Mark 14:33b-34a (NLT)
He became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.’
We don’t imagine Jesus as someone anxious and distressed. Yet, in Gethsemane that is how he is described. We have the impression that we’re expected to be cool under pressure and to manage our emotional reactions. However, these words reveal the humanity of Christ. Here was someone who knew emotion and was willing and able to express it.
My years of training mediators showed me that many people struggle to reach for and find emotional words to describe their feelings. In place of saying for example, ‘I feel angry’, they say, ‘I feel as though things are not going right’, ‘I feel like you’re not listening to me’ etc. They speak for the situation and for others but not for themselves. They provide a narrative but are unable to find the release that comes from owning who they are in the moment.
On this the eve of his great suffering, Jesus owns clearly his own feelings. First with his closest friends, then in prayer with his Father. We see the human frailty that reassures us that Jesus can indeed appreciate us in our dark periods and inner struggles. We also see his faith in owning his distress and finding strength to continue through prayer.
No-one can imagine Jesus’ agony that night, alone yet prayerful in the garden. What we do know is that our own personal journey can prove both painful and isolating. Jesus shows us the way - being open with the emotions, honest in our conversation with God and willing to let God lead us forward. Prayer is our essential lifeline.
It took me years to move beyond simply being open with the emotions. What was in some ways a release for me, proved a barrier preventing friends both choosing to walk alongside me and from offering friendship itself. Only slowly did I move from cursing God to learning to pray. Only through prayer encounter did I find the humility and confidence to trust my life back to God. I realised how little I had prepared for night while it was still day.
QUESTION: Are you able to express the emotions you feel? Can you find feelings words to describe the distress and anxiety you experience?
PRAYER: Lord, help me speak to you honestly and from the heart even when my heart is troubled.