Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Memories can be tough sometimes, especially memories of sad times. Years after a hard event–the loss of a loved one, a terrible accident, the destruction of a family home, a physical attack–the remembrance of such a thing can cause us to weep anew. It’s not that we dwell on such things, not that we seek out the pain, but it’s just that human memories are so fickle and so easily drawn to the surface by seemingly random events. One moment we’re driving down the road listening to a favorite song, and then we smell something in the air or see a road sign or hear a radio commentator say something, and next thing we know, in our minds we’re driving down bad memory lane. And then we cry hard tears, and wracking sobs overwhelm us, and it seems like we are there again, right in the middle of that tragic event.
We have been assured that one day “God will wipe away every tear” from our eyes, that He shall remove the death and the sorrow and the crying. Those will be part of the “former things” that will pass away when God creates the new heaven and new earth wherein the saved shall dwell eternally. But why doesn’t He wipe away those tears now? Why doesn’t He remove the sorrow and the crying this morning, right away? Why must we still live with these mental scars and these memories of terrible things?
I wish I had a quarter for every time someone has quoted (and mis-quoted) Romans 8:28 to me since my wife died two years ago. That would be at least a month’s rent! That verse has become so much a part of our modern popular theology, our personal philosophy of pain, that we sometimes just accept painful things as “part of God’s plan.” It is true that a mature Christian will not see pain as part of “God’s plan,” but most Christians are unfortunately not so mature. The mature view–and the sense in which Paul meant that verse–is that despite the harsh things that happen to us in this broken world, God’s ultimate plan is to give us “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11), to take what seems intended for evil and turn it to good. (Genesis 50:20) God does this, of course, by taking our trials and turning them into triumph for the gospel, by drawing us closer to Him and building up our faith.
1 Peter 1:6-9
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,
7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,
8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
9 receiving the end of your faith–the salvation of your souls.
And it’s those scars we bear now that strengthen our faith, that lead us from perseverance to character to hope, and, as Paul says, “hope does not disappoint” because we come to greater knowledge of the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 5:3-5)
So what does all this have to do with our Savior’s scars? Just as we still bear the mental, emotional, and physical scars of our trials, so, too, does our Lord bear the scars of His crucifixion for our sins. Jesus is still marked by His suffering for us, and He bears those wounds so that WE remember. He physically showed them to Thomas, and He continues to “show” them through the witness of the gospel, so that we do not forget what He has done for us. And I, for one, weep every time I think about the depth of God’s love for us in that terrible and tragic and glorious and redeeming moment.
The long and the short of it is that we are not meant to forget the painful events of our lives nor the painful price of our salvation. But nor must we dwell upon them. God will wipe away the sorrow, but the memory of what we have faced and how He turned it to good will live on. The pain of those memories will fade in the light of the gospel of Christ, but the memories themselves will remain. The memories that now overwhelm us will just make us love Jesus all the more in that day when sadness and crying are gone. The remembrance of things past will be only to God’s glory and praise, for through all our trials He never left our side, He never forgot us, He always remembered our pain and came to bear it with us.
Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) I have not yet seen the end of my own sorrows, nor have I had all my tears wiped away, nor have I touched the wounds of my Savior–and yet, I believe. I believe that He has died for me, that He has risen again, and that He shall return one day in glory. I believe that the fiery trials I have faced and will face will all be to His glory and praise. I believe that though the crying will one day be done, I will yet remember how He bore me on eagle’s wings through all the terrible times to get to the good times. I believe that Jesus Christ my Lord will one day touch my scars and heal them forever. That is the hope that lies at the end of my present trials, and I will not give up that hope, that faith. I will not give up on Jesus.
So, let us bear our scars not proudly but humbly, knowing that One bears greater scars than ours. Let us never forget how God has held us close through the burden of memories we now carry. Let us always remember the gospel and glory of Jesus Christ. Let us cling to the hope of our adoption as sons and daughters of God. Let us remember that all we experience now in this broken world is truly just passing, truly a “former thing” that shall be left behind but not forgotten in that glorious eternity with Christ. Yes, our scars and memories are hard on us now, but if we hold fast to the memory of our Savior, then one day our faith will be rewarded by eternal life with no tears nor sorrow but only praise and glory for the one true and living God.
Holy Lord, each day is a struggle in this world, and yet the hope I carry in my heart makes the burdens easier to bear. Truly Your yoke is easy and burden light, and my own sorrow fades as I remember the Man of sorrows by whose wounds I am healed. Teach my heart to find joy and goodness in Your gospel that will drive back the sadness and crying I now face. Show me, Father God, how to bear this burden of memories to Your glory. Help me to see how I may use it to serve You more. Amen.