Joining Jesus in Gethsemane

Turning away from the registration desk, I searched for the elevator while juggling my bags. I had just checked in for a silent retreat, one I’d signed up for several months earlier. When registering I had pictured nothing but the peace and consolation that would come from escaping the busyness of life and spending time with Jesus. At that precise moment, however, I wanted only to locate my room and close the door before my tears betrayed me. Tears of heartache and sorrow. Tears of stress and exhaustion. Tears of anger and grief.

There are pieces of my life that don't look as I envisioned long ago. There’s no one to blame, but these uninvited pieces are here to stay. I’ve told myself it doesn’t matter. After all, throwing a pity party won’t change things. In fact, it would require me to actually sit in the heartache I want to ignore. Besides, considering my hard feelings even briefly has filled me with shame, and acknowledging my sorrow takes time I simply don’t have. So, instead, I've intentionally avoided the grief of my broken dreams.

Alone in my retreat room, tears I hadn’t realized I needed to shed flowed like a river. I could no longer ignore the hard emotions tugging on my heart. Grief’s anger and sorrow demanded that I hold them as my broken heart cried out about the injustice of unmet expectations.

As my bruised and exhausted spirit broke, I crumbled, finally recognizing Jesus’ long-standing invitation to acknowledge and bring Him all of my hard feelings. Too weak to resist, I succumbed and spent the next several days experiencing the full weight of my grief. In return, Jesus showed me the shame I’d associated with my unwanted feelings was never from God.

Into my broken spirit, Jesus spoke—His Voice gentle, but His words strong:

“Jen, in the Garden of Gethsemane, I was overcome with grief. And not once … not twice … but three times My sorrow overwhelmed Me to the point of death. It brought Me to My knees, and I begged My Father to take this cup from Me. Yes, I willingly carried My cross, but only after acknowledging how much it pained Me. If experiencing My Agony in the Garden was an important step in carrying My Cross, perhaps allowing yourself to experience your agony is an important step for you, too.”

No, the peace and consolation I pictured as I registered for the retreat did not come as I expected. But by actually experiencing my pain instead of avoiding it, and by uniting my agony to His, I learned that Jesus will not only stay close, but will also hold me together when I'm falling apart. And through this, a new kind of peace and consolation I hadn’t known existed slowly took root.

If you're facing your own grief, currently staring down pieces of your story that you never asked for, know that I'm praying for you. And, as always, I'm praying God breathes life into these words.


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