When I was an anaesthetist in Pietermaritzburg and in the UK, part of my duty was to give anaesthetics to patients having electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

ECT is a fairly radical treatment given for incapacitating depression. After the patient is wheeled into the room on a trolley, the sides of his face in the temple area are wet with saline so that they conduct electricity well. Then electrodes are attached on either side over the wetted areas. An electric current is then passed between these electrodes through the brain. Were I not there the patient would convulse violently but to stop this I would give them a light dose of intravenous anaesthetic and then a drug which paralyses them for a few minutes. Of course, one cannot breathe if one is paralysed, so I would ventilate the patient gently with oxygen before allowing the psychiatrist to give the therapy. In spite of the paralysing drug, the muscles of the face would contort and the patient’s body would shake slightly. I would then continue ventilating the patient gently with oxygen until the paralysis wore off and he started breathing and awoke.

While waiting for the patient to recover and start to breathe I had many opportunities for conversations with the psychiatrists. In over 80% of cases, as I asked about the patients, the doctors told me stories that indicated that the problem was related in some way to forgiveness. Either the patient could not forgive themselves, or another, or they were victims of bitterness and hatred. Alternatively they were trying to cope with guilt, not knowing about, or believing in, God’s forgiveness.

What a healing work our Lord Jesus did on the Cross. What freedom there is in knowing the pardon of God. The Bible states that it is by His stripes that we are healed. We sometimes narrow that down to physical healing, but the greatest healing of all takes place in our hearts when we discover that there is a God who loves us enough to take away that incapacitating guilt at incalculable cost. How bizarre the idea of scrambling our brains with an electric current to change our mood seems when we compare it with coming into a whole new life of freedom and intimacy with a loving God who casts our sins into the depths of the sea, never to be remembered again.

What a cause for celebration this Eastertide is!



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