Category Archives: suffering

Scarred for Life

When I was six years old, my parents took my sister, a friend of hers, a friend of mine, and me to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. I don’t remember the museum from that trip; what I remember happened after the trip. Sheila’s friend was dropped off, and my friend Bobby was to be next.  All of us were in my dad’s dark gray Dodge Ram. It had a beige topper on back, and on the bed of the truck, my dad had put down blue carpet stapled to plywood, and on top of that two long benches (complete with hinged tops for storage) which straddled the wheel-wells, and one short one to go at the front of the bed between the other two.  The topper was high enough that we kids could sit comfortably on the benches, but the benches were low enough to lie down on.  At some point in the day it started raining. When we got to Bobby’s house, my dad opened the topper (but not the tailgate) and Bobby climbed out. I was soon out as well to make sure he got safely inside. As I stepped out, I slipped on the wet metal bumper. All would have been fine if my dad had not had a connection for a CB antennae put on. When I slipped, the side of my leg fell onto that connection. I began to cry so loudly. My dad wasn’t concerned (after all, I’m told I was quite the cry-baby); but my mom got concerned when I wouldn’t calm down. She asked me to pull up my pant leg so they could take a look. When my pant leg got near my knee, it was clear that things were not okay. I had a triangular gash in my leg so deep one could see the bone. They rushed me to the nearest hospital (Community Hospital in Munster, IN) where I received 100+ stitches (inside and out).  A few weeks later I was back to playing around as always.

Let’s flash forward a few years. I still have that scar on my leg, along with a scar on my knee I got when I was a baby (fell on some glass). These scars feel completely different. The scar on the knee doesn’t bother me too much. It’s visible, but it simply feels like skin. The scar on my leg from the accident when I was six, that scar bothers me. For one it itches quite a bit, and if I am not careful I will find myself concentrating on that itch, doing my best to get it to quit–often times at the expense of having a raw leg. But more importantly, it feels wretched when it’s touched. So usually, I don’t actually scratch the scar, but the skin around the scar.  I have never been able to find the words to describe the feeling my leg gets when my scar is touched. I try never to touch it, and if someone brushes up against it, I instinctively recoil from the touch and that person. I hate that scar, but I’m stuck with it. Why God orchestrated all that went into giving me that scar, I may never know.

Here’s what I do know: many people have scars, some outward and some inward and often times it’s both. Some are scarred due to one event, while others are scarred because of a recurring event or a succession of events.  Like my scar, their scars leave them with an itch that needs to be scratched.  They constantly desire attention. They tickle the mind, tickle the memories. Before long, the scratching begins with the hope of stopping the itch. All focus is spent on stopping the itch. Almost anything is an option when that scratching begins; sometimes the itch leads to what many (un-scarred peopled) would be unthinkable actions. It sometimes stops, but sometimes the itch goes deeper and deeper. Before long the emotional and spiritual nerves are raw. I know how my leg feels when it’s been scratched raw, but I can only imagine the pain that these scars bring.

If you know someone who has these internal scars, don’t be surprised if they don’t want anyone to touch them. Don’t be shocked if that person recoils from you emotionally or physically because “you went there” and yet completely unable to explain the reason or describe the feeling. Generally speaking, it isn’t personal. It’s simply a defense mechanism. Generally speaking, like with my leg, there are no words that can describe how the scar has affected them.

That being said. . .the question that arises is: what do I do to help? Pray for their healing; go to God in the name of Jesus and plead their case. Sit with them in silence. Weep with them when they weep. Let them know you’re there (remind them often; remembers scars cause them to recoil and often they believe that their own recoiling causes friends and family to recoil as well). Remember the itch that comes, the desire to scratch, and understand that it is relentless. Encourage them through the itching, but don’t be angry or dismayed if the scratching commences. Love them through it.  Remember, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity,” (Proverbs 17:17, ESV). You don’t have to heal the scar; you can’t. Only Christ can, so make prayer your default mission; pray for them and pray with them as often as you can.

As always, I appreciate any feedback. If I am wrong, please help me to see how. If I have been a blessing, please leave a comment as well. If this has been a blessing to you or you believe it would be to someone else, by all means share it on your social media page (just highlight the link, copy, and paste). I look forward to reading your comments.

