He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:27-28 (NIV)
God has crafted humans with a highly developed sense of memory recall when we encounter certain situations or locations. And as a ministering person, there are moments when we step into situations that recall very vivid memories. Whether we stand by the bedside of dying congregation members, we sit with a couple who grieve infertility, or we lie down with the prayers for a wandering child, each ministering opportunity gives us the opportunity to reflect on and reexperience our own pain.
Having spent the first few months of my life in the hospital, there is something about the smell and sounds of medical facilities that makes me halt at the door. This is a check in my spirit, rooted in the muscle memory of needles, cold tools, and beeping monitors. As a preteen, I remember fighting my mother against seeing my father who had been hospitalized with a blood clot. Upon becoming a pastor, the Holy Spirit gave me a new sense of calling and power over this fear. Not that I ignored my racing heartbeat and sweaty palms, but this new calling gave me a new understanding and compassion for ministering in times of need. I could walk through those doors with a sense of purpose.
Perhaps while reading this, you are recalling your own moments of loss, trauma, and abuse. Know that the Father sees you, loves you, and grieves with you. Let Jesus speak to your heart about his own experience at the hands of the crowds, or even his abandonment by his own friends and family. Perhaps you even need to pause and recalled that the Father loves to “draw near to the brokenhearted.”
It’s in these moments when Christ-followers can step into our Gospel work more fully. The Good News of salvation goes beyond the rescue of souls and into the work of raising up new work on ruined foundations (see Isaiah 58 & Isaiah 61). When we’ve experienced Jesus’ love and healing power, we then can invite others to trace the outline of visible and invisible scars.
I’ve wrestled my whole life with the idea that Jesus was resurrected with the marks of His pain. And if we are called to be the presence of Jesus, then we follow in His footsteps. Jesus certainly experienced pain from Thomas and others abandoning him, a psychological and relational pain that cut just as deep as that spear in His side. When He later invited Thomas to place his hand in his wounds, His moment of vulnerability was what drew Thomas into belief. By His stripes, Thomas was healed on many levels.
As we serve, we follow His example and roll up our sleeves to display the outline of healed bites, scratches, and cuts and point to the Healer. We speak of the places where Jesus has given us victory over mental anguish, relational breakdown, or even financial difficulty. Those close to us might even hear us say, “Put your finger here… stop doubting and believe.”
Through this work, we join with the Apostle Paul in praise, for we know God comforts us so we might comfort others.
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. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV)
We may flinch. We may halt. But in the end, we give glory to God for His ongoing work of redemption and healing.