Jenn seated at a desk reading the Bible

I’ve gone through some dark seasons in my life. Hardship and heartache have evolved into uninvited companions who have stayed far longer than I would have ever chosen. Depression, loss, sickness, and betrayal are all chapters in my story. Over the course of my life, I have learned that God has a purpose for all of these things, and I feel confident of his call to walk with others in their pain.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body (2 Cor 4:7–10).

Like the outset of any semester, I have always felt eager for a new beginning and a fresh start. With coffee in hand, I enter the classroom and walk straight toward the front row. Even at forty years old, the first day of school feels exciting. 

This particular day, my fourth first day of school at DTS, things seemed no different. Like always, the white screen on my laptop awaits the paragraph of notes I will take once class starts—a blank canvas that expects something beautiful. Anticipation fills my heart. And I know God will do something new in me.

During the first few months in trauma class, I realized that I knew someone who could identify with every topic discussed in class. Behind every PowerPoint, I saw the faces of those personally affected by abuse. As I listened to the detailed descriptions of the exploitation of little children, my stomach churned. I thought of those I know whose childhoods were similarly robbed from them and the overwhelming confusion and unfair consequences many of them continue to wrestle with in their lives.

When I had to study and discuss the effects of rape, I thought of loved ones who have experienced this kind of evil and who continue to battle the pervasive thoughts of the horror forced upon them—friends who live in fear and struggle with shame and confusion. 

All of this proved more than a lecture because this is the reality of many people I know. I felt uneasy, but the information deepened my level of empathy and gave me new insight into the lives of those I love and cherish. 

A significant lesson came during a discussion on psychological abuse and the effects of narcissism. I know—all too well—the hurt and shame of what dishonesty and manipulation can do. In fact, some of my deepest wounds over the years have resulted from people I trusted in the church. When I sought help, some threw salt on those wounds. “Get over it,” they would say. “And don’t tell anyone!” 

My eyes had opened to the fact that what I had experienced in the church was, in fact, traumatic.

As my professor gave examples of the evil that can happen in the church, I nodded my head in agreement with every single bullet point of the lesson. My eyes had opened to the fact that what I had experienced in the church was, in fact, traumatic.

I knew those events as wrong and horrible, but to have someone recognize them as such validated my experiences. I now had words to articulate what I once struggled to describe. While a lot of healing had already taken place in the years leading up to that moment in class, the simple acknowledgment of it recognized as abuse instantaneously provided salve onto a scabbed wound. 

Traumatic Compassion

When the class got deep into the trauma of war, our professor decided to show us a portion of a documentary. The desert camouflage uniforms, the combat infantry badges, and the servicemen I saw may just as well have existed in the same platoon that my husband did—ex-husband, that is. You see, back in my mid-twenties, I had married a soldier. The short-lived marriage may have lasted only a few years, but the effects of abandonment and betrayal remained with me far longer. 

God, however, had done a deep work in the years between then and now—a powerful work of healing and forgiveness. The memories from that season no longer hurt, so why did the documentary take me by surprise? Lord, this is old news. Do I have an open wound I don’t see?

Years prior, after an incredible revelation from God, I chose to forgive my ex-husband finally. It did not happen overnight, but eventually, a breakthrough occurred. And while I hold no animosity toward him, I hadn’t fully empathized with what he faced personally. How could I? After all, I was on the receiving end of his actions. Now, in this new chapter, pursuing a career in counseling, I saw things through a different lens. 

Both in the classroom and in my heart, something had shifted. Yes, forgiveness had already taken place, but what I sensed that day felt more like compassion.

Christ’s light began to shine brightly into my heart to show me the magnitude of the restoration that had taken place previously.

Though I had suffered immensely as a result of his choices, he also had suffered deeply in his way. That afternoon, I saw him in a different light—the same way I want to see my future clients and how God wants me to approach all people—in the light of Jesus. 

