With wars raging, violence escalating in our communities and schools, and watching out for the next virus while the cost of living continues to rise, does God understand our fears?
You bet he does! He’s been there and knows how it feels. He knows how difficult it is to pass through the valley of the shadow of death.
Jesus faced fear in the Garden, even though he didn’t have to. As he told Peter, in Matthew 26:53, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” A legion in Roman times was 6,000 men, which means that the Father would give him 72,000 angels if he had asked! Remember, it only took one angel to destroy the city of Sodom, so what could 72,000 angels do to this world?
Yes, Jesus knew and faced fear when he didn’t have to! He shed his blood for us first in the Garden, hours before his beatings and being nailed to the cross. In the Garden, he showed fear could be conquered, but only through faith, because fear is a real spiritual battle. Jesus faced his fear in the Garden. Then, he conquered fear. In 2 Timothy 1:7, we read, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”
Why is this scripture so important? Because when we are afraid, we can feel as if we are losing our minds. We feel weak and unloved, and we feel the pain fear causes, just as Jesus did in the Garden. It feels like our whole being is engulfed in a thick, blinding fog. We can’t see anything. We feel mentally and emotionally overwhelmed. An intense pain clenches at our heart, like a giant claw.
Max Lucado, in his book The Gift for All People, recounts Mark 14:32–36 like this, “They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James, and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. Horror and dismay came over him, and he said to them, ‘My heart is ready to break with grief; stop here and stay awake.’ Then he went forward a little, threw himself on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, this hour might pass him by. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘all things are possible to thee; take this cup away from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’” Look at those phrases. “Horror and dismay came over him.” “My heart is ready to break with grief.” “He went a little forward and threw himself on the ground.” Does this look like the picture of a saintly Jesus resting in the palm of God? Hardly. Mark used black paint to describe this scene. We see an agonizing, straining, and struggling Jesus. We see a “man of sorrows.” We see a man struggling with fear, wrestling with commitments, and yearning for relief. We see Jesus in the fog of a broken heart.
Hebrews 5:7 emphasizes Jesus’ understanding of pain even further, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” What a portrait! Jesus is in pain. Jesus is on the stage of fear. Jesus is cloaked, not in sainthood, but in humility. The next time the fog finds you, you might do well to remember Jesus in the Garden.
The next time you think no one understands, reread Chapter 14 of the Book of Mark. The next time your fear tries to convince you that no one cares, pay a visit to Gethsemane. The next time you wonder if God perceives the pain that prevails on this dusty planet, listen to him pleading among the twisted trees. Seeing God like this does wonders for our suffering. God was never more human than at this hour. God was never nearer to us than when He hurt. The Incarnation was never so fulfilled as in the Garden.
As a result, time spent in the fog of pain could be God’s greatest gift. It could be the hour we finally see our Maker. If it is true that in suffering, God is most like man, maybe in our suffering, we can see God like never before. Watch closely. It could very well be the hand that extends itself to lead you out of the fog is a pierced one.
Overcoming lifelong fears is a monumental battle for everyone. You and I need to understand this is a battle; only Jesus can fight for us. At its core, fear is a spiritual battle we can never win. Often, this battle is not won by a simple prayer, but through an all-out war waged in an agonizing Garden experience. If we come to know Jesus intimately, the Jesus who sweats drops of blood in the Garden, He will deliver us from ALL of our fears. Then, and only then, can we begin to see ourselves as God, the Father sees us. Perhaps for the first time in our lives, we will see what God sees—that we are wonderful, loving, and deeply compassionate people. We find out that although our intentions and goals were noble, these things like loving relationships can only be achieved by not allowing fear to rule our lives. We can begin again, this time allowing God to create new hearts within us—hearts that see through God’s eyes and begin to learn to love freely. Once this begins to happen, we can begin to develop into the man or woman we have always tried to be and hoped to be, but this time without fear.
“The greatest shackles we bear in this life are those forged by our own fear”
Richard Paul Evans.
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