A lifeguard friend of ours showed up to work at the pool the other day with bruises on his shoulder and arms from his high school football practice. After I winced at his wounds, I thought of my brother, who coaches high school football in Arkansas. I recalled a time when he was a kid and his legs were covered in black and blue bruises from football practice. I texted him to remind him of it, and he told me that little league football was some of the worst pain he’d experienced in sports. But football is not the only culprit. My daughter Riley experiences bruising when she dances. Sometimes a routine involves dropping quickly to her knees, which results in bruising. At any given time, her toes may be bruised because she’s been dancing ballet on pointe.
We expect bruising in athletic endeavors, but most of us experience bruising in more common, everyday ways. I run into the footboard of our bed on what seems like a regular basis. Every time my thigh comes into forceful contact with the edge of said footboard, I think, “that’s going to leave a bruise.” Of course, I often don’t remember how I became bruised. I can’t tell you how often I’ve found a bruise on my body and thought, I wonder where that came from.
Bruises may vary in their severity but as far as wounds go, they are on the lighter side of injuries. The discolorations on our bodies eventually fade. But the bruises we sustain to our emotional lives are much harder to get over. Other people may inflict the bruises purposely or accidentally by their words and actions. We may even bruise ourselves by our own behaviors and thoughts.
The mental and emotional contusions we endure may not lose their power over time. They don’t automatically fade away like our physical bruises. In addition, these wounds are invisible to others. People don’t say, “are you hurt?” because they can’t bear witness to the wounds. And even if they could see our bruises, they might say, “it’s only a bruise, what’s the big deal?” But we know the depth and tenderness of the bruises. We know how badly they hurt and may feel as though we are black and blue all over without anyone knowing. In an effort to defend ourselves, we may construct internal armor to protect ourselves from further bruising. We don’t want to feel anything because we might sustain more hurt and pain.
In the New Testament, Jesus “made a circuit of the all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives.” Matt. 9:35-38 (MSG). The last portion struck a chord with me: Jesus focused on healing their bruised and hurt lives, not merely their physical ailments. And then the passage continues, “When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd.”
Jesus was moved to the point of heartbreak for the people he saw around him. He loved them and believed that the hidden parts of their lives that were bruised and hurt were worth care and restoration. God loves us just the same. He doesn’t want us to remain bruised and battered emotionally and mentally. He can rescue us from being confused and lost.
Knowing that God is heartbroken for us at times and wants change in our lives is a humbling realization. Our first step is to ask God to begin the process of healing our bruises. God can take down our defenses and repair the tender places in our hearts and souls.
God loves us too much to ignore us during our pain and loneliness. Bodily bruises do not heal instantly, nor will our emotional bruises heal immediately. But God will not leave our bruised lives untouched when we seek his love and care.