Many of us experience moments of distress or seasons of sorrow. Some of us live with constant anxiety or struggle with regular depression. As Christians, we often put guilt on top of those struggles because we feel like we have failed when those feelings appear.
I haven’t failed when anxiety hits – I fail when I mishandle my anxiety.
It’s like any other temptation. If the object of temptation flashes before my eyes, I haven’t sinned (yet). It’s not the first glance but the lingering. In the same way, this life is full of trouble (Job 14:1; John 16:33). When trouble hits, you aren’t responsible for those initial feelings. They are part of being human. It is what you do with those feelings that determines your success.
Even Jesus got overwhelmed.
That’s right – God in the flesh got overwhelmed.
I belief it is safe to say anxious.
He knew the cross was nearing. He was going to stand in the way of God’s wrath for us. Fully aware of what that entailed, he was overwhelmed. He was described as “greatly distressed” (Mark 14:33), “sorrowful,” and “troubled” (Matt. 26:37). He even admitted he was so sorrowful that he was at the point of death (Matt. 26:38). His stress was so great that he sweat great drops of blood (Luke 22:44) which modern medicine would describe as hematidrosis – a condition in which a person sweats blood due to extreme agony.
So if Jesus got that overwhelmed, is it OK to repeat his example? If you follow his example all the way through.
What did Jesus do with his anxiety? He drew near to his God and to his friends.
He went to a customary place where he liked to pray (Luke 22:39), brought three of his closest friends with him (Mark 14:33), asked them to pray (Matt. 26:40-41), and fell on his face and pleaded with God (Matt. 26:39).
He drew near to God and those closest to him.
After asking God if there was another way numerous times yet submitting to the plan (Matt. 26:42), Jesus rose with a different demeanor than when he entered the garden.
After this time of prayer, he almost seems determined, calm, and somehow, even in control.
- He tells the disciples to get up because his betrayer had arrived and it was time to get going (Matt. 26:46).
- He speaks confidently and causes people to fall to the ground (John 18:6).
- He tells the mob to leave his disciples alone and take him (John 18:8).
- He heals a guard’s ear that Peter cuts off (Luke 22:51).
- He tells the mob he could call down more than twelve legions of angels at that moment if he wanted to (Matt. 26:53).
- And when he talks with those who can spare his life, he tells them the only reason they have power is because it was given to them (John 19:11).
How did Jesus go from desiring encouragers around him to pray for his agonizing soul as he sweat drops of blood to a defiant, calm and collected demeanor who somehow seemed to be in control of his own trial and execution?
Jesus sought God and sought some good friends.
Even though the friends didn’t do what he wanted them to do, it was still enough.
So is it OK to be anxious? Is it un-Christian to struggle? Jesus seemed to deal with agony, and I believe his example can provide direction for us today.
You probably have good reason to feel anxious today. Your stress is probably very substantial.
What should you do?
- Get some friends to pray with you
You are not alone.