Sometimes I forget that my emotions, even the ones perceived as negative, are not sin. Christian or not, sadness, grief, and even anger are normal parts of our every day lives. How we respond to those emotions and what we do because of them is where the importance lies.
I often wonder about the first time Jesus experienced anxiety. The Bible tells us that He faced all the same testings and trials we face (Hebrews 4:15), and knowing His future included a gruesome death on the cross, I can only imagine that caused Him anxiety at some point.
So how did the King of Kings, the God of Heaven, handle overwhelming emotions? How did He respond when the weight started to press heavily?
We see Jesus reach His emotional climax in the Garden of Gethsemane. In my own life, this would be the panic attack moment – the moment I’m curled up in a ball on the ground, paralyzed by anxiety, the moment I’m sobbing and gasping for air. But not Jesus.
Although His soul feels crushed to death by grief (Mark 14:34) and His agony is so great that sweat drops to the ground like blood (Luke 22:44), He does not panic and He does not sin.
Instead, He gets on His knees and prays. He cries out to God, “Abba Father, please take this from me, but if I must feel this, if I must move forward, I will. I surrender it all to you. Your will be done because you are good and perfect and Holy.”
I love the version of this story in Luke. He wrote that as Jesus prayed an angel strengthened Him (Luke 22:43). When we feel all the feels, we do not need to be ashamed of them. We don’t need to hide them or try to manage them in our own strength. We just need to surrender them to God because in our surrender, real strength is found.
I don’t know about you, but I relate much more to the disciples who fell asleep “exhausted with grief” (Luke 22:45). I let my emotions run wild and drag me around wherever they want. But in order to resist temptation (Luke 22:46), walk in the Spirit, and have the strength to do God’s will, we must follow Christ’s example instead.
Before this moment in the Garden, Christ had made a habit to often draw away and pray. I’m sure there are many good reasons why, but I can’t help but wonder if it was because He was feeling overwhelmed by emotion.
Thinking about His future and the weight He had to carry could have totally immersed Him in His feelings. So maybe that’s why He withdrew and prayed and surrendered to God over and over again. Then when He reached that climax point in the Garden, right before He was arrested and killed, His habit of prayer kicked in and there He was strengthened.
Let’s remember this Easter, not just His death and resurrection, but His perfect example of how to deal with overwhelming emotions and circumstances. Whatever you’re facing today, stop and surrender to God, be weak in His presence, and let the Holy Spirit comfort and strengthen you. Kneel down, cry out “Abba Father”, and open your hands, for it is in our surrender, that real strength is found.