A Word to the Wounded

I want to start by acknowledging that none of us are perfect; we’re all damaged goods. Some more than others, but everyone has issues.

A few years ago, while attending the Army’s flight surgeon course, a soldier spoke to our class about his suicidal episode. He attributed his survival to a single medical provider (physician assistant) who took the time to listen to him and he wanted to express his gratitude to other members of the profession. He encouraged us to show the same compassion and watch for signs of depression.

Throughout the presentation, he referred to himself as a “suicide survivor” at least a dozen times. Although he never attempted suicide, he explained that he seriously considered it. I was glad he received counseling and made it through a difficult period in his life, but 7 years later he was still telling the same story every few weeks. Now, I know you are thinking “Damn, that’s harsh,” but allow me to explain.

He was hurting. He got help. He made it. Awesome, but 7 years is a long time. I understand it may benefit someone else and I am not making light of it, but I question the wisdom in continuing to refer to your darkest moment as your chief characteristic. Like many others, he found purpose and meaning through struggle and perseverance. I hear similar statements from cancer survivors, recovering alcoholics, recovering drug addicts, abused spouses, and adults molested as children. It takes a toll, but they make it.

My brother does this. With complete strangers, he recounts the story of crashing his motorcycle while drunk driving without a helmet. He uses it to validate his existence and sees it as an accomplishment. He doesn’t recognize that it’s better to never have the experience to share in the first place. Most people find meaning in much less destructive ways.

However, such people are uniquely qualified to help others suffering from the same demons. They can relate. A former drug addict makes the best drug counselor. All AA group members start by saying “Hi, I’m Tom, Bob, Sue… and I am an alcoholic. A widow can best console the grieving. God does not give people more than they can handle, but he does allows some to bear more pain than others. Do not, however, confuse this with willful human evil and sin.

In Christ, you are a new creation. The old you is put to death. You are not the wretched sinner that modern Christian songs portray, but a redeemed saint in the Kingdom of God. I wish they would quit spouting that nonsense; it creates nothing but a guilt trip. Stop associating yourself with your darkest despair, secret shame, worst decision, and in many cases, something entirely beyond your control such as cancer, molestation, or abuse. That is not who you are meant to be. Continuously speaking it back into existence will hurt you. Allow God to cast it away, wash you clean, and make you whole. Life is unfair. There will always be trials to overcome. Use them to teach others, but quit building your life around them. If God does not see you that way, it is time for a change.

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