Jesus helps us to heal from PTSD soul wounds. Understanding how Jesus is the Christ can help us better engage Jesus as a healer. The fact that Jesus is fully human and fully divine enables us to receive healing and solace from our trauma. This is true regardless of how we were traumatized, or even if we perpetrated the trauma ourselves.
In the previous essay we explained the basics of Christology, how Jesus is the Christ, and why it matters in terms of forgiving and restoring us from sin. Now we move on to making a direct application to healing the soul wound of PTSD.
PTSD is a Soul Wound
PTSD affects our body and our souls. PTSD as the result of trauma affects the body. Our science friends can identify changes in brain chemistry and changes to the brain structures of the amygdala and the hippocampus as a result of trauma. They treat us with drugs that affect brain chemistry that attempt to ameliorate the symptoms of PTSD. Sometimes, the medical side effects can be as bad as what they are trying to cure.
PTSD also affects the soul. Along with PTSD’s physical dimensions, there is also a dimension which includes spirituality. In previous posts I have written about the ecstatic dimensions of PTSD and how trauma affects us both body and soul.
Jesus, Christology, and PTSD
Jesus is fully human and fully divine and this offers immense hope and solace for the soul wounded by PTSD. The humanity of Jesus offers us companionship and understanding in our human suffering. The divinity of Jesus offers us healing and restoration from our traumas and resulting PTSD. In his human dimensions he knows our pain. In his resurrection and exaltation Jesus can heal our traumatized memory and the pain that endures beyond the merely physical.
We Co-Suffer with Jesus in His (and Our) Humanity
Just as Jesus is able to take on all of human sin because he is fully human, he is also able to take on and share in all of our suffering. He can bear our particular wounds and their specific effects.
The experience of Jesus on the cross is the PTSD experience: Torture, isolation, feeling alone and abandoned. Experiencing this, Jesus resorts to Psalm 22 and calls out:
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!
Jesus expresses the PTSD experience of being abused and forsaken not only by our society, but the feeling of being forsaken even by God. Jesus has been through a false trial, tortured by government interrogators (who were just doing their jobs and following orders), stripped naked, spat upon, humiliated and mocked, and ultimately he dies. This is what it feels like to have PTSD in America. It feels like you are being crucified and that you will ultimately die alone and no one will care, not even God. The crucifixion is a PTSD experience.
The PTSD experience is to be and feel willfully misunderstood. It is to have people who don’t know better, and who often don’t want to know better, refuse to acknowledge your suffering. It is to be mocked and humiliated by those who don’t truly value your suffering.
On the human level the sense of incomprehension and alienation are experienced in relation to our acquaintances, friends, family, religious institutions, and our government. Sometimes these relationships really do deny us. Other times they can’t stand to see us as the living symbols of trauma.
We are too painful to look at as we are constant reminders of the injustice in our society.
And, at yet other times, we may even drive them away ourselves. When all of these human level, temporal, relationships are alienated, in either reality or in our traumatized perceptions, then, ultimately, it feels as if God has also abandoned us. We can anesthetize ourselves by denying the validity of all forms of order and that may include a denial of God. We feel and/or experience betrayal by all of them, so we deny their meaning and existence.
The source of your PTSD can come from any type of trauma. Perhaps someone did it to you, perhaps you did it to yourself. Regardless of the source and cause of trauma, your soul has been damaged. Your identity has been affected by PTSD and in order to cope with symptoms you may engage in negative behaviors. PTSD behaviors will seek to drive you away from healthy relationships and cause you to isolate and harm yourself.
When Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” he summarizes the PTSD experience. The quotation comes from Psalm 22, a Psalm of Lament.
Since Jesus is fully human, he experiences all of the misery that is PTSD. He experiences the feelings of indifference, the humiliation, the shame, the mocking, and the very worse symptom of the PTSD-Identity, the feeling that you are absolutely alone and that God has abandoned you.
