Rebecca Manley Pippert in her book “Hope Has Its Reasons” makes a strong declaration. She says, “To be human is to be wounded!”
Can you identify with that? Have you ever been wounded by parents, by guys on the team who picked you last, by ungrateful children, by the cutting remarks of your spouse, or perhaps even by co-workers who are so busy clawing their way up the corporate ladder that you are just another rung to step on during their climb?
Bonnie Ware, an Australian nurse, has spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. As Ware walked with her patients through the final stages of their lives, she witnessed how many of her patients gained “phenomenal clarity of vision” as they approached death. Ware claims, “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again.”
According to Ware, these are the top five regrets of the dying: (1) I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Bonnie Ware added, “Health brings a freedom few realize, until they no longer have it.” (2) I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. Ware observed, “This [regret] came from every male patient that I nursed.” (3) I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. “Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others …. Many [patients] developed illnesses related to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.” (4) I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends. “There are many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.” (5) I wish I’d let myself be happier. “Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits.”
Each of these wishes is in some way an expression of the wounded condition of the human spirit. We have all been there before, haven’t we? Whether it be the uncertainty of our future, the seeming inadequacy of our finances, or the frustration of family or friend relationships, there is not a soul on the face of this earth who has not found themselves expressing these wishes at some point in their life. But the real question is how do we get through it?
The Lord Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me… To bind up the brokenhearted,” (Luke 4:17-19). He was quoting the Old Testament Scriptures written by the prophet Isaiah who added “…To grant consolation and joy to those who mourn… giving them an ornament of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment of praise… instead of a heavy, burdened and failing spirit… ” (Isaiah 61:1-3). In these verses we see the Lord telling us that He is here to bind up our broken and wounded hearts, to comfort and give us joy when we’re sad, and to make sure that I am looking up instead of down, walking forward instead of moping in self-pity, and rejoicing no matter what.
While I may experience all of those distressing things – ashes, mourning and a heavy, burdened-down and failing spirit – the Lord tells me that I do not have to. He is telling me that even though being human is to be wounded, that does not mean I have to stay that way. God says that whatever my wound is, however deeply I have been disappointed, whatever the fear that seems to terrorize me, I do not have to remain that way. The Great Physician, Jesus Christ Himself, was also wounded … deeply. He has but one desire and that is to bind up my wounds.
In his book “When Life Is Hard”, pastor and author James MacDonald shares a valuable lesson he learned during his days as a basketball player. He wrote: “I played a lot of basketball back in the day. I sprained my ankles many times, and I learned too late that the best way to handle all that black-and-blue is to fill a wastebasket with ice and top it off with water. Then, while the injury is fresh, put your wounded foot deep into that cold water and leave it there.
“If you can last for one minute, it’s just crazy painful. But if you can keep it in there for two minutes, the injury and its recovery time will be cut in half. …If you can hang on for two and a half minutes, you can be playing basketball again by Thursday, but the pain of holding your foot in that arctic water will have you crying out for someone to bring you a sharp object. Even with my worst injuries I seldom made it two and a half minutes.
But here is the amazing thing about “remaining under the pain” of having your foot in that cold bucket: If you can hang in there for three minutes, you’ll be walking on it tomorrow. The pain will be consuming those last 30 seconds, worse by far than the injury itself now. But you will walk tomorrow.
MacDonald concludes: “It is just that way with trials. You can come to the place where the circumstance itself is less painful than the commitment not to give up.”
Wounded hearts and spirits are in many ways more painful than sprained ankles. The beauty is that through Christ, if we will let Him in and endure that pain for a season, we will not only walk again, but we will also walk again well and joyfully. Isn’t that what we all want? Let’s not die with a handful (and heart full) of unfulfilled wishes and regrets. Let Him in to heal and to help.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor who now resides in Florida.. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.