He was a father whose daughter had died seven years earlier. His words trembled and eyes were wet as he spoke to me just after I had poured out my heart at my young nephew, David’s, recent memorial service.
“Today, my heart has been healed.”
New and different tears filled my eyes as I grasped that something of the insight God had birthed in my heart just days before, had eased opened a door in his heart that had slammed shut when he lost the light of his life.
There were others too who shared with me that difficult day. Men and women who though weeping, told me how God’s word spoken in the middle of our situation that made no sense poured meaning into theirs that had made no sense for so long.
Two weeks later, after my Dad’s funeral where I had attempted to honor a broken man with my raw reflection on his beautiful gifts and painful flaws, my brother Ron said to me, “What you said today made sense.” Words from God’s heart passing through my heart encouraged healing in his heart.
You see, in those moments our family had made a decision–one unitedly declared through defiant tears: “We will not give in, give up or give out–and we will certainly not give our Enemy any credit. We will believe with faith what we cannot see with eyes.”
It reeked of raw and real hope. Those who needed that soul-food followed the aroma of grace.
Sometimes what seems like darkness to you, when exposed to the hurting heart of a fellow-sufferer is light. Your pain serves as a pinpoint of promise that causes another to believe he can make it through and what lies on the other side of the pain will be worth the journey.
Jesus said, “No one lights a lamp and then hides it, covering it over or putting it where its light won’t be seen. No, the lamp is placed on a lampstand so others are able to benefit from its brightness.” (Luke 8:16, Passion Translation)
Your greatest light may well shine from your darkest night.
I remember when I was attending my recovery groups what made the difference was the men who could say, “I have been there. You can make it.” There was an undeniable veracity in those words of experience.
When our children were struggling in ways that appeared capable of ruining their lives, real assurance came through people who had seen their children come through those flames scarred, but bolder and stronger. There was an unassailable confidence in those words of encouragement.
It is the friendship of the foxhole. It is the bond shared with those comrades who are forged with us and fixed to us in the searing flames of battle.
Every veteran in my family speaks in reverent emotional tones about the “brothers” they stood with in combat. Something is formed in the foxhole that lasts far beyond the battlefield.
Unfortunately, most of us hide the broken areas of our lives most of the time. Whether out of fear, denial or shame we cover the scars that could make all the difference in the world for those passing through our familiar flames.
In his letters, the Apostle Paul often shared the darker chapters of his story because he knew it would bring light into the shadowed corners of suffering for his friends. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
- What have you been through that you didn’t think you’d make it through?
- When have you endured the unendurable but come out on the other side?
- Where did you face down your fiercest fears sure that you were going to die, but somehow survived and emerged stronger for it?
This may well be the locus of your purpose.
Your battle scars serve as healing balm applied to the open wounds of someone who right now isn’t sure they will make it through what you know they can.
It means the world to a person in pain when another shares love that really understands and words of wisdom outlined with scars. There is an irreplaceable comfort and irrepressible hope in the presence of someone who has really been where you are and invites you to follow their trail of tears.
That comfort is:
- Authentic–full of the nutrients of life that sustain the soul.
- Empathetic–rich with compassion that is birthed in shared sorrows.
- Mystic–profound in its ability to reach the hidden hurts of the heart.
This kind of love isn’t a trite “I know how you must feel” coming from a well-meaning person who doesn’t have a clue. It is the earthy and visceral “I know what that feels like” that comes from someone who isn’t speaking in theory but with authority.
This may have been part of what the old Apostle meant when he said, “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body…” (Colossians 1:24). Or what Peter referred to as “participating in the sufferings of Christ”. (1 Peter 4:13).
They knew that every person in a foxhole needs a friend who will share the pain and fight side-by-side until the battle is over.