When stress overwhelms

Luke 22:39-46 “And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.’”

The passage above demonstrates the way we should handle times of great stress compared to the way people often handle these times. The contrast is between how Jesus dealt with the greatest stress anyone has ever faced, and the way the disciples faced great stress. Jesus knew that He was headed to complete humiliation and the agonizing torture of betrayal, abandonment, flogging, crucifixion, and the unimaginable pain of bearing the wrath of God for the sins of every person that has ever lived. The disciples were in great sorrow because their leader was leaving them, although they had been promised by Him that He would come again to them and that He would also send the Holy Spirit to them, which would be better for them than if He stayed with them physically. Their response, nevertheless, was overwhelming sorrow and depression, to the point that they fell asleep from the exhaustion of it all. It was one way to escape the situation, at least for a moment.

So, have you ever been so anxious about the future that you’ve just wanted to escape, even if sleep was the only way to do so? Although Jesus told His disciples to pray, they didn’t. Maybe they were so anxious that they felt like they couldn’t, or maybe they didn’t believe they would be heard. Whatever their reasons, Jesus’ response was different. His response was to pray “more earnestly.” In the parallel account in Matthew 26 it says that He returned in prayer three times, agonizing over what He was facing. But then He was done, and He was prepared to face the cross.

In Hebrews 12:2 we see that “for the joy that was set before him (he) endured the cross, despising the shame.” How did He get to that place? Obviously, it was largely a result of his time with the Father in prayer. In prayer, He had come to the place of being strengthened and able to say, “not my will but yours be done.” The picture here is one of complete trust, complete submission to the Father’s will, no matter what. His was the picture of “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-7).

Lord, help me follow your example when fears of the future begin to creep into my mind. Help me to pray through these fears and continue to pray until my will becomes completely yielded to your will, no matter what. For truly, that is the truest test of whether I really believe the things You have told me in Your precious Word.

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