You with your busy schedules and tight budgets and you with your broken hearts beating for young people – this is for you.
I used to think that the joy of the Lord had to be manifest in a smile forever fixed to my face with tears that never made their way down my cheeks.
I wonder if some of you also think that your weaknesses have to be hidden in a desire to present yourself the way you want to – or that you don’t feel able to reach out because you don’t feel good enough.
I’ve got some good news for you.
You don’t have to pretend anymore – we have a God who specialises in working in the most wonderful ways in the most broken people.
The people God uses the most spectacularly in the Bible are often the ones who are the weakest. Paul declares: “But he said to me: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) This man who had been one of the greatest persecutors of Christianity became one of the greatest witnesses.
Elijah, the man who gets to stand beside Jesus in the promised land, fled and begged for death.
And I think the ministry of God through these people tells us something beautiful about the character of the God who calls the broken.
It’s beautifully simple: “Eat, sleep, eat, sleep and now talk to me.” I love that God cares for Elijah’s physical needs for food and rest before He tackles the tough stuff, alongside a very real acknowledgement that things have been tough.
We all need that don’t we? We need someone to say: “It’s OK. You’re going through a lot – you aren’t alone.”
We need it and our young people need it.
And I think it’s a message you can find throughout scripture: that we have a God who wants to come close to us; who wanted so badly to get close to us that He sent His only son to live our life, suffer our pain and die our death. Throughout it all, God doesn’t promise that we won’t suffer; that life won’t be hard. But He does promise that He will be with us throughout it all.
It’s what my youth workers showed me; that God had planned a future for me that I didn’t even know I believed in, yet alone wanted. They showed me that there was a better way of living that was honest with myself, with those caring for me and most importantly, with God.
God might not cure my mental illness in the miraculous way I wanted, or erase my scars in a second, but He would work through them in the most powerful way imaginable because Jesus himself has scars.
When he rose from the dead, you would have expected his resurrection body to be perfect and unmarked by the dark days before – but he chose to keep his scarred palms for our sake – to show us that nothing: not scars, not sin, not youth, not age, can separate us from him and exclude us from him love.
Scars don’t define our young people and they don’t exclude us from ministry.
Scars tell a story of survival and redemption.
And the scars of Jesus himself prove it.