Getting Through Your Gethsemanes
This is the first article in a three-part series that encourages readers to take a fresh look at Gethsemane, Calvary, and the Resurrection to consider how identifying with Jesus in His journey can keep you focused and faithful in yours.
Life includes Gethsemane experiences — those places where our will wrestles to find its way to God’s will. As God patiently wrestled with Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32) and his will, He also engaged with Jesus the Son of Man, His will, and His request in the Garden of Gethsemane. As Adam represented humanity by wrestling his way out of the will of God through disobedience, so Jesus represented us by wrestling His way into God’s will by obedience.
Interestingly enough, God never chides Jesus for struggling in the Garden. The struggle itself wasn’t sin on Jesus’ part. It isn’t a sin to struggle if our struggle brings us closer to the perfect will of God.
Gethsemane is the place where we count the cost, where we consider what it will demand of us to go the way God is calling — all the way. We ponder, we pray. We sweat and we struggle. We play out the scenes of what will be required of us as we follow Him.
Gethsemane for Jesus was a place of unprecedented stress. The weight of the world was on Him — literally. His shoulders were not yet bearing the Roman-made cross, but His soul surely was. Public opinion had turned hard against Him. His closest friends were sleeping in the hour in which He needed them most. The surrounding community had called for His coronation, but He knew they would soon call for His crucifixion.
Anxiety within Jesus’ body was at a fever pitch — His pulse was racing, His heart pounding, His mind reeling. He wasn’t in the fight of His life; He was in the fight for our lives, our souls.
So great was His stress that He said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). “He began to be deeply distressed and troubled” (Mark 14:33).
Not only did Jesus take our place on the Cross; He also took our place at Gethsemane. Make no mistake. I was supposed to be there, and so were you.
Certainly Gethsemane was a place of struggle for Jesus. But just what was He struggling with? Was it the weight of the world and its sin? Most definitely. But there was something else.
A careful and honest reading of the text shows that His struggle was also with the will of God.
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me” (Matthew 26:39).
Couldn’t there be another way? How many times in life have you asked God that same question? I have, countless times. Take comfort in the fact that Jesus did also.
For us, Gethsemane is a place of coming to terms with the will of God. At Gethsemane, we look honestly and clearly at what God has called us to do. We consider the call and we count the cost. And at Gethsemane we discover that any uncertainty about God’s will is not in His mind. Rather it is in ours. Though we may try to change Him and His will in order to remove the stress, we soon find that His will is fixed and His purpose set.
We go into our Gethsemanes hoping for a plan B. But, we eventually find that Gethsemane is not about changing the will of God to fit our lifestyle; it is about changing our minds, our expectations, and our plans to fit His will.
Gethsemane is not the Cross. It is not the place where we die. Rather, it is the place where we are told we are going to die — die to self, that we might live for God.
Gethsemane for Jesus was the place where He collected himself and set His face firmly in the direction of God’s will. Like steel refined, Gethsemane provided Jesus (as it provides you and me) with a place to pour out His questions and concerns, and to cast all of His cares and anxieties upon a loving Heavenly Father. From Gethsemane, Jesus moved on firmly toward the Cross with passion and resolve.
Something happened in Jesus’ soul at Gethsemane, something He wants us to experience as His followers. He modeled for us what He wants us to learn to do, and do regularly — “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
At Gethsemane, we see Jesus bring His anguish, His stress, and His questions to the Father. He certainly wants you to do the same. If following God’s will involved struggle for Jesus, then you will also struggle with it at times. But you must remember to struggle toward God and not away from Him.
If you are in a personal Gethsemane, be encouraged. Just as it had a beginning, it too will have an end. And that timetable will depend upon you and your acceptance of the will of God. Remember, every Gethsemane leads to a resurrection, but not before it leads to a cross.
Know that in your struggle you are never alone. Your Savior, Jesus, not only knows how to struggle for you, but He also struggles with you. Take comfort. He is right by your side in each of life’s struggles, pointing toward a coming resurrection.
Robert C. Crosby is president of Emerge Counseling Ministries based in Akron, Ohio. Emerge has been providing counseling for over 45 years. Emerge also directs The HelpLine, a global call-in counseling support line for AG pastors and their family members. Crosby is the author of several books, including The One Jesus Loves, When Faith Catches Fire, and The Teaming Church. Contact Emerge Counseling at emerge.org or at 800-621-5207.