By: Pastor Carey Dean
These are things we avoid. They result from pain and often leave a lasting marked reminder of an undesired moment. The wounds being referred to are not self-inflicted wounds, but rather wounds from an outside source, specifically from within the church itself. Physical wounds break the surface; emotional wounds go deep into the soul; but the deepest of all are wounds of the spirit. The spiritually wounded are all around us.
As a pastor, I have a unique view of God’s glorious working, as well as man’s fleshly striving. Flesh has no respecter of person or position. Its beckoning to achieve self-preservation and personal agenda reaches from the pulpit to the pew. It is sadly ironic how what should be the safest place (the church) can become a personal battlefield. The church is God’s good design for a lived-out devotion to His Word, one another, Christ’s accomplished work, and prayer among His people (Acts 2:42). The church is God’s good design created to breathe and live as the body of Christ, His hands, feet, and mouthpiece to a lost and dying world. This design is for God’s glory, our good, and the world’s knowing of Jesus.
But the church is made of people like you and me, who are frail and always capable of a return to the old, fleshly acts of man. Our flesh is devoted to something wholly different than the devotion of the revived spirit. The flesh’s devotion is to the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I. The church gathered is the most likely place for spiritual wounds because it is where spirit’s devotion is challenged by flesh’s devotion in each of us every time we enter the intended holy space.
When the wound occurs
The hardest wounds to bear are the ones that come unexpectedly. The deepest wounds are those occurring inside once trusted relationships. When we are wounded, we respond in one of three ways: fight back with our flesh; run away in our flesh; or count it all joy in our spirit.
For me, ministry has involved more wounds than I can count. Each wound has a date-stamp that has healed, but the scar remains. The wounds have come from both fellow pastors and church members alike. In the first years of ministry, my response to being wounded was patterned by running away in my flesh as a victim. I wanted to get as far away as possible from the pain and hide inside the deepest cave I could create.
My running ended one day inside the cave called depression. In that cave I realized I could run no more. Jesus met me in that cave and invited me to see wounds in a completely different way… with joy. In that cave, He taught me how my flesh wants to run and hide. We walked out of that cave together. To see clearly my flesh’s natural response of being hurt was an important revelation. He not only showed me flesh’s response, but also showed me the impossible response found only in Christ. He invited me to press into Himself with complete dependence instead of running away from man.
The choice of pressing into Christ birthed a joy in the pain that could only be the fruit of His Spirit in me. Commands that shook my foundations were found in verses like Romans 5:3, “rejoice in suffering” and the very familiar, but rarely experienced, James 1:2, “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”
How hope is known
The Lord is so kind to make our walk with Him a journey. Each step by faith is an important one. He desires one thing for us: to know Him. Wounds offer us an invitation to walk with Jesus through the pain. He wants to be the One who defines the wound and authors our response to the one who has wounded us. Jesus will open our eyes to how we were guilty of inflicting the greatest of wounds upon Him and were met with only His grace and mercy. To the extent we embrace the receiving of grace from Jesus Himself we will have the capacity to extend the same to those causing our wounds.
The verses mentioned previously (Romans 5:3 and James 1:2) have a common word that immediately follows the seemingly impossible commands. The word is “know.” Jesus came so that we would know Him. Jesus Himself declared in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” So we must believe that even the wounds, especially the wounds, become a way of knowing something good, wonderful, and marvelous about the life of Christ alive in us.
Be encouraged, my wounded friend, in the knowing of Christ and His good design for your life in Him. Hear what both Paul and James tell us to expect to know as we rejoice in the wounds: Paul (suffering produces endurance—produces character—produces hope); James (trials produce steadfastness—produces a full effect of completion, lacking in nothing). And the Word tells that hope never disappoints.
When wounds become sacred
The very wounds I cried out for removal have now become my treasured scars. They are the places where I remember not what man did to me, but instead who Jesus became to me: Healer, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, and Friend. The wounds are my testimony of His grace toward me and have become a reminder to extend grace to those around me.
Many allow a wound to be the reason for leaving the physical church. Sometimes that is necessary when ungodly spiritual abuse prevails, but most often that is not the case. The church is not made of brick and mortar, but it is a place. It is a place of gathered believers built to live and breathe as the body of Christ… learning to love, extend grace and forgive “one-another” as Christ has loved us, and be a living testimony of how the impossible is possible in Christ of counting it all joy in every trial.
Carey Dean serves as Executive Pastor at First Baptist Church, Merritt Island, Florida.