When he was a young boy, Estal Taylor wanted a pair of roller skates. When he got a pair on his birthday, he had no place to skate on his family’s farm in rural Indiana. So he begged his parents to allow him to skate around the old farmhouse, and they finally agreed. As he was first learning, he circled kitchen table, holding on all the way around. Finally, he decided to venture out with no handholds. But he slipped and went skidding toward the kitchen’s pot bellied stove. At the last instant, his father dived between Taylor and the stove, but the momentum pushed his father’s hand against it. When he pulled his hand away, some of his flesh remained on the stove. For the rest of his life, the elder Taylor bore an ugly scar from the incident.
When Taylor’s father died, the mortician, in an act of kindness, positioned the hands so that the “good” hand covered the other. Taylor asked him to change this. He wanted everyone to see what his dad had done for him. The scar spoke of his dad’s suffering love for him, and it was beautiful and meaningful to him.
Paul puts it this way when he reflects on his career in ministry:
. . . we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Character is built through trials. But successfully navigating these trials gives us hope, and Paul ties this directly to the Holy Spirit in our hearts. When we suffer, we should not fixate on the scar the suffering left, but on the God who walked with us through the trial.
Nebraska Christian College