“When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping,” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” –Luke 22:45-46
It was very late at night and no doubt the disciples were worn out. Jesus had brought them to the garden because, in his deepest hour of need, he wanted them to pray with him. He knew what the next few days held, and that great temptations awaited them. Jesus was soon to be betrayed, arrested, sentenced to die and brutally attacked and beaten. The disciples faced a reality they had yet refused to believe: Jesus, whom they knew was the Messiah, was the One who would lift the oppression off of Israel. They had expectations. Visions in their mind as to how and when and where things would happen. And even though he kept telling them he would be killed, they couldn’t seem to grasp the concept. When the night finally came, and Jesus was in deep distress because his life would soon be given over to the enemy’s wrath, the disciples experienced the sorrow of a friend. And it brought over them a depression-induced sleep.
“Why are you sleeping?” Jesus asked them, knowing what things would happen next. That Peter, in despair, would lash out in anger and strike a man with a sword. That the rest of them would flee. That Peter would deny Jesus, Judas would hang himself and that in just one day, all of them would be in a pit of despondency. Their hope would be dead.
I wondered to the Lord yesterday, “What are the temptations of sorrow? What temptations was Jesus referring to?” His Spirit gave me a list.
- The temptation to run
- The temptation to self-pity
- The temptation to seek earthly comfort
- The temptation to grumble and complain
- The temptation to angry outbursts
- The temptation to suicide and other self-harming behaviors
- The temptation to feel lonely, deserted, rejected, victimized, abandoned, scared, and hateful
These are the temptations I often feel when I am sad. I want to run and hide from my hurt. I’d sleep through it if I could. I want to pity myself, and wonder why my life is the way it is or why things are happening. To eat everything in the house, and then top it off with a jar of fudge icing. I am often tempted to grumble and complain, and make everyone around me miserable with my angry ranting, and in the past, I have been driven to harmful behaviors and thoughts of suicide because of my misery. I often curl up and wallow in loneliness and all the bitter feelings mentioned above because these are the temptations that sorrow brings!
The Lord spoke softly to me yesterday. “Watch and pray so that you do not fall into temptation.” Why is it so important to pray through our sorrows? Because I have found that in the midst of our deep pain, we often look at God and say, “Why aren’t you taking care of me?” We don’t want to believe that he would let us go through hard times, and when he does, we wonder at his goodness. In truth, we believe the lie of Satan which says God is not really good, or He does not really love me. And these thoughts leave us completely hopeless. “Not even the God of the universe loves me,” we think.
Understanding this, Jesus says to us, “Watch and pray.”
I was sharing all of this with my kids last night and the Lord led me to a scripture in Romans. I am often tempted to go through my sorrows alone. I have set the example for my children and they do the same thing. In Romans 15:30, Paul says, “…Join me in my struggles by praying to God for me.” I believe that our families and our friends are gifts that God gives to us so that we don’t have to sorrow alone. It’s vulnerable, to be sure, to admit our weaknesses, our fears and our pain. But last night, my kids and I shared our sorrows and prayed together and it was one of the sweetest moments I can recall. To be fully aware of my allies, knowing that this war going on inside of me is being fought in the spiritual realm in multiple directions by people who love me. And to know that I can fight for my children in their struggles when they are tempted by despair. And then, God gave us Romans 16:20. “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” What a precious treasure this promise is!