Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. -Isaiah 53:4-5
I love this time of the year where as Good Friday and Easter approach our thoughts turn to the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I always enjoy writing or speaking on various powerful truths we can apply to our lives out of these two historical events and central tenants of the Gospel message.
But for this past year, I have had something different than before deeply impressed on my heart that I am now ready to share. I usually focus on how Jesus bore our sin on the cross and then the reality of the resurrection. The theme is often forgiveness, grace, mercy, salvation, reconciliation with God, redemption and eternal life.
However, this year I want to share some thoughts designed for those who have been victims of abuse of any kind, those who have been hurt or wounded by others, or those who suffer from post-traumatic stress.
I want to draw your attention to three powerful truths and one conclusion that can bring immense healing to our lives. Before I share the three points, here is the conclusion: On the cross, Jesus endured the greatest amount of abuse and trauma of any human being. But through the resurrection, Jesus overcame and rose to new life by which we can find healing for our broken and shattered lives as well. As someone I follow on Twitter recently posted: Jesus said, “It is finished” not “I am finished” on the cross!
Here are the three points of application to our lives:
- Jesus Christ identifies with us in all our suffering, pain and sorrow, because of his death on the cross for us.
- Jesus Christ has power to impart healing to the broken places of our lives and heart, because of his resurrection.
- We can overcome anything we have gone through or will go through, because Jesus has overcome the worst that anyone could or will go through.
Let’s start with point number one: Jesus Christ identifies with us in all our suffering, pain and sorrow because of his death on the cross for us. This is important to recognize and know. Jesus is not some outside observer of our suffering. God is not a distant God removed from the pain of human injustice, suffering, abuse and trauma. On the cross, he absorbed all our personal and collective pain.
Just let that sink in for a moment.
No matter the earthly hell any of us may have been through; no matter how awful the abuse we may have endured, no matter how painful the suffering or intense the trauma; Jesus Christ has felt it all. He fully identifies with us. He is the only one who can say he truly understands. We are the one’s however that cannot ever fully relate to him in his suffering. Only He has endured the pain of all the world. Darkness covered the land as he hung on the cross. While truly incomprehensible to us; our pain is not incomprehensible to him. In this we can find comfort; he does understand our pain.
Secondly, Jesus Christ has power to impart healing to the broken places of our lives and heart, because of his resurrection. If Jesus had only died on the cross, we would find a companion in our suffering; but not a conqueror through suffering. We would find comfort; but not healing. The resurrection of Christ to new life has direct application to our lives in a similar way; we too can find healing and new life no matter what abuse or suffering we have endured.
Let me be quick to point out however that when Jesus rose to new life the scars or wounds remained. Likewise, we cannot erase what we have gone through. But we do not need to be crippled by what we have been through. Through his resurrection, there is healing power for our broken and shattered lives.
Thirdly, we can overcome anything we have gone through or will go through, because Jesus has overcome the worst that anyone could or will go through. Over the past year, I went through a personal journey of dealing with some symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress I realized was affecting me in various ways. One of the crippling aspects of this is that what happened in the past seems to be happening all over again in the present when it flairs up through various triggers. One of the most simple but powerful things I learned to say to myself when this would happen is “that was then, this is now.”
What this does is two things. First, it acknowledges that what happened did indeed happen; instead of denying or suppressing the reality of it. Secondly, it reminds me that there is a distinction between the past and present and I don’t need to live in the past as if it is happening all over again. Just as those who have found redemption from their past at the cross; the abused can find healing from the pain of the past at the cross too. Jesus’ scars do remain as a reality of what happened on the cross. But He is not subjected to crucifixion all over again; he has risen to new life! That was then, this is now. He overcame and we can “come over” into new life as well!
In conclusion, I want to share a few very practical tips that have helped me and others I have spoken too in this journey. But I wanted most of all in this article to show how the core of the Gospel message is so relevant to our deepest pain, abuse or trauma. The central events of the Cross and Resurrection have direct application to our lives today:
- Jesus suffered more abuse and trauma on the cross than any other human being. In this painful reality there is comfort for victims, because He can fully identify with our pain. He “hung” there on the cross experiencing it all with us.
- If anyone could claim the “victim” label it was Jesus. However, while he identifies with victim’s, this is not what most defines him. Scripture in fact, emphasizes his victory on the cross! Redefining how you see yourself and view your experience is important to finding healing. Click here to read an article I published on this titled: Victim or Victor.
- Despite the abuse and suffering he endured, Jesus extended forgiveness from the cross. Forgiveness is critical to our own healing. Bitterness in our heart does not destroy those who harm us, it only poisons and destroys us. To be clear, forgiveness does not minimize or make what others have done to us ok; but it does open the way for God’s healing in our hearts. Forgiveness is also not a feeling, but a choice. And because it is a choice it is empowering to the one extending that forgiveness. Even though we can’t control what happens to us, we can control our response. Remembering all that Jesus has forgiven us of empowers us to likewise forgive others.
- The story does not end with Jesus being abused, traumatized and crucified. It ended triumphantly when He rose again to a new life. While his scars were a reminder of what he had endured, his life was now defined by a resurrected glory! He rose with “healing in his wings”, and because He overcame the worst trauma imaginable, we too can overcome and be resurrected into a new life. We can find healing, new life, joy and peace in his resurrection power.
- What happened to Jesus on the cross was not good; but it resulted in immense good for mankind. While not everything that happens to us is good, God works all things together for good to those who love him. Finding meaning and purpose out of the pain you go through can bless and comfort others and can help in your own healing.
- Embrace grief and mourn what has been lost. Nobody likes to grieve but grieving what has been lost is important in order to move forward. Trying to suppress our sadness or grief only delays the process. However, there is healing in grieving and in the Bible, we see a full range of emotions visibly expressed. Talking about our struggles with a trusted counselor or friend also helps us process our grief.
- People suffering from PTSD often have “flashbacks” where what happened to them in the past feels like it is happening all over again. That is one of the symptoms of PTSD, the past bleeds into the present when triggered by any number of things. One of the most helpful mental switches to make is to simply say “That was then, this is now.” In other words, distinguishing between the past and present is vital to overcoming trauma.
- Taking Art, Music, and Dance lessons can be helpful, especially for kids, as they often do not have the ability to articulate their feelings of pain. It has been demonstrated that these forms of self-expression can have a healing effect. Mastering a new skill is another way to build confidence and find new life and hope after a traumatic event.
- Victims of PTSD are afraid of something similar happening again and begin to go into survival mode. In some situations, this is necessary, but the human body cannot flourish in constant “survival mode.” Learning to “take every thought captive” is vital. Developing a sense of optimism and not thinking of the worst-case scenario in every situation is also important.
- Finding security and taking refuge in Christ is essential. Recognizing he is Sovereign and rules and reigns is critical. He has been given all authority over heaven and earth. While life may not be “safe” we are safe in Him.
- Looking ahead to eternity when God will restore all things fully and make every wrong right again for his people: Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”…‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5).
Ultimately, staying focused on the Gospel message, on Jesus himself, is the true source of comfort, healing, hope, security and victory. He identifies with us in our pain, rose to new life through which he imparts healing, and because he overcame, we too can overcome whatever abuse, trauma or pain we have endured or gone through. He is Risen!
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. -Revelation 1:17-18 NIV