Beautiful Scars: His Faithfulness in Our Wounds

One of the things that get me out of bed in the morning is a growing desire to cooperate with God as He tries to open the eyes of individuals – myself included – who have become dangerously comfortable with their own life of sin. As life has taken me deeper into the sufferings of others, I have come to a place where I actually find myself “celebrating” the arrival of God’s discipline, but this is particularly so wherever there is (perhaps) still some hope for salvaging marriages and reconciling other important relationships.

“Celebrate” may seem like too strong a word, unkind even, but I would push back and argue that intentionally reorienting our perception of our earthly sufferings is thoroughly biblical (Romans 5:3; Hebrews 12:11; James 1:2). Obviously, one needs to approach another’s suffering with compassion first and foremost; knowing when to begin turning the conversation toward God’s faithfulness in our suffering requires a tremendous amount of prayer, relational love and tact.

The primary reason I am encouraged by the obvious onset of God’s discipline in the life of anyone I meet is that I see it as evidence of God’s steadfast and merciful love for that sinner. The Lord disciplines those He loves (Proverbs 3:12); there are multiple examples of God’s intervening discipline in the lives of His people throughout Scripture (Numbers 12:1-10; Jonah 1:14-17; Job 1:13-22; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10).

Conversely, rather than working toward gratefully receiving God’s discipline, He can instead give us over to our sinful desires. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 1 in a way that makes me shudder. We all know people who are so comfortable in their sin that they have no idea that they are racing toward hell. “God gave them over…” (Romans 1:18-32)

And we all know plenty of people who seem to have been given over entirely to their sins, right? So whenever I meet someone whose life has been wrecked by sin and he or she is scrambling to find Jesus within the mess, I find myself “sorrowfully rejoicing” that God is still trying to get through to this sinner.

My own story often serves as the paradigm by which I am given “access” into the lives of others. To be blunt, my first marriage ended in 1997 due in large part to the fact that I was a terrible husband, an incorrigible drunk and a committed hater of God’s Word. The divorce unleashed all kinds of suffering in my life, and it is only now – with the great benefit of hindsight – that I see how God was bringing suffering to me at exactly the right time; He was using the emptiness and pain of the alcoholic lifestyle to pull the scales from my eyes and help me look to Him for deeper meaning and purpose. Today, I can honestly praise Jesus for unleashing a season of hell.

For God’s glory and another shot at repentance, then, I am deeply grateful for each and every person who is experiencing existential pain as a result of sin.

Statistics tell us that the vast majority of men are regularly giving themselves over to pornography and yet, in my experience, very few of those men actually suffer from pangs of conscience or seek treatment in any way unless/until real consequences start to come upon them. The sad truth is that a teenager who begins to “dabble” in porn can have every reasonable expectation that the vice will become habitual, probably even addictive, and he can also be reasonably confident that this form of sexual brokenness will unleash hell in his marriage further on up the road, perhaps even lead to divorce. That path is normative. But try to tell a young man that before he’s suffered any painful consequences and he tends to turn a deaf ear. He still thinks he can “control” the outcome of his sin.

Thank God for those men whose hearts have been awakened by the pain of logical consequences. And let’s especially thank God for those whose sinful lifestyles have been wrecked at a point where there is yet some hope of being reconciled with those who have been directly affected.

All that said, if I could change one thing about my own life – and the lives of so many men I’ve gotten to know – it’s that I would seek to “unstop our deaf ears” and repent of willful patterns of sin before God lovingly intervenes with lifelong consequences. It’s one thing to be a great husband with a long trail of pain and brokenness in your past, but how much better to put to death our sinful lifestyles before God allows the wounding.

“Lord God, I pray that You would continue to show me Your love by denying me ultimate satisfaction in anything apart from You. Make me a better husband and father now, before I destroy the blessings You have so graciously given me. Amen.”

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