I’ve read the account of Jesus and the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane since I was ten. But when I read it today, it made sense.
Perhaps you know the familiar story. Jesus withdrew from the chaos of life to the Mount of Olives. He told His disciples to pray, and then He went a bit farther to be alone. Scripture tells us he prayed earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood. Returning from his anguished prayer, He found the disciples sleeping. He then told them to get up and pray so they wouldn’t fall into temptation.
Each time I read this I charge the disciples with laziness and apathy. Jesus had just told them some interesting and heavy news about what was to come. How did they manage to fall asleep in a short time? It must have been because they didn’t understand what was happening, or they were lazy. I always suspected it was both.
Today God opened my eyes to a phrase I had never seen before. Luke 22:45 says, “When He rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.”
Exhausted from sorrow? I read it again. Wait, so it wasn’t apathy? Sorrow so deep they were emotionally undone? This little phrase redefined my perception of the disciples on that night. I’ve always imagined them chatting about trivial topics like the Passover dinner they had just eaten or perhaps arguing over His words about who would betray Him. I’ve even imagined them becoming frustrated at having to wait for Him to finish praying and return. I assumed they just got sleepy, or bored, or ran out of things to talk about, so they went to sleep.
Scripture says they were exhausted from sorrow. Suddenly, I see their hearts. Their leader, the one for whom they left everything, is giving them warning about events to come, and their mortal minds can’t process it fast enough. Is this the end with their Master? What does this news mean for them personally? All the speculation in what-ifs. All the questions about the unknowns. All the accompanying anxiety from the recent news. The burden was a crushing weight, so their minds shut down and they fell asleep.
There are seasons of life in which my heart can’t take another blow. Have you ever experienced that kind of exhausting sorrow? Abandoned by someone who promised to love you forever, parenting a reckless child, financial circumstances that seem never-ending? I cry out, “Lord, that’s enough! I don’t understand what is happening. I’m overwhelmed with sorrow in my heart.” Is that how the close followers of Christ felt?
When we can see far enough ahead to know the road is long and difficult, our sorrow over the gap between what is and what should be exhausts us.
At the end of this passage, Jesus returns to sleeping disciples. “Get up, and pray, so that you won’t fall into temptation,” He tells them. Now I see His words differently, knowing their sleep is their bodies’ response to sorrow. It’s not a rebuke. He isn’t mad that they fell asleep as I’ve envisioned all this time. He is gently and compassionately encouraging them to press on.
Single mom, the message is the same for us today. Are you exhausted by sorrow? Weary from heartache? Weakened by grief? Press on. Don’t fall into the trap of believing He can’t rescue you. Don’t fall into the temptation to give up. Stay awake, with your eyes fixed on Him.
In your exhaustion from sorrow, Jesus intercedes for you. Imagine the garden scene again, with Jesus in anguish over the burdens of humanity. He chose surrender because He was well aware that only His submission to His Father’s will could give life to your exhaustion and restore your soul.
Are you exhausted from sorrow? Jesus is near.
About Kim Heinecke
Kim Heinecke wants to live in a world where children listen to the advice of their mothers without question. As a former single mom she’s been encouraging women using her life experiences in parenting, growing in the Word of God and everything in between. When she’s not negotiating with a teenager or wrestling a pre-schooler, you can find her camping in the family RV or pretending to understand sports with her husband and four sons. Read more from Kim at www.TheMomExperiment.com.