Ok, here’s the deal. I published a blog post a few weeks ago in which I may have lied a little.
It wasn’t really my intention. I just hadn’t developed my thoughts well enough. I was about twenty-five percent there. Most of my thoughts are half-baked these days, thanks to my kids, so please have grace with me.
Here is the lie that I posted:
“I can’t control what happens around me, but I can control what happens within me.”
Maybe some of you already see the problem. That second part is a little tricky. Anyone here suffer from depression, anxiety, both, or other? Well, while I did admit to having a regular problem with anxiety, I didn’t acknowledge that it often gets the best of me. And many times, I simply can’t control what happens within me. There are days not a thing can touch that growing sense of dread in the pit of my stomach.
My anxiety nearly always revolves around my kiddos. The weight of raising two humans in this world that is increasingly chaotic and confusing can be stressful. Then there’s the anxiety of just keeping them healthy, alive, and on time to everything, every day. Packed lunches, permission slips, sicknesses, missed naps, bedtimes, bath times, teach them skills, teach them prayers, teach them faith, correct them, discipline them, comfort them in the middle of the night… wash/rinse/repeat.
And if the crazy going on in my house isn’t enough, there’s the crazy of the whole world taking over my morning news feed every single day. It’s enough to make us all crazy.
My point is, it’s tough to keep my anxiety at bay when several of those things blow up in my face all at once. When one kid is puking, the other is teething, daddy is out of town, I am already running on coffee fumes and exhaustion, and politics hijack my nice morning news/coffee time, I struggle to keep my anxiety at bay. I can only do so much.
Last week I was reading my Bible in Matthew 26. I have read the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane a thousand times. I tried hard not to simply gloss over it this time. I concentrated hard as I read. And here is what I found.
I found a man who brought his closest friends to a quiet garden the night before he knew he would die. He asked them to stay close and be vigilant while he went to pray. I noticed
that it seemed to be his habit during times of intense stress to withdraw and pray alone (maybe I should consider this an example for myself?). Jesus then began to feel “sorrowful and troubled.” Another word for that, as I read it, is anxious. His anxiety grew “to the point of death,” and he asked his friends again to stay close while he prayed.
Have you ever felt that way? The anxiety so heavy on your chest that you think you might die, or it’s a sign you’re going to die, and you just don’t want to be alone? You just need that person or those people to be close, to sit quietly with you, to be near so that you know you’ll be ok? Can you imagine Jesus feeling this way? The God of the Universe squished into the shell of a human body and forced to endure a night of anxiety and dread.
After making sure his friends were there to stay, Jesus moved a little farther this time and fell to the ground, his face buried in the dirt. He prayed again to God, and he begged for a different ending. He followed up with a “yet not as I will, but as you will,” and I wonder if he forced those words from his lips, hoping his anxious heart would follow suit.
He went back to find his friends, and they were asleep. Irritated, he called them out, asking why they couldn’t keep watch with him for simply an hour, accusing them of being weak. He then went away once more, and again asked God to control the outcome of the next 24 hours, and followed up by praying for God’s will.
I used to read this and feel guilty that I didn’t pray for God’s will more often. But now I read it and feel a sobering affection for Jesus. He felt the width and depth of anxiety, a kind I will never know. He felt the anxiety that comes from knowing he will be separated from his Father. I will never feel that in my own anxiety because God will never leave me…thanks to Jesus.
You guys. I have been praying the past few weeks…hard. And not the “bury your head in the sand” kind of praying…but a genuine, what in the world do we do now, God? Regardless of your political stances, the world is experiencing a lot of discord and chaos right now. That alone can be concerning. I know friends living with real anxiety as to how things will shake out.
What did Jesus do in his anxiety? He surrounded himself with friends. He prayed honest prayers. He asked multiple times. He trusted. He did the work. He endured with perseverance to receive the crown of life God had planned for him all along. So what does that look like for you?
Surround yourselves with community. Spend time with the Father in honest tear-soaked prayers. Remember that Jesus, our high priest, empathizes with how we feel. He knows how hard it is. Do the work. Endure with perseverance. Trust God’s way, which is a way of love, compassion, and courage. This is the way that will never fail us. It will always lead us in the right direction.
And if we die in the process? We may just find the life we were looking for.
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39
“Then Jesus said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death…” Matthew 26:38
“Therefore since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest that is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way…Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:15