See, when I was ten or eleven years old, I had a terrible case of chickenpox. I was covered from head to toe with little bumps that itched intensely. It was agony. Mom gave me anti-itch lotions, I tried to scratch around the bumps, I think we tried oatmeal baths, but nothing helped. Finally I broke down and scratched the spot that was the most itchy.
To this day, I have a scar on my forehead. For the rest of this life I will bear the scar because of my lack of self-control.
Now that little scar is no big deal, but isn't this just like how self-control works? We try to avoid what we know isn't good for us, but sometimes we lose the battle. And sometimes we emerge with battle scars.
The apostle Paul certainly understood the struggle:
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. (Romans 7:15-21)My chickenpox scar is not obvious; even if my hair was pushed off my forehead, you would have to be close to see it. The same goes for internal scars: you'd have to be close to me to know about them. That doesn't mean that they serve no purpose. My scars remind me of my history, which includes some regrettable decisions. They remind me of the consequences of sin.
My scars also equip me to help other people. I can warn about the hazards of certain bad decisions, because I am so intimately acquainted with the consequences.
But I'm not dwelling on the scars, because I keep my focus on the Good News: Through Jesus I have been redeemed! The slate has been washed clean of those sins. The Lord may use my scars for His glory, but really, the only scars that matter are His.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24, NIV 1984)