This means you are never fully alone in your suffering – even if you think you want to be. Jesus shares your suffering. He knows that in PTSD you are being crucified on your own cross.
When Jesus is on the cross he feels and experiences denied by all aspects of society, betrayed by a close associate, dismissed by government and religious intuitions, he still calls out to God. Even as he feels forsaken by God, he calls out to God. Even as he feels totally isolated and alone in the crowd gathered around the cross, he still calls to God. He knows God is there, he knows he is not alone in this horrible suffering – and neither are you.
Our Souls Are Healed by the Fully Divine Jesus
If you have PTSD, or you care about someone with PTSD, then you know that it touches deeper than the initial physical trauma(s). You know that PTSD touches the soul. The human body can repair itself against many forms of assaults: gunshot wounds, bomb fragments, beatings, and the abuse of a rapist. But we know that we don’t just “get over it” and go on as if nothing happened to us. Our soul is also touched by these wounds.
Our souls can be scarred, just the same as our bodies. This brings us back to Christology and why it is important that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. Just as the full divinity of Jesus enables him to take on all of human sin, it also enables him to heal and restore us from our soul wounds.
If Jesus were only human, he would not be able to touch and heal us on the level of our souls. If he were only partially divine, he would not be able to fully touch us on the level of our souls. To fully touch us on the level of the divine, Jesus must be fully divine. This full divinity of Jesus enables us to be restored from our PTSD.
The full divinity of Jesus –
- Light from Light,
- True God from True God,
- One in Being with the Father
– allows us to be in communion with God.
It means that none of what has happened to us need separate us from God.
It means we need not fear annihilation or isolation.
None of the traumas which has been done to us, none of which we have done to ourselves, must by necessity separate us from God. The Big Lie of PTSD is that we are worthless, no one cares, God is absent, and our lives are best ended. Yet, in the hows and whys of Christology, we see that PTSD’s Big Lie is just that, an enormous falsehood leading to self-destruction.
In the full humanity of Jesus we never suffer alone nor remain in isolation. Our suffering is understood and has meaning. We are loved.
In the full divinity of Jesus we are resurrected from our PTSD crucifixion and united with God and one another.
There is No Light Switch
Then why is this so hard?! We learn through experience. We become holy, sanctified through experience, through the refiner’s fire.
One does not choose to be traumatized. We don’t even know why some are traumatized and others are not. But we know that trauma affects us both on the levels of our bodies and our souls. For those who can somehow survive their trauma and the PTSD, there is new life, a better life. The journey is long, it’s hard, and it does not always appear to make sense. But it is one of the sanctification paths to the presence of God.
The gift of the two-nature Christology is a gift of life for those who have been traumatized. Jesus is fully human and knows all we have experienced. We are never alone. Jesus is fully divine and thus can heal us from the negative effects of all we have experienced.
For the PTSD Sufferer, Christology Matters.
PTSD attacks us on the physical and spiritual levels. Healing for PTSD thus requires treatments that engage both the physical and the spiritual. Medical science can help us deal with PTSD symptoms, although we also grapple with the pharmaceutical side effects. We don’t want to abandon the positive things medicine can do to heal us cope and heal.
Yet, to help restore our souls, medicine is out of its depth. In early Christianity, Jesus was often referred to as the Life-Giver, Restorer, the Physician, and even the Medicine Cabinet. Jesus can help us heal on both the physical and spiritual levels.
In the realm of the divine, Jesus can take our physical traumas and how they have affected us spiritually and lead us to healing and sanctification.
Jesus Came to the Sick
Ironically, the PTSD soul wound can become a way to experience God even more deeply. Many healthy people stood around and watched Jesus perform his acts of power, his miracles. Most of those people were unfazed. But the people who most fully experienced God were those who were sick and in need of healing.
In PTSD we are crucified with the human Jesus, but we are resurrected with the divine Christ. This offers us hope and the reality of never being isolated or afraid. It is one more reason to stay alive, live, and embrace the authentic love that is God.
Semper Pax, Dr.Z