U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Charlie Linville lost his leg while serving his second tour in Afghanistan.
But despite this huge setback, this wounded warrior was determined to get his life back on track and not let anything get in the way of his dream—to climb Mount Everest. After receiving a prosthetic leg, SSgt. Linville trained for three years in preparation for his risky expedition. The training wasn’t easy, and neither was the climb. But, ultimately, he made history by becoming the first wounded combat veteran to reach Everest’s summit.
As I reflect on SSgt. Linville’s story, I can’t help but think of another wounded warrior, the apostle Paul, who bore many “battle scars” throughout his life and ministry. It is true that Paul authored most of the New Testament and stands as a champion of faithfulness. But his life was far from easy. Scripture teaches us that Paul experienced all types of physical hardship (2 Cor. 11:23-28), emotional turmoil and loneliness (2 Tim. 4:14-16), and even spiritual struggles (Rom. 7:15-24; 2 Cor. 12:7-8).
Can you relate to any of these things? If so, you too are a wounded warrior. Whether you’ve served this country on a literal battlefield, or simply battled to be a productive citizen of society, you bear battle scars as evidence of the things that you have been through. From a biblical perspective, battle scars are a constant reminder that we live in a world deeply affected by relational brokenness and the presence of evil.
Yet, in spite of all of the pain that the apostle Paul had been through, he was able to confidently write in his final letter to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day…” (2 Tim. 4:7-8). How was it that Paul, as wounded as he was, could remain full of confidence, hope, and faith, despite his battle scars?
For Paul, the answer was simple but profound. In Phil. 3:14, he said, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” In other words, Paul refused to allow his past to define him. He lived with eternity in mind. He kept His eyes, in faith, on his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Pressing forward does not mean we ignore our battle scars. After all, Paul was honest and brave enough to talk about experiences that had wounded him. Rather, pressing forward means that we embrace our battle scars and claim that the grace of God “is sufficient for [us], for [His] strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Ultimately, as we look in faith to the Wounded Warrior, Jesus Christ, who was “wounded for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5), we can find purpose, healing, and strength to fight on, through the battle scars that He bore on Calvary’s Hill.
May God bless each of you, and your families, especially during this holiday season!