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Sermon Illustrations on Wounds

Background

How Do Porcupines Cuddle?

The furniture salesman said the couch would seat five friends without a problem. Then I realized, I don’t have five friends without a problem. Old joke—sorry—but still. It reminds me of the old saying that human beings are like porcupines in winter—we need each other for warmth, but our quills get in the way.

So, the question comes, how do porcupettes (the official word for porcupine children) come into the world—considering all those quills (30,000 or so per grownup porcupine). It seems that, for the perpetuation of the species, grownup porcupines have figured out how to lay down their quills, at least for the necessary moment.

This feels like one of those necessary moments, when, for the perpetuation of our society and nation, all of us grownups need to lay down our quills so we can sit together on the grand couch we call America.

One of the Bible’s most important quill-controlling passages…

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. — 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some quills to lay down.

Dave Peterson

A Need to Heal the Past

One of the challenges, at least in the western church, is an inability to deal with our wounds in a healthy way. Our training as Christians has been focused on Bible studies, small groups, and Sunday worship. But little thought has been given to the connection between our emotional and spiritual lives. This, I believe, is why seemingly pious saints can wreak so much damage on the church. There’s tons of spiritual head knowledge, but without healing the wounds of the past, they are unable to experience healthy relationships. The Catholic priest Ronald Rolheiser describes this budding awareness of our unhealed past:

Once the sheer impulse of life begins to be tempered by the weight of our commitments and the grind of the years, more of our sensitivities begin to break through, and we sense more and more how we have been wounded and how life has not been fair to us. New demons then emerge: bitterness, anger, jealousy, and a sense of how we have been cheated. Disappointment cools the fiery energies of our youth, and our enthusiasm begins to be tempered by bitterness and anger . . . where once we struggled to properly control our energies, we now struggle to access them.

Ronald Rolheiser, Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity (New York: Image, 2014), 6.

True Healing Occurs When…

Paradoxically…healing means moving from your pain to the pain…When you keep focusing on the specific circumstances of your pain, you easily become angry, resentful, and even vindictive. You are inclined to do something about the externals of your pain in order to relieve it; this explains why you often seek revenge.

But real healing comes from realizing that your own particular pain is a share of humanity’s pain. That realization allows you to forgive your enemies and enter into a truly compassionate life. Every time you can shift your attention away from the external situation that caused your pain and focus on the pain of humanity in which you participate, your suffering becomes easier to bear. It becomes a “light burden” and an “easy yoke” (Matthew 11:30).

The Essential Henri Nouwen, Shambhala, 2009, 54.

Who Should Minister to the Suffering?

A Chinese Christian who heard me speak once asked me if I would write a tract about suffering for his fellow believers in the Orient. I told him I would think about it. But when I did, I realized that in comparison to those Chinese believers I knew very little about the topic. I do know this: sufferers want to be ministered to by people who have suffered.

When I was a teenager, I knew a family whose son was terribly burned when he ran into a car and the gas tank on his motorcycle exploded. In the hospital burn unit he begged his mother to just let him die. She responded by inviting friends to cheer him up, but he refused to see anyone. Finally one day there was a knock on his hospital room door. When his mother opened the door there was a stranger with hideous scars all over his face and arms standing there.

The mother slammed the door, hoping her son hadn’t seen the man. But he had, and insisted that his mother let the man in. His mother resisted, thinking the sight would further discourage her son. Instead of discouraging the boy, however, that man convinced the boy that there was reason to live. People who suffer want people who have suffered to tell them there is hope.

They are justifiably suspicious of people who appear to have lived lives of ease. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the reason that Jesus suffered in every way that we do, while he was here. First Peter 2:21 says, “This [your] suffering is all part of what God has called you to. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps” (NLT ).

Taken from Suffering & The Sovereignty of God by Stephen F. Saint, edited by John Piper & Justin Taylor © 2006, p.111-112. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

Stories

God’s Decided To Heal Me Some Other Place

I know a woman who, after her diagnosis of cancer, prayed twice every day for God to heal her. A year later, as she entered her third round of chemotherapy, she said, “Well, it looks like once again, God isn’t on my schedule. I guess God’s decided to heal me at some other place, in some other time.” She had been given a level of faith, in that time, I have yet to reach.

William H. Willimon, Undone by Easter: Keeping Preaching Fresh, Abingdon, 2009.

