Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When Worry Grips Us

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Matthew 26:36-37

It is always a little surreal to me saying the Rosary during Christmas time, particularly the Sorrowful mysteries. There is something about pulling the Crucifixtion into the Nativity that seems wrong...jarring. But in truth, they are one and the same. Both are saving acts from our Creator. Their significance is eternally woven together. We shouldn't see one without the other.

Besides, there is so much to learn from Jesus...and about Jesus...through His Passion. Take the passage above for instance. In just a few verses we learn at least two very practical things about Jesus...and about ourselves.

First, we learn that Jesus worried. He grieved and felt distressed. He knew what lie ahead for Him...and quite naturally...it upset Him...made Him anxious. How very human! And all the more testament to Paul's teaching:
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15

Second, we see that Jesus thought about the future. His mind wandered, just as ours does, out of the present moment and into the not yet formed future. So often it seems we are encouraged not to worry about tomorrow. To focus on today and let tomorrow take care of itself....as if simply thinking about tomorrow...about what might be is wrong. And while no doubt Christ's words are Truth and Wisdom (Matthew 6:34), I think this very vulnerable moment in Jesus' life helps frame what He really means when He says not to worry about tomorrow.

Clearly Jesus worried (or grieved or was anxious or distressed)...and yet He was without sin. So that must mean that worrying...or maybe I should say feeling worried...is not sinful. In fact, I think we have to admit it is very human. It's in our nature. But where the real decision point comes...where the step toward or away from sin really happens...is in where we go from there....in what do we do next. And the answer to that, is found in the Garden.

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." Matthew 26:39
He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done." Matthew 26:42
And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Matthew 26:44

Like so many aspects of our human nature, it is not our initial reaction which leads us to sin. For better or worse, we are the creatures we are...at least at this level...the level most similar to animals' "instinct". No...the decision point...the thing that determines if we take another step toward being a heavenly creature or a hellish creature (to borrow from C.S. Lewis)...is what we do after that initial reaction...what we do next. And thankfully, Jesus made it abundantly clear what we are supposed to do next. Whenever we are worried, or anxious, or grieved, or distressed, we need to go to God in prayer. We need to seek Him. We need to acknowledge His sovereignty and our weakness. When we need peace...we must go to the source of all Peace. And then...we need to let go of our worries and trust Him. Sometimes this takes work....sometimes it takes time. Jesus prayed three separate times before He completely exorcised His anxiety...His distress. So we must expect that there will be times when we will need to go back to God in prayer again...and again...and again. But if we go to Him faithfully...honestly...openly...humbly...and if we truly desire to abandon our worries and fears and instead trust Him...then Jesus teaches us...God will answer (http://www.biblestudytools.com/nas/luke/22-43.html)!