“If you want everyone to like you, don’t be a pastor. Go sell ice cream.” ~Ed Stetzer
People want to be liked. This seems especially true for pastors and ministry leaders, and rightfully so. Wanting to be appreciated by those we’ve committed our lives to serve is only natural. Yet we know that some people will not like us no matter what, as there are a few ornery goats in every flock.
Everyone gets wounded, and we all have scars to prove it—the stronger one’s need to be liked, the more likely that person is to get hurt. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about wounds and scars. Have you ever considered the difference between the two? Scars are wounds that have healed. Whereas wounds are fresh, and therefore, still hurt.
My mountain biking friends and I used to have this saying, “If you ain’t bleeding, you ain’t riding.” That motto caused us to ride more daringly than we typically would’ve. It also caused us to bleed more regularly than we typically would’ve.
If you’ve ever fallen off a skateboard and landed on your knees or wrecked a bicycle on the pavement, then you’re familiar with the term “road rash.” Wounds are like road rash. They’re fresh and tender to the touch; they make us uncomfortable.
Once, I wrecked my mountain bike so badly that I couldn’t wear pants for a week. My legs were cut up to the point that any material rubbing against them caused discomfort. When Sunday came, I didn’t feel that preaching in shorts would go over very well at the church I was pastoring. So, I wrapped my legs in bandages to keep my slacks from touching the wounds on my legs.
Heather waited on me hand and foot while I was on the mend—I thoroughly enjoyed that part. Seriously, when we are wounded, we often need someone to take care of us. We need special attention. In that regard, our wounds impact the people around us. As Christians, we should always be willing to help people who are hurt. Part of our job is to bring healing to the brokenhearted. However, what do we do with the folks who tend to stay wounded?
I’ve known people to lick their wounds so often that they never heal. It’s as if they can’t resist the temptation to pick off the scab. When does the time come for us to help them wrap bandages around their legs, put their pants on, and get back to living life? If that time never comes, then we’re likely enabling their hurt instead of helping them heal.
Redeeming The Pain
Pastors and ministry leaders are especially prone to wounds, as they are excellent targets for the enemy’s fiery darts. Think about all the church battles, gossip, power plays, individual agendas, and personal attacks that take place in the one place that should be safer than anyplace. Those on the frontlines of ministry face these issues frequently. It brings new meaning to the old saying about getting “stabbed in the back.”
It has been said that pastors need the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros. This is more than a witty saying; it’s true. Over the years, my prayer has specifically been, “Lord, give me a soft heart, a strong spirit, weak knees, and thick skin.”
Learning not to take things personally doesn’t come naturally for many people. The only way to avoid taking attacks personally is by learning to navigate the emotions that go with them. This is a gift that comes with time.
Open wounds have the potential to lead to a calloused heart. If we refuse to take the proper steps toward healing, eventually, the people around us stop responding the way we think they should. In turn, we become hardened toward those closest to us. Then it becomes easy for us to start throwing darts. When that happens, we become like the enemy.
On the other hand, when wounds heal properly, they become scars. Scars become testimonies when we allow God to redeem our pain. A good testimony is a powerful witness to the grace of God at work in our lives. Then, as the Holy Spirit leads us to share our stories, they become a source of hope for others.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov. 4:23). A hard heart is a dangerous thing. It leads to emotional numbness, spiritual insensitivity, and it separates us from the ones who love us the most. Again, it’s important to remember, “Above all else, guard your heart…”
Scars are injuries that have ceased to be wounds as healing has taken place. Though there is evidence of a former injury, there is no pain or discomfort. Scars mark us forever. They serve as a permanent reminder of God’s redeeming grace.
Reflecting on the scars of life helps us remember the hard-fought battles. Scars provide a lens that allows us to see that God was there even when we didn’t recognize it. They offer proof that God cares for us completely—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
When our scars become stories, they offer hope to those who may be facing similar battles. When people facing difficult situations identify healing in someone who has endured the same fight, it becomes a powerful source of strength. This is the fruit of recovery.
Are you wounded? Is there an area in your life where you keep picking off the scab? If your wounds are not healing after an ample amount of time, you likely need to seek help from a trusted source. Life is too short to spend extended periods paralyzed by past heartaches.
Sometimes we convince ourselves that we’re over stuff. However, if we aren’t, yet pretend to be, we’re making things worse in reality. Convincing ourselves of healing that isn’t valid leads to resentment. This infects our personality and hinders our ministry. When bitterness sets in, our speech and actions toward others become toxic. You may not even notice it, but rest assure, others do.
The only way to properly nourish our wounds is through earnest prayer, godly counsel, and applying biblical truth to our lives. Remember, God provides the grace we need for any situation through our connection to Him, others, and His Word.
The road to recovery starts with prayer. Prayer is the beginning of forgiveness. Forgiveness is essential in guarding against a calloused heart. Forgiveness, coupled with gratitude, helps our wounds heal the way they should.
If it still stings, you don’t have a scar yet; you have a wound. If you still have a wound, you had better see that it doesn’t get infected and cause even more heartache. Don’t waste another minute living with the pain of the past. Seek the Lord, reach out to someone you trust, and let God bring the healing that only He can.