Scars of Sanctification
Scars are strange things. A spill off your bike at age six can still be with you at sixty in the shape of some knobbly skin.
Scars are beautiful things. God made our bodies to heal, so scars are a triumph of health over injury. They serve as reminders that we mastered riding a bike, healed from an accident, recovered from surgery, or had a safe childbirth. Though the ugliness is a result of the fall, scars are a reminder of healing: the new skill brought joy; the injury healed; the surgery was successful. Stretch marks are a record of the cost that a mother is willing to pay in order to bring forth new life. In a Genesis 3 world, many scars are happy endings.
But scars can be painful things, too. They are visual—even tactile—reminders of suffering. Some will always hurt. Some bring more discouragement than thankfulness. These scars make you wish that you were free from a mortal, marred body. They are paths to walk, not past triumphs.
But for the Christian, any scar, regardless of the circumstance and level of pain or healing, will be a reminder of God’s providence and grace. Providence and grace are inseparable for the Christian. We can have redeemed scars that work for our good. Pain or no pain, there is incredible beauty in that. Even when scars are not happy endings, they remind us of the preciousness of life, which is sometimes preserved through scarring providences: an amputation or C-section scar reminds us of the cost that we sometimes pay for life, and thus the incredibly high value of that life.
Whether it’s the preservation of life and healing or hard lessons learned through suffering, our scars are truly for our sanctification and good. That doesn’t mean that we can always jump right to seeing beauty in them. Lessons of patience, self-denial, and contentment might come later. Those strengths start to clarify with time.
While we don’t need to pretend that scars are beautiful in themselves, we can treasure the lessons that they give us. They remind us to be humble. We live in mortal bodies that are perishing: “In the midst of life, we are in death.” Scars also remind us that life in any form comes at a cost, and none more costly than our eternal life.
In heaven, our scars will be gone (Eph. 5:27). Glorified bodies won’t bear the record of earthly pain—or even the gift of healing. The only scars in heaven are Christ’s. Those five marks on His resurrected body are a record of His willingness to pay the cost of our salvation. They are a picture of life bought at high, high cost. They are a picture of full redemption—healing at a deeper level than we can now fathom. Our bodies are included in redemption because the Lamb who was slain, the One on the throne, is the Lord and giver of life. Scars are reasons for praise.