Christ’s light began to shine brightly into my heart to show me the magnitude of the restoration that had taken place previously. The miraculous healing of a deep wound meant the sting no longer hurt—the shame no longer existed. Once agonizing and debilitating, it now faded into a memory that God did not want me to forget. In class, he brought my scars up to the surface for me to share with others.

Victory on Display

Like me, Jesus has scars. Our Savior, in his resurrected body, could have returned without any indication of his suffering. His sacrifice had already paid the price. And yet, after the wounds that had left him unrecognizable, he appeared a week later (John 20:26) with nail-pierced hands and a hole in his side to show his disciples his scars. Word had traveled that Jesus rose from the dead. For some, that word proved enough, but Jesus knew others would doubt and need to witness him and his scars. 

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ (2 Cor 4:6).

Jesus had opened his arms wide on the cross—his wounds open for all to see—and took on the worst agony imaginable. And “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24). Christ’s scars remained on his body to display his victory over death and sin. 

Christ has scars of honor in his flesh and glory in his eyes.

In his sermon “The Wounds of Jesus,” Charles Spurgeon said, “Jesus Christ has scars of honor in his flesh and glory in his eyes. He has divided the spoil with the strong: he has taken the captive away from his tyrant master; he has redeemed for himself a host that no man can number, who are all the trophies of his victories: but these scars, these are the memorials of the fight, and these the trophies, too. His testimony will prevail through all eternity.”

God knows we are prone to forget all he has done in our lives. He leaves scars behind to show us that healing is possible and to show us his healing power. He allows the restorative process to take time, so we depend only on him.

Do we genuinely believe healing will take place? Perhaps it won’t happen on this earth, but definitely in eternity for those who acknowledge him as Lord and Savior. Many people doubt victory especially when they find themselves in darkness. It is in these moments that they’ll remember the wounded versions of those who walk alongside them in life. They’ll desire a firsthand account of the transformation that has happened. They will reach for hope. They will need to see the scars.

Our scars provide hope. Our stories testify of the healing power of God. Those scars shout, “I made it!” And like Christ, because of his death and resurrection, victory is now displayed on our lives. When the hopeless see our scars, they will see the Lord. 

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27–28).

Storytelling Scars

God did not bring me through those agonizing years to only attend DTS, get an A in trauma, and earn my degree. Through the sorrow I have experienced, I came to know the Man of Sorrows, and in the painful aftermath, I clung to the one whose wounds made me whole. The deep place in my soul that once had a gaping hole, now reveals a scar. No pain, no hurt, just a memory that points to Christ. The comfort I receive from him is something that I now offer. 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Cor 1:3–4).

I did get an A in my trauma class—the evidence of more than just assignments completed. No textbook will provide what I learned through suffering and in my personal experiences with the Lord. Though I never want to walk through such agony again, I rejoice in how I’ve come to know Christ better as a result. 

The pain and shame of divorce once felt so heavy. And yet, I can honestly say that I thank God for allowing me to go through that dark season. Was it his will? No. God did not create us to carry that kind of pain. Had I known what I know now, I am sure I would have approached it all differently. 

But regret does not exist in this chapter. In a time where darkness engulfed me, my soul experienced the love of God in a profound, unique, and intimate way. I look back and see how he poured his grace out on my wounds in abundance and molded me into the person I am today. I would not trade it.

Yes, depression, loss, sickness, and betrayal are all chapters in my story, but so are hope, victory, and grace. At one point, like the psalmist once wrote, darkness was my old friend. I know to not hide my scars because God’s wonders shine in the places of darkness, and his righteous deeds are exceptionally bright in the land of oblivion.

About the Contributors

Jennifer Roth

Jennifer Roth is a current MABC student and serves as an academic advisor at DTS. She was born and raised in New York City and studied psychology at Liberty University. Jennifer is passionate about prayer, fellowship, and strong coffee. After seminary, she hopes to start an organization that provides counseling, mentoring, and respite to pastors and their families.