Did you know the flavors detectable in a wine vary according to the environment in which the grapes grow? Check out the back of a bottle sometime and see how the wine maker emphasizes how the growing conditions give the vintage its unique taste. The effect changes based on things like the composition of the soil and exposure to sunlight, fog, or ocean breezes. Even the elevation at which the grapes grow impacts their flavor. And in God’s vineyard it is no different. We all take in the events, attitudes, and other influences in our environment, and our fruit reflects them.
What is our fruit?
Several Bible passages employ the metaphor of fruit when discussing the manifestations of our discipleship. The results or demonstrations of the love and mercy that overflow from our bond with Christ are examples of our fruit.
In John 15, Jesus used the metaphor to describe his relationship with his disciples and what would result from this special bond. Here, Jesus is the vine and those who follow him are the branches growing out of that vine. As we abide in Jesus, the Holy Spirit reveals our gifts and talents which combine with our particular life experiences to generate fruit unique to our bough. This outgrowth is exactly what the master Gardener (God the Father) designed us to make and that pleases and glorifies him.
Will My Rotten Past Produce Rotten Fruit?
Considering the impact our life experiences have on the characteristics of our fruit, perhaps you worry yours will be tainted by the negative things in your history. Here is why you need not let that concern you.
We all have had bad experiences, made poor choices, and reaped the consequences of living in a fallen and sinful world. However, God’s grace is able to transform the most poisonous trials into a sweet yield that ultimately glorifies God.
Don’t take my word on it, take God’s word.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!—2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV
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 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV
The Comforted Become the Comforters
When we bring our brokenness to God and receive his forgiveness and consolation, we are made new. We are not bound to those old influences and their baggage. They are redeemed so we can participate in the restorative work of God’s kingdom. Those former sources of pain and brokenness are changed by God’s Spirit and then used to bring comfort to someone else who suffers from similar afflictions.
When you’re in a dry, desperate place, nothing compares to having someone come alongside you who has been through the same ordeal. Many times I’ve crossed paths with someone hemorrhaging emotionally and spiritually from something similar to what I’ve gone through in my life. It always humbles and amazes me to see the hope and encouragement God brings when I am willing to share my emotional scars and tell them how God healed my wounds.
Think for a moment of a painful time in your past God transformed and used to help others. Some of the things God has used from my past include sexual abuse, having a difficult time fitting in at school, struggles balancing work and other aspects of my life, disillusionment with church leadership, and struggles with my marriage and in parenting our children.
I’m not sure what is on your list, but I bet you also have several experiences to which God provided you peace and healing and converted your anguish into a basis of comfort for others trying to navigate something similar.
God serves no wine before its time.
If you’re old enough, you might recall the old Orson Wells commercial in which he says, Paul Masson would serve no wine before its time.
A winemaker ages the juice of the grapes in the proper environment so as to transform it into a choice vintage. Likewise, our heavenly Vinedresser processes the results of our time in the winepress of life and creates a complex yet sweet outcome in his perfect timing.
A present trial holds vast potential for future benefit, but it is essential we let God resolve and redeem the experience before using it to minister to others. I can’t over-emphasize the importance of allowing God to transform our open wounds into tough scars before we offer those experiences as a basis of ministry.
When we are in the midst of a crisis and everything is raw, walking alongside others and sharing authentically is important. God will use others to bring us comfort and provide for our needs. Along the way, you may link arms with others also in the process of healing. Hopefully, you will provide mutual encouragement to one another. This is entirely different, however, from ministering to others when we ourselves are in meltdown mode.
Minister from Scars Not Wounds
When I speak of using your experience as a basis of ministry, I mean to serve someone, tending to their needs and offering God’s grace and truth in the form of guidance, wisdom, and experience.
A fresh wound, or one that is newly scabbed over, if shared in the context of ministering to another person, will most likely cause us great distress and just get the other person more bloodied. Give God time to transform the wound into a scar.
Scars show not just the evidence of agony and anguish, but also proof the injury has mended. That demonstration is a great source of hope to someone whose wounds are fresh. They can see that one day, with the application of God’s restorative love, their hurts will heal, too.
Jesus is the ultimate example of how scars can become the evidence of God’s power and grace. Consider what happened when Jesus appeared to Thomas (“Doubting Thomas”) after his resurrection. (Take a moment and read John 20:24-30 to have the scene clear in your mind.) Thomas may have doubted what God could do, but when he touched the scars, he believed.
What Will God Do Through Your Scars?
Since none of us gets this far in life without acquiring emotional, physical, spiritual, or relational lacerations, look for signs of God’s mercy and redemption for yours. The healing comes as a result of our relationship with Christ. So if you don’t know him, entering into a personal relationship with him is where you begin your healing process.
Once your wounds have healed and you have some tough scars to show, consider making those available to God. Let his Holy Spirit direct you to someone who needs to see them in order to believe God can heal their affliction as well.
There is somewhat of an art to self-disclosure and sharing our experiences with others. To help you safely and effectively share your scars with others, grab a copy of the FREE INFOGRAPHIC with a step-by-step guide.
To get a copy of the full step-by-step guide sized to print on 8.5″ by 11″ paper, just click the button below.
Please join the discussion: I don’t want this to be a monologue. I’d love to hear what you have to contribute to the topic. How have you experienced God’s comfort through the presence and/or story of another believer? Or, how has God used your hard times to minister to someone else? You can leave a comment by clicking here.