Healing (Sometimes) Requires Forgiveness

As a young pastor, I wanted to pray for Jean, who had been sick in bed for about a week. So I took Mike, a fellow leader in the church, with me to her home. Her husband, Jim, greeted us at the door and invited us into their bedroom. Jean had been bedridden for days and was barely able to talk. She looked miserable. We began praying fervently for God’s healing. We pleaded with God to restore her health. Suddenly, after a few minutes of prayer . . . nothing happened. Jean looked as bad as ever. But we were determined, so we continued to pray. Again nothing. Finally, we waited in silence before the Lord. I sensed the Lord saying that Jean harbored unforgiveness in her heart.

So I kneeled beside the bed and said, “Jean, do you need to forgive someone for hurting you? Are you holding a grudge?” Jean’s eyes got wet with tears. I encouraged her to confess her sins before the Lord and to make amends with the person who sinned against her. With a quiet, raspy voice she began to confess her sin and promised to forgive the person who hurt her. Within minutes, her countenance changed dramatically.

She got out of bed and washed her face; then together we rejoiced over God’s forgiveness and healing. This reminds me of what Jesus’ younger brother James says about healing and forgiveness: “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make them well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:14-16).

Taken from Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations, and Communities by Rick Love Copyright (c) 2014 p.70 by Rick Love. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Only The Symptoms Remain

At university, I knew a guy called Captain Scarlet (nicknamed after the lead puppet in a cult TV series to which he bore a striking resemblance). The Captain was the only nineteen-year-old I’ve ever known who viewed televangelists as aspirational role models. He was about as positive about positive thinking as it is possible to be.

One day, the Captain told me that he had been miraculously healed of a serious back complaint. I tried to give him a hug but he screamed. “I thought you’d been healed?” I said. “Oh I have,” he insisted, grinning furiously. “It’s only the symptoms that remain.”

Pete Greig, God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer, Zondervan, 2020.

Who Should Minister to the Suffering?

A Chinese Christian who heard me speak once asked me if I would write a tract about suffering for his fellow believers in the Orient. I told him I would think about it. But when I did, I realized that in comparison to those Chinese believers I knew very little about the topic. I do know this: sufferers want to be ministered to by people who have suffered.

When I was a teenager, I knew a family whose son was terribly burned when he ran into a car and the gas tank on his motorcycle exploded. In the hospital burn unit he begged his mother to just let him die. She responded by inviting friends to cheer him up, but he refused to see anyone. Finally one day there was a knock on his hospital room door. When his mother opened the door there was a stranger with hideous scars all over his face and arms standing there.

The mother slammed the door, hoping her son hadn’t seen the man. But he had, and insisted that his mother let the man in. His mother resisted, thinking the sight would further discourage her son. Instead of discouraging the boy, however, that man convinced the boy that there was reason to live. People who suffer want people who have suffered to tell them there is hope.

They are justifiably suspicious of people who appear to have lived lives of ease. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the reason that Jesus suffered in every way that we do, while he was here. First Peter 2:21 says, “This [your] suffering is all part of what God has called you to. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps” (NLT ).

Taken from Suffering & The Sovereignty of God by Stephen F. Saint, edited by John Piper & Justin Taylor © 2006, p.111-112. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

Analogies

Scars Tell Beautiful Stories

In their excellent book, Mending the Divides, Jon Huckins and Jer Swigart describe a Japanese Pottery tradition that articulates the power of peace and reconciliation:

When we speak of peace, we can call to mind the ancient Japanese pottery tradition called Kintsugi. With this technique, a clay vessel is broken and then put back together, but not in its original form.

Instead the restoration process involves the use of pure gold to mend the divides and heal the fissures. The broken vessel is put back together in such a way that it is stronger and more beautiful than before it was broken. In Kintsugi, the scars tell beautiful stories of healing and restoration rather than painful stories of destruction.

Jon Huckins & Jer Swigart, Mending the Divides: Creative Love in a Conflicted World, InterVarsity Press.

Humor

Only The Symptoms Remain

At university, I knew a guy called Captain Scarlet (nicknamed after the lead puppet in a cult TV series to which he bore a striking resemblance). The Captain was the only nineteen-year-old I’ve ever known who viewed televangelists as aspirational role models. He was about as positive about positive thinking as it is possible to be.

One day, the Captain told me that he had been miraculously healed of a serious back complaint. I tried to give him a hug but he screamed. “I thought you’d been healed?” I said. “Oh I have,” he insisted, grinning furiously. “It’s only the symptoms that remain.”

Pete Greig, God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer, Zondervan, 2020.

More Resources

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Related Themes

Click a topic below to explore more sermon illustrations! 

Baggage

Burdens

 Brokenness

Grief

Healing

Lament

Mourning

Scars

& Many More