Quite recently, Cameroonian soldiers were able to rescue hundreds of men, women, and children during a raid on the town of Achigachia in March of 2016. As streams of these people– after months, even years of captivity– are leaving the brush and forests that entrapped them, they horrifically may not have visible wounds, but are leaving with deep, traumatic scars that can bind them for life (source).
This rescue is something to truly celebrate; and this victory should not be downplayed, whatsoever. Yet, while the physical freedom of hundreds has been won, there remains unfathomable spiritual bondage for each and every one of them: trauma from extreme violence; ruthless religious persecution for those who refused to give up their faith in Christ; sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse; and horrific physical damage to their bodies and minds. Sadly, this is only the beginning of the reasons for the profound damage done to their souls. Yet, even in the midst of this unimaginable pain, there is hope for healing.
This Holy Week, as billions of Christians reflect on the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, many will lament the physical pain and anguish Christ went through to atone for and forgive mankind’s sin. However, many fail to realize the depth of Jesus’ suffering, not only from a physical or mental point of view, but from an emotional and spiritual state.
In the last months, weeks, and days of Christ’s life here on earth, Jesus suffered in the greatest sense of the word. As Isaiah 53:3 states, “He [was] despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”; and while this is true of His entire life, the sorrow Jesus experienced as His crucifixion neared is unparalleled.
Jesus’ emotional anguish
Many passages of scripture depict Jesus as this “Man of sorrows,” but none so describe Jesus’ emotional pain and suffering in preparation for the cross as His time in the Garden of Gethsemane, found in Luke 22:
“39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.'”
(Luke 22:39-46, NIV)
In this particular garden, Jesus prayed perhaps the hardest prayer one can pray: “If you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Knowing perfectly the terror, unfathomable anguish, and mortal and spiritual death that lay before Him, Jesus willingly submitted to every bit of it, causing so much emotional and spiritual distress that “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” This condition, medically known as “Hematohidrosis,” “is a condition in which capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture, causing them to exude blood, occurring under conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress,” with “acute fear and intense mental contemplation are the most frequent causes” (source).
Jesus was not only deeply distressed by his upcoming torture; Scripture also tells us that Jesus was completely abandoned, as He approached the cross. Betrayed even by Peter, a disciple considered to be one of Jesus’ “inner three,” Jesus was left completely alone, allowing the ultimate relational pain of betrayal and loneliness to fill Him. Again, Christ had complete foreknowledge of this pain (John 16:32), and had it within His Power to stop it from occurring, saying, “…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18, NIV); yet, He chose to go through all of it: “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18a, NIV).
And lay His Life down, He did.
Christ’s Spiritual Suffering
The most painful thing of all—spiritual pain—ultimately gripped Christ, as He was nailed to the cross. More than the intense emotional pain He experienced, Jesus suffered something unfathomable for the believer: temporary, complete separation from God the Father. It is described in Matthew 27:45-46. “From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).”
As the entire land was engulfed in darkness, even those who refused to believe that Jesus was the Messiah could sense something was happening. In the spiritual realm, Jesus had become the actual sin of all mankind (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because God is a Holy and Righteous God, He cannot bear to be near sin; and Jesus, who was sinless, was dying for the sins of all humanity, bearing upon Himself alone the wrath mankind deserved (Isaiah 53:5). “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23, NIV), and in this death, Christ suffered the ultimate wrath for our sin. As Christ cried, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani,” He had, while on the cross, called His Father “God”—denoting the grueling separation that had occurred by becoming mankind’s sin. Finally, as He drew His last breath, “Jesus said ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).
The spiritual implications of this event were seen and heard, even after Jesus’ death; in fact, as Jesus Christ died, “…the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life” (Matthew 27:52-52). Suffering and dying the torturous death we deserved, Christ’s unfathomable spiritual anguish was given voluntarily, that those He died for, who believe, might have “life, and life abundant” (John 10:10).
The darkness that enfolds these men, women, and children as they leave their physical captivity is indeed thick, and at times terrifying; but it is nothing that the Light of Jesus Christ cannot shine through. As these people now face a new life of freedom, they do not need to face it alone. Jesus, who has suffered, and knows their suffering, “is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble”; “…a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat” (Psalm 9:9; Isaiah 25:4).
“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 53:5, NIV). May they find their healing in Him.
Do you know Jesus?
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks spit, and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.”
As the curtain was torn in two, the relationship between God and people was forever changed. By becoming the Ultimate Sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10), Christ, who is God Himself, made a way—the Only Way– for all mankind to have a personal relationship with God. Tearing the curtain in two, Jesus became the Mediator of a New Covenant between man and God: based not on the works of the law, but on grace by faith in Jesus alone (Hebrews 10:19-21; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Meet the God who gave it all, that you might be saved, here.
Praise Jesus for the rescue of these men, women, and children!!! Isaiah 65:24 says, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” Christ has amazingly done this for these HUNDREDS of people– to HIM be all the praise!!!
Please pray for:
- The Chibok girls. Please pray that these precious girls would have physical freedom—but, most importantly, spiritual freedom and healing through knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
- Those who have recently been freed from Boko Haram captivity. Pray they would know Christ as their Lord and Savior, and that He would heal them of their physical, mental, and spiritual wounds.
- Those, alongside the Chibok girls, who are still in captivity. Horrifically, the Chibok girls are only a small percentage of those who have been kidnapped, and enslaved, by Boko Haram. Pray for their freedom and healing, as well.
- The Cameroonian military. Though this News update is based in Cameroon, not Nigeria, Boko Haram is a threat in both areas; pray they too would know Jesus Christ personally, and would rely upon Him as their Strength in fighting Boko Haram (Exodus 15:2).
- Boko Haram. “…love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45, NIV). Pray they would know Christ, and would be healed of their evil hearts.
Thank you for your prayers! Be blessed this Easter, celebrating the One who paid it all! ❤