How do you handle stress?
If I am not in the right state of mind, I tend to stress eat and as there is a twenty-four hour Mcdonald’s within walking distance from my home, this is a recipe for disaster when crap hits the fan. We will all face stressful situations and how we cope with them will determine the outcomes that come from them whether good or bad. As human beings, we all have developed strategies in dealing with stress that not so much solve it but managing it to the point where we accept that stressful situation as just part of our lives.
Why do we live with stress and manage it when we can live free from it?
Why do we get overwhelmed by it when we can prepare for it with the goal of conquering it?
We have inferior strategies because they are easy strategies that help us ignore the problems and I realize that we would rather simply numb ourselves to not face the possibility of pain or failure by addressing the crisis moments in our lives. What we don’t realize is that numbing is only a different type of pain that we trick ourselves into thinking that it is the cure!
Jesus always modeled for us what a true human being that is filled with the Holy Spirit is supposed to live like. Even in His most painful circumstances, He shows us how to cope with it in today’s passage. He shows us how to prepare ourselves for difficult circumstances and decisions as the disciples were invited into that strategy but alas, they chose to cope with it by numbing themselves with sleep.
Today let us go through the scriptures in Jesus last night before the cross and how His strategy of prayer to seek the presence of God the Father is the same exact strategy for us in dealing with our own circumstances that threaten to overwhelm us.
NOTES ON THE TEXT
37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch[a] with me.”
40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
Jesus is being vulnerable here. He is expressing deep sorrow and fear in regards to the fact that He is going to start His final moments that will lead to His death. He asks the disciples to keep watch with him through the night in prayer but they failed to do so miserably. We see here several different responses to stress.
The disciples cope with the situation through numbing, namely sleeping
We will either cope with stress by going to God through prayer or through any other means. In the example today, they coped with the situation with sleep but like me, it can be stress eating or mindlessly surfing through youtube for others. If we choose to cope with stress apart from God and choose to numb, we will only be setting ourselves up to being overwhelmed by it because it will eventually get to the point where we can’t ignore the problem any further.
Jesus copes with the situation through prayer
Jesus shows us that prayer during stressful times guards our hearts from the temptation to come. What is that temptation? To deal with our situations in an ungodly way where it can be violent, angry, passive aggressive, sinful, running way or whatever method that God doesn’t agree with. The disciples did not guard their heart through prayer and so when the problem actually came, they fell into fear and abandoned the Lord. The disciples ultimately failed to look at and copy the posture Jesus was in. What was that posture? A posture that seeks God in crisis to not ultimately get freedom from it but to align our will with God’s no matter what the outcome is! To pray for safety is not a bad thing but should not be the only thing! Our ultimate goal through prayer is to seek to align our thoughts and wills with His and have the determination to carry it out in our lives.
In verse forty-one, Jesus claims that the, “spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” An aspect of the Christian walk is trying to align the flesh with the spirit. We are not talking about the sinful flesh for that needs to just die but our natural bodies willingness to pursue the direction that spirit wants to go. For instance, there will be times where the spirit wants the body to fast to pursue the Lord but the body says, “heck no!” It is in these moments we need to train our bodies to align with the spirit that is connected to God.
A person that only prays when crisis comes will never be ready to meet the crisis but those who live a lifestyle of prayer will always be ready. Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane was not the first time but was an illustration of a lifestyle that He already had with God the Father. When we live with God closely, we will better be able to meet the crisis points in our lives with the mindset of God, heart of God, and the will of God.
Today, let us practice a lifestyle of connection with God through prayer so that our prayers during crisis are more in tune with God’s will rather than survivability.