Stories of the past provide hope for the future. And yet, our story – God’s story – is not yet complete. Some wounds won’t be completely healed, some pain won’t be totally relieved, some injustices won’t be fairly corrected, and some deep longings won’t be fully met until Jesus returns to reign and return us to our eternal home with Him.
Because of sin in our lives and sin in the world, we are wounded people. Over the course of 30 years in church ministry, I have heard painful stories about father wounds, mother wounds, family wounds, divorce wounds, friendship wounds, church wounds, pastor wounds, failure wounds, betrayal wounds and the list goes on and on. I’ve personally experienced some deep wounds of failed ministry and broken friendships, as well. Just as painful are the stories of well-intended “counselors” who have given unhelpful advice: “time heals all wounds,” “let go and trust God,” “forgive and forget,” “stop dwelling on the past,” and on it goes. Job’s friends still live among us.
For our deepest wounds, some may never heal on this side of Heaven.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic, Lord of the Rings, pictures this biblical reality and personal struggle extremely well. In the first book of the trilogy, while at the Prancing Pony Inn, Frodo Baggins slips on the Ring of Power, instantly becoming invisible, but this action also immediately draws the Ringwraiths (the Black Riders) to him. When the Black Riders attack the inn, the hobbits are forced to trust Strider, a friend of Gandalf’s and a wounded king in his own way, to escape. Strider takes them through the wilderness toward Rivendell, an elf haven. The Black Riders catch them halfway at Weathertop, a ancient, ruined fort, and Frodo is stabbed with a lethal Morgul blade, causing him to drift between life and death. His companions rush him to Rivendell where the Elf Lord Elrond has the power to save his life. As Frodo recovers, Gandalf and Elrond discuss the seriousness of the wound. Gandalf says, “He has a wound that will never heal. He will carry it the rest of his life. It is a burden he should not have to bear.”
After the Ring of Power had been destroyed and all appears to be right with the world, the hobbits return home to the Shire but Frodo suddenly expresses agony. “Are you in pain, Frodo?” asked Gandalf quietly as he rode by Frodo’s side. “Well, yes I am. It is my shoulder. The wound aches, and the memory of darkness is heavy on me. It was a year ago today.” “Alas!” said Gandalf, “There are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured.” “I fear it may be so with mine,” replied Frodo. “There is no real going back. Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same. I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden. Where shall I find rest?” Gandalf did not answer… Once back at the Shire, one evening Sam came into the study and found Frodo looking very strange. He was very pale, and his eyes seemed to see things far away. “What’s the matter, Mr. Frodo?” said Sam. “I am wounded,” he answered, “wounded; it will never really heal.” It is later revealed that Frodo has bouts of sickness, from time to time, resulting from the wound and what he suffered on his quest. Time with his friends in the Shire will not heal the wound. Frodo can only be ultimately healed by traveling to the Undying Lands. Tolkien is making a powerful point: There are some wounds that are so deep, they are never meant to heal in this lifetime.
Some wounds (divorce, betrayal, false accusations, broken relationships, loss) are so deep, they will only finally, completely heal when we see Jesus face-to-face. Yes, we can lean into Jesus by faith today, get help with godly counselors, and be controlled by God’s Spirit rather than our pain. And, yes, there is joy that comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5) and God’s mercies are new each day (Lamentations 3:22-24). I rejoice that I’ve experienced God’s grace, mercy, and love that has kept me from becoming paralyzed in this world. But incomplete healing and the deepest longings of our soul remind us that this is world is not our eternal home.
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”J.R.R. Tolkien’s friend, C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity”
The apostle John, exiled as a believer in Jesus on the island of Patmos with wounds of his own, describes what awaits believers in Jesus:
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. 3Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away. 5 Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” Revelation 21:1–5 (CSB)
Our emotional, relational wounds remind us that there is another land where the King of kings and Lord of lords will, one day, heal all our wounds, dry all our tears, and remove all our pain. A realistic expectation that time doesn’t heal all wounds and our eternal hope in Jesus’ ultimate healing in Heaven helps us hurt deeply and, yet, walk faithfully with Him.
Our spiritual wounds because of our own sin lead us to faith in Jesus who, “was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds” (Isaiah 53:5). The story and life of Jesus gives me hope for my future with Him in Heaven as I live with Him and for Him today here on Earth.
Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.