Only the Wounded Can Serve

Last week I received the nicest email from a reader, but one word she used to describe my recent posts kept creeping up in my mind. Her words, which greatly encouraged me were, “I’ve been reading with great interest your articles on suffering...”

Of course, the term I honed in on was her description of my topics of late.


I thought to myself… I need to lighten up.

And of course, as life has it, as soon as I decide to look for light and breezy, I come across something heavy that I just can’t wait to share with readers.

Here’s an upfront apology of sorts and a promise to lighten up in the coming days…so bear with me as I share this last “heavy” topic.

Suffering makes hearts tender and gives us greater love for others. Randy Alcorn

Alcorn, a long-time diabetic sufferer, compiled 90 different stories on the many faces of suffering in his excellent book, 90 Days of God’s Goodness: Daily Reflections That Shine Light on Personal Darkness.

I was sent this book to review a while back and it’s become an almost daily reading ritual for me.

Dog-eared, highlighted, and oft-quoted from, Alcorn’s work springs from his own deep well of loss and suffering…his own story qualifies him to share with honest candor.

Excerpted below is Alcorn’s essay, Only the Wounded Can Serve.

Many physicians and nurses testify to this phenomenon when they return to their vocations after long periods of personal suffering. When they’ve been the patient, they grow far more sensitive to patients’ needs.

A Thornton Wilder play called The Angel That Troubled the Waters is based loosely on John 5: 1-4. A physician comes periodically to the pool of Bethesada, hoping to be the first in the moving water and so be healed of his depression.

One day the angel blocks the doctor from stepping into the water. “Draw back, physician,” he commands, “this moment is not for you.”
The man responds, “I pray thee, listen to my prayer.”
Healing is not for you,” the angel insists.
The physician argues, “Surely, O Prince, you are not deceived by my apparent wholeness.” He points out the terrible burden of his depression.

The angel assures him he knows of his affliction, then says to him, “Without your wound where would your power be? It is your very remorse that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In love’s service only the wounded can serve. Draw back.”

Later, the person who enters the pool first is healed and rejoices. He then turns to the physician and begs him to come to his home: “My son is lost in dark thoughts. I – I do not understand him, and only you have ever lifted his mood… My daughter, since her child has died, sits in the shadow. She will not listen to us but she will listen to you.”

Alcorn continues and then closes his thoughts with these words…

You don’t have to see your child die or endure a divorce to offer comfort to someone who’s suffered in those ways. You must have suffered, however. The resume of every encourager and every counselor contains suffering. Only the wounded can serve.


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