the case with Jacob when his past finally caught up with him [Genesis 32]. Having deceived Isaac to steal the blessing intended for Esau, Jacob fled the promised land because his brother had sworn to kill him for his betrayal. Now, 20 years later, he’s about to come face to face with Esau. Jacob’s desperation is evident in the text. He schemes with his servants to appease his brother with gifts. Then he divides his family into camps to increase their chances of survival. Still not convinced his plan will work, he offers a desperate prayer to God to come to his aid. It’s such a relatable reaction. I know I’ve done the same thing many a time: I make plans, yet my lack of confidence in those plans compels me to pray. But I’m not entirely confident God will come through either, so I make even more plans to hedge my bets. At some point, akin to a fish pulled out of the sea, I stop splashing and surrender to the seemingly inevitable doom.
Jacob had his most significant encounter with God in that place of desperation and isolation [Genesis 32:22-32]. He experienced God’s tenderness, mercy, and grace and emerged with a new name – Israel. But, he also emerged from that encounter with a permanent limp to humble him and remind him that God was God, and he was not. That’s the beauty of the scars obtained from encountering God in the place of brokenness. They simultaneously tell a story of God’s love and faithfulness while reminding us of our limitations. Those scars eliminate our egos and simultaneously give us the credibility to share what we’ve learnt so that others can benefit from our experiences. For instance, Paul could write to Christians in Corinth about persecution because he had experienced it first-hand [2 Corinthians 11:24-30].
Solomon reminds us there’s nothing new under the sun [Ecclesiastes 1:9]. So, while our experiences might be nuanced, they aren’t unique [1 Corinthians 10:13]. Personally, it’s comforting to know that someone else has been through what I’m going through. However, I find it more helpful to speak to someone who has lived my present experience and is better for it. Their stories inspire me. But more importantly, their testimonies build my faith and encourage me to trust the God who delivered them. The God who didn’t allow their situation to consume them will do the same for me because He’s still the same God [Isaiah 43:1-2, Hebrews 13:8]. I’ve found that letting others see what God has done, or is doing in my life, is one of the most powerful ways to share the gospel [2 Corinthians 3:3].
The world judges credibility by success, but in God’s kingdom, the scars and limps obtained from the place of brokenness give us credibility. God can redeem any experience and use it to bless others to the glory of His name. Indeed, that’s the highest value any experience can possess. As such, don’t be ashamed of your scars and limps – your failures and weaknesses, and don’t idolise them either so that they don’t become a stumbling block for you or others. Instead, share them as a testimony of God’s faithfulness, even as the story unfolds, and watch God use your experiences to bless and lift others through your life.