Trauma isolates. Those who have suffered from trauma have the natural temptation to think that they are alone in the world. No one can understand what they have been through, and no one would care about it. The God of the Scriptures, however, wants to speak a different message back to those who have suffered the horrors of trauma. In particular, Jesus Christ wants to sympathize with the trauma victim. Christ not only experienced trauma, but he bears the wounds of His suffering eternally as a means of demonstrating solidarity with sufferers.
Jesus’ suffering was no doubt intense. He was tortured, mocked, stripped, beaten, spit upon, and ultimately crucified – which was one of the worst forms of death in the ancient world. Christ knows trauma first-hand. He knows not only the physical pain of trauma, but He knows the psychological stress of impending threat too. In the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus anticipates the coming crucifixion, He sweats drops of blood (Luke 22:44). The sufferer of trauma has far more in common with their savior than they might have thought.
Yet, Jesus does not merely suffer the impact of trauma in the past, in His resurrected body He has chosen to maintain the scars of His past. So, in John’s gospel we read:
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 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.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:26-29)
Jesus’ scars are still present. There are so real and tangible that Thomas can literally put his finger in the holes in Jesus’ hands. Thomas can place his hand into the wound in Jesus’ side where a spear pierced His flesh. The wounds are not even surface level scars, they remain gaping holes. Jesus bears in His body these wounds of His trauma, and He bears them for a reason.
It’s fascinating that Jesus chose to keep these scars in His post-resurrected state. His body is clearly different – I mean He is walking through or appearing on the other side of locked doors (v. 26). He could have taken these scars away, chosen not to keep them; He could have risen from the grave with a perfectly whole and unmarred flesh. He didn’t do that. Instead, He chose to keep these visible wounds as a means of encouraging our faith in His compassion and understanding. Thomas struggles to believe that Christ is risen, He doubts. The wounds are an invitation to believe more deeply. The wounds of Jesus are an invitation for Thomas to come closer. “Touch me,” the Lord says. Jesus bears these wounds in order to communicate that He is with us. He understands our sufferings. He bears the marks of His trauma that the victim of trauma would know they have solidarity with Jesus Christ their Savior.
There are many things that the victim of trauma will need to work through in the process of healing and recovery. There is no short-circuiting the hardworking of processing and integrating the traumatic memories, nor of stabilizing symptoms. Yet, a vital key for all of that hard work is support. This certainly must involve flesh-and-blood people, safe friends and family, trained counselors, who can help individuals and be present in the moment. Yet, we should not discount the amazing power of Divine support for the healing process. Jesus is “God with us,” Immanuel. He knows about the impact of trauma, He cares about the wounds of the trauma victim. He bears in His body the wounds of His own past that they might believe His compassion and understanding run deep. He bears His wounds eternally that He might draw them close to Him. “Touch me,” He says. Jesus bears the wounds of His trauma eternally in order that victims of trauma might draw close to Him.