Matthew 26:36-38 Then Jesus… said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” …He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”
It is tempting for me to be dismissive of struggles with which I do not identify. Admittedly, anxiety is not my primary struggle, so, when I see someone struggling with it, I think something like, Just let it go. Stop worrying about it. Those of you who know anxiety, know how helpful this advice is.
Some will go so far as to suggest that anxiety itself is wrong and that just to be in a state of anxiety is sinful. Jesus said we are not to be anxious, so it must be a voluntary choice to be anxious and thus, disobedient to God, right?
I do think that anxiety can be a defective and unhelpful response, but in and of itself, it is no more sinful than sorrow, anger or even hunger. It is a predisposition to feel a certain way, which may or may not be in response to any stressor.
Just as my appetite for food is not in itself sinful but can lead to destructive behaviors, anxiety can lead to appropriate or inappropriate responses. I can, in my hunger, engage in self-destructive behaviors or I can make healthy choices. It is not the hunger that is good or bad. It is my response to it. I think this is true for any of the predispositions of my flesh nature. To take it one step further, my appetite for tobacco, drugs or alcohol, may be defective but not sinful. It is the behavior that follows that is destructive and sinful.
Jesus, on the night of his betrayal and arrest, showed us how one can appropriately respond to defective impulses of our flesh nature. I think it is appropriate to say that Jesus was anxious. He knew what was coming. Even though He was aware of his own resurrection and victory, He knew that his body was going to be tortured and killed. He saw the coming pain and his flesh nature rebelled against it.
Jesus, the perfect son of God, was sorrowful and troubled, even to death. He knew of the coming agony and He was anxious about it. So, what did Jesus do about his sorrow and anxiety? Did He just dismiss it? Did He just shrug it off and say, It’ll be OK?
No, Jesus gathered his closest companions about him. He told them of his sorrow and He asked them to help him bear his burden. Then, in an act that always surprises me, He prayed. Jesus, the son of God, needed to spend time on his knees, purposefully communing with God. Bound by the confines of his flesh, He knew that He needed to purposefully take time to connect with the father.
Jesus, in his misery, sorrow and anxiety, could have made destructive choices but He did not. He made the choice to engage is constructive behavior in response to the impulses of his flesh nature. I would do well to do likewise.
The Seeds of the Spirit is a daily blog based on a walk through the New Testament. Written from the perspective of my own addiction, it explores the common defects of our flesh nature and the solution, our spirit life. If you find it helpful, sign up for the blog as a daily email, tell your friends and like/share it on Facebook.