Yes, Jeremiah 29:11 Is For You, Christian (Just Not in the Way You May Think)

I love life-verses, but only in such a way that describes what one aspires to be or do or perhaps even find hope. I have a life-verse: Proverbs 27:23 – “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds.” This is my life-verse as a pastor. It is that which I aspire to do. I want to make sure I am staying in contact with the flock under my care. That doesn’t mean I am perfect or even great at doing so, but it is what I aspire to do. I want to know how they are doing spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

One life-verse that often gets thrown around is Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” The issue that I have with using Jeremiah 29:11 is that people tend not to understand it in context. Misunderstanding (or not knowing) the context can absolutely lead to misunderstanding the verse itself.  That being said. . .I am not one of those people who say something like, “Jeremiah 29:11 is not for you.” Because of this verse being taken out of context for so long and so often, many have swung the pendulum way to far to the other side, declaring that this verse is not for Gentiles. I can get that mentality if they mean (and only mean) that this was written to exiled Jews in Babylon. But even still, to me that’s like saying, “2 Corinthians 2:17 is not for you; it was written to the Christian church in Corinth.”

Quickly, I want to take you into a better understanding of how you can “claim” Jeremiah 29:11 correctly. As with every verse, one must understand the context. It isn’t hard to get there; it’s explicit in verse 4 of the same chapter. “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” Notice three major points in this one verse: a) God is the LORD of hosts (as Chris Tomlin would say, He’s the God of angel armies), thus indicating that God is sovereign and almighty, b) This was written to those in exile, as already stated above. The question is: why are they in exile? That isn’t explicit in this verse. The reason for the exile is that the people had become completely disobedient to God and full of idolatry. The exile was God’s discipline. c) God did this (“I have sent”). This was God’s doing; God’s work; God’s discipline as a loving Father.

In the next few verses, God instructs the people to live life as close to normal as they can. The discipline is harsh, and no one is going to enjoy it, but seek to continue on in life. Get married, have babies, work, play, seek the welfare of those around you in exile (love your neighbor). But he also said not to listen to the false-prophets and diviners. Those people were telling the Jews that they wouldn’t be in exile very long. The truth is, they would be: 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10 – you know the verse right before the famous life-verse).  Having been told that this wasn’t going to be easy, but painful, but to carry on as best they can and to be careful that they ignore ungodly men because this discipline would last 70 years, God reassures them with the words, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

The exile was not to bring evil upon the people, but it was for their good. It was all part of the plan. It is often said that God loves you just the way you are. Yes, He does. But He also loves you too much to leave you in such a condition. His plan to take the Jews in and through the exile were good plans even though they were painful plans. Discipline was necessary in order to make the people into the people they were to be. Ultimately, He paved the way for their Messiah, their ultimate good. Their future good was delivered only through the exile. Their future hope was buried beneath the surface of discipline.

This verse was a verse of assurance so that the people in exile would know that this was not the end, but a portion of a greater plan. This is not the end of the Jews and not the end of God’s love for them. In that way, we can say, “Yes, Jeremiah 29:11 is for you, Christian.” As a believer, there will be times where we get off-track. We will not see our folly or we may ignore the clear warnings that we are in sin. There will be a time where we need to be disciplined, but take heart, that is not the end of the story. God still loves us. He is not abandoning us. He is not leaving us in our suffering. There is a future and a hope, but that comes only by way of discipline. We, therefore, ought not to give up, but keep going.

Jeremiah 29:11 (or perhaps Jeremiah 29:4-11) sounds similar to Hebrews 12:5-13. God disciplines those whom He loves so that we bear fruit of righteousness. Therefore, we accept it (though not enjoy it) and keep moving forward.

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

I love Jeremiah 29:11 in its context. I hope you do too. If you are a nay-sayer to Jeremiah 29:11, please let me know why. I’d love to read your comments. If this article was a blessing to you, please share that with me as well, also feel free to pass it on through social media by sharing.

All verses are from the ESV Bible, published by Crossway.