All of us at some point in our lives have to endure some event or type of hardship (whether real or perceived) that we know is coming and we dread them. These can be in many forms but some common ones are things such as medical operations, cancer treatments, loss of employment, family relocations, divorce, and even death of a loved one that is anticipated. Events in our lives cause stress and they vary by age and life circumstances. For me, the most stressful events of my life occurred as a result of family separations due to Naval Submarine deployments.
The worst four nights of my life thus far have been the nights prior to each of my four deployments. You know that if you go to sleep, you will wake up to the day you have to leave your wife and family behind…….so you don’t want to go to sleep at all. You want to spend every moment talking to your children or wife as if this will somehow slow down the inevitable. The anxiety of the moment builds and you can’t do anything to stop it. You are scared of the unknown. It’s in those moments that you think about things you ordinarily never consider like the “what if” scenarios such as will your children be taken care of if something happens to your wife while you are gone or does my wife know how to take care of everything if something happens to you. Thousands of thoughts race through your mind trying to make sense of it all, and you try to think about all the things you were supposed to do to get ready for it. The night is truly restless and it is hard to even tell when you actually fall asleep if you even do. It was the longest and shortest night of my life all at the same time if that makes any sense. Yet when the night was over and dawn arrived, I was committed and I executed my duty to serve.
Barry talked to us last Sunday about the night before Jesus’ crucifixion. During the lesson, I couldn’t help but think about some of my own experiences and in some way I could relate to how Jesus must have felt. We can all relate to how Jesus must have felt on some level. The accounts of this night in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22 are so rich in information about the anxiety Jesus felt knowing what He was about to endure. Some words used to describe his despair are agony, sorrowful, and troubled. We also learn the physiological responses to his emotional state. Scripture states that Jesus sweated drops of blood and that He collapsed. These accounts provide great testimony to the humanity of Jesus. Stress and anxiety produce physiological responses….some are more severe than others and they are dependent on individual makeup. I have been under significant stress at times that caused vomiting, depression, and stomach cramps to name a few. Yet when dawn arrived, Jesus was committed and executed His Father’s will.
The difference between our experiences of enduring these anticipated hardships and Jesus is……… Jesus had the power to change it and He didn’t. There isn’t a single one us who wouldn’t change the outcome of our hardships if we had the power to do so. Yet that is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus had the power to stop it but didn’t because He loved you and me. He could have called twelve legions of angels to His rescue (Matt 26:53) but He laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16). That makes me love Jesus. How about you? Next time you are in a state of despair feeling anxious and stressed because you know what you are about to endure will not be pleasant……remember Jesus. Remember His story. Remember His stress. Remember His commitment. And most of all….remember His reward. He now sits at the right hand of God (Mk 16:10; Heb 10:12) and the same reward awaits all those who do the will of God (Heb 10:35-36). Being able to relate to Jesus in this way enables me to love Him all the more. -