Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Emotional Stigmata

Emotional Stigmata

Stigmata (a plural form of stigma) are open wounds on a person’s body, like those suffered by Christ during His crucifixion. They are spontaneous manifestation of bloody wounds on a person. Blood flows from these wounds (“stigmata”) for an unspecified period of time – then just as suddenly as it came, the blood ceases and the wounds heal.

Stigmatism is probably something quite foreign to most of us; definitely not something we are familiar with or used to. To linear thinkers, such spiritual happenings may be thought as bizarre and really quite questionable as to its spiritual authenticity. But let us not be too quick in our judgment here, for history records a number of believers who bear such marks testifying of the passion of Christ, and who at the same time also suffered the corresponding discomfort and pain of the wounds. On record, it would seem the first instance of stigmatism was St. Francis Assisi (1186 – 1226). He carried in his body, the marks of Christ’s crucifixion, but went on in the ministry of service and healing. Today, the Assisi Home and Hospice, a centre for cancer patients, is named after him.

I went deeper in my knowledge on stigmatism when I happened to come across some articles on it while surfing the net one day. The articles reported on the lives of stigmatic – of people found with wounds on their bodies, similar to those on Christ’s crucified body. They suffered the kind of pain Christ went through when He had to endure the agonies of crucifixion. Suddenly, it dawned on me that while those were only people who bore bodily marks of the Christ’s physical suffering, there is yet another group of people who bear the invisible but tangible marks of His emotional pain. Like how the people who bore the visible marks of Christ’s afflictions get a feel of the pain He suffered on the cross, so there are those who have been called to bear some of the grief and hurt Christ felt so as to be able to identify with Him as a Man of sorrows (Isa. 53:3). I dwelled further on that thought, and at that moment coined the words “emotional stigmata”.

Articulating the need for emotional stigmata brings us to where we remember ourselves as living in a fallen world over which deep darkness and obscurity rule cold and severe. This darkness is a thriving place for all forms of ills and disorders – arrogance, self-centredness, unfaithfulness, jealousy, brutality etc; they shatter and cause tears and jerks to relationships, leaving behind pains and hurts to haunt the human heart.

There is so much grief and hurt in our world of fallen humanity. Pain and suffering surround us every day, in every conceivable way. We know the pain we bear and the hurt we feel, but how about the pain in the people around us? When we want to minister help, especially, how are we able to know the despair felt by the man who still lies helpless in the pit of despair despite countless attempts to gratify himself with an endless string of sexual affairs? Are we able to feel with the victim of adultery and identify with the stab in her heart when her husband walked away and closed the door of their love behind him? What about hearing the continual echoes of a wailing soul trudging himself miserably through life’s mire without once finding purpose or meaning?

We cannot fully fathom the depth of their hurt and grief, unless we can be identified with them in their pains and sorrows – which was what Christ did. He became incarnated as flesh so that He can feel exactly how we feel. God did not try to understand the human pain or empathise with the human emotion with a spiritual heart; He became flesh to feel what flesh would feel.

We are not saying that one definitely has to bear the “Stigmata” inorder to be able to minister effectively. Who can limit God ? We know that God minister through us in the power of His Spirit, however, God many a times cause His Spirit to work through our emotion and mind. Didn’t the Bible says that “ the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor.1:3-4). Many a times, God power is hinder by our unsanctified soul. We often lack His compassion ,mercy and love. By allowing us to bear the “mark”, it helps to wrought these element into our soul.

This is God’s turning the tables back on evil. When we refuse to succumb in depression to evil committed against us, but instead find a chance to use it for the benefit of others, it delivers us from the evil visited upon us. As God’s image-bearers in the world, it is not uncommon for us to suffer trials and hurts, but instead of being torn down by them,, we can take them as opportunities and fully exploit them to demonstrate and manifest God’s love for mankind. Sufferings and trials are surely not pleasant, but they are aides in revealing and delivering us from evil tendencies. They also provide some of the greatest opportunities to minister God’s love.

If one has never undergone a crisis, the basic inclination is intolerance towards those who fumble in managing the calamities of life. But if we have been slighted before in certain areas of our lives, we remain sensitive in those areas even after we are healed of the pain. This sensitivity becomes something God can use to help us identify with the same sentiments in another person. It infuses compassion in ministry and enables one to carry out a more effective ministry when dealing with hurting people. We believe it is for this reason that the Lord allowed the suffering that we feel for every wound that has been inflicted on us. In the wilderness, God dealt first with Moses before using him to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. Unless we are delivered ourselves, it is not possible for us to contribute to others’ deliverance.

Jesus experienced one of life’s most painful betrayal when He was rejected by the very same people He created! In His love, He healed many and delivered thousands, yet, He was waged with the most cruel and humiliating death. Yet, even by that death, our Lord used such injustice and turned it into an instrument of redemption and deliverance for the world. For it is by Christ’s work on the cross that you and I stand redeemed today.

It is by the stripes suffered by the Lord that we are healed. In the very place where He was wounded, He received the authority to heal. The same principle works for us. Many of those with the greatest healing ministries have endured painful physical maladies themselves. Many who had compassion to minister to drug addicts, child’s abuse victims and homosexuals tend to be victims once themselves. After the blood flows, healing follows. What they do is that they turn from “emotional stigmata” and allow healing to flow from their “wounds” instead.

Jesus said “Offences must come” (Mt. 18:7). How we regard or react to the offences determine whether we become a better or bitter person at the end of it. Unfortunately for some of us, when Satan strikes, we worsen the impact by pressurizing the wound – we aggravate and trouble it further by driving that spear or arrow deeper into ourselves. How do we do that to an emotional wound? By paying more attention to our hurts than what’s necessary. Inadvertently, the more we look on our hurts, the more pitiable we see ourselves to be. Soon, we come to believe ourselves as being the victims of the world - totally abused and beaten. It then becomes no longer possible, for a sick man who is caught up in combating his own illness, to minister help to another suffering soul.

Dearly beloved of God, learn from our Lord Jesus. Turn every wound you suffer into a healing gauze. History records that many physical stigmatic hold impressive records of spectacular healing ministries. You too, can minister inner healing to wounded souls if you allow yourself to. Let the blood that bleeds from our hearts and the tears that flow from our depths be turned into healing oil and a fountain of life for others.

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