“But he was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.”
What do we do with the question of pain? So many of us question God because of the pain we have experienced or the pain we have seen others experience. I work with women who are all survivors of childhood sexual abuse just like me. It seems to me that we have been expert pretenders, living in denial, repressing memories, and stuffing emotions that surrounded the events of our abuse. Some of us entered counseling because current events triggered flashbacks or unresolved pain manifested itself as anger, depression, fear, or relational issues. Counseling can provide a safe place for a healing process, but the counselor can’t heal us. Only God can heal the deep emotional pain caused by abuse of any kind. But so often we believe something in us wasn’t worthy of God’s protection and find it difficult to really turn to Him for the healing we desperately need. It is important for us to understand the truth that God never promised us a life free of pain or abuse on this earth. In fact, for us to respond to God’s love with love, God had to give each of us the freedom to choose. Unfortunately Adam and Eve’s choices resulted in us living in a pain-filled, fallen world and us being born with the potential to do great evil. Because of this, we sin and we have to live with painful, traumatizing consequences of other people’s sin.
The verse above makes it clear that Jesus understands pain. He was stripped and beaten until He was bruised and bleeding and then hung between heaven and earth for all to see. He understands what it feels like to bear consequences of another’s sin, because He bore the consequences for ours. He knows what it feels like to be blamed for what another has done, because He took our blame and gladly bore our shame. He knows what it feels like to be condemned, being condemned in our place. He knows what it feels like to feel crushed and wounded, for He was crushed for our iniquities. He also knows what it feels like to be falsely accused, to be misunderstood, and to be despised for simply being Himself. He even understands how it feels to be alone; His friends ran and His heavenly Father didn’t even intervene. He understands what it is like to be used, for many seek His gifts rather than Him who is the precious Giver. He knows what betrayal feels like, because one of His own disciples betrayed Him with a kiss. The verse above reveals that He didn’t just come to pay for our sins, He came to heal us. We falsely believe that if our abusers, those who betrayed us, and those who have neglected us, or sinned against us had apologized then we’d be healed. While an apology can validate pain and can pave the way for restoration, it can’t mend a heart torn by betrayal, ease the anxiety triggered by overwhelming powerlessness, calm fear that trauma evokes, or fill a love-starved heart. Only He who loved enough to choose to experience abuse, pain, and shame on our behalf has the understanding, the compassion, and the power to heal a heart that’s deeply wounded by abuse of any kind.
I have know others who have been wounded by someone who think they can’t be healed until they get that magical apology. That was what I once thought. But the apology didn’t take the pain away and didn’t automatically restore trust…that came through hard work, speaking truth, setting godly boundaries, and giving grace upon grace. It was humbling to really get honest with God about what I thought, about the pain I was feeling, and about the anger I had buried so deep, and the lack of grace I was giving to others. I poured out the pain in my heart to Him in the presence of people I really trusted. I asked God questions, some of which He has answered and some of which He hasn’t. I wrestled with my ambivalence of what seems like inaction on His part…and He kept drawing me back to the Easter Story. To know the God of the Universe gets my pain and chose willingly to suffer that kind of pain for me so I could be redeemed, have a relationship with Him, and know that He sees me and understands even the feelings of my infirmities. When we take our pain to Him, there is a fellowship of suffering that teaches us so much about His heart for us. That is a precious gift in the middle of what seemingly is very dark places.