As a woman, I personally understand what it means to be stretched. Since I was pregnant with 2 children, I have plenty of visible yet diminishing abdominal stretch marks to show for it. Though the season of being pregnant was for a few short months, it had a lasting effect on my body. Yet, the fruit of my labor is having our family grow for future generations to branch from. I would say that my scars from bearing children were well worth it. I am reaping the benefits, as are they and all those they come in touch with.

Physical growth proves that we are getting adequately fed, especially in our youth. There can be growing pains in the legs, but this doesn’t stop our bodies from developing bigger and stronger. When we take care of ourselves, by eating properly and resting periodically, we naturally mature.

Spiritual growth demonstrates that God is at work within us. By facing problems or going through a challenging situation, as long as we keep our faith in God’s heart for us, then coming out the other side is assured, but not always without wounds or scars to show for it. This could be the death of a family member, or the loss of a job. Even something less visible as emotional trauma, heartache, or a trial of temptation, will have lingering marks within. The beauty is that what remains is proof of the divine healing process. The hope is that what we do as a result of those marks, visible or invisible, will continue to draw us to our Creator and Lord so that He can use our success story of healing and victory to encourage others who are in the midst of it.

As a fruit tree grows, it often takes years to produce good edible fruit. That tree has been through seasons of rain, drought, cold, heat, and bears the scars of bugs eating away at it or birds poking holes in the bark, but in due time it provides what it was meant for: fruit to feed others. This tree, when cut down, proves the years it has lived by the number of rings in its wooden trunk. Each ring represents a time of growth, a year of being stretched.

“..we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Romans 5:3-6

God has created us with the intent that we don’t stay stagnant, or content with where we are in life. In order to become what God has designed each one of us to be, we need to continually face obstacles and challenges that will often leave a trail of discomfort, of soreness, of hardship. He asks us not to stay in those moments, but to trust Him in the midst of it so that when we look back at them, we recognize that the joy of overcoming those moments and the growth thereof far exceeds the pain of being in them. This leads others to seeing our progress in faith in Jesus, and encourages them to keep on fighting the good fight.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
John 12:24-25

Paul endured many hardships, and had numerous scars, but counted it joy because the gospel was being shared and spread as a result.

“…what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”
Philippians 1:12b-14

Jesus bears the nail scars of having lived and died in our world, but God is using them to demonstrate His great, personal love towards mankind, towards you and I.

“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
John 20:27

Keep a mind of peace with a heart of joy in the rest of your journey.

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing (and stretching) in knowledge and understanding.”
Philippians 1:9

Food for thought: Are you being stretched as a believer in Jesus? Do you have the telltale signs of having successfully persevered through something painful or hard? See those marks through the eyes of the Lord; as an opportunity to be fruitful, to show how your faith has progressed or increased.

Fun facts: 1. Scars are what remain of the healing process; a mending has taken place. The new scar tissue looks and feels differently than the surrounding skin. 2. The good news is that the discoloration of stretch marks fades over time though they won’t ever disappear.
3. Stretch Armstrong, a latex rubber action figure released in 1976, could stretch from his original size of 15 inches to nearly 5 feet!
4. General Sherman, the largest known tree on the planet, is 36 feet in diameter at its trunk base. It has grown to the height of 275 feet, growing wider and higher every year. Though it bears black scars from multiple fires, it is estimated to be 2200 years old.

Photo by: Kari Wiseman – Sequoia Trees Tower Over Me