have you ever had something that you’ve heard or read numerous times, but after a specific reading/listen, something just clicks and washes over you? Be it a song, a scripture, a quote… the circumstances or the way you hear it suddenly changes your understanding of whatever it may be.
Tonight I was reading my launch team copy of Annie F. Downs’ new book Looking for Lovely. After conversating with some launch team friends over coffee this afternoon, I really wanted to dive into the book after taking a few days off to get school stuff dealt with. (Also, truthfully, I didn’t want to finish my God-awful annotated bibliography… still don’t, hence this post). She has a chapter titled “Gardens” that depicts her travels to the Garden of Gesthemane on her visit to Israel last year. She writes about how she was leaning on a wall look out at the garden when she started reading Matthew 26, the story of Jesus praying at that very garden. While her story and the entire chapter are compelling, the scripture (that I’d read/heard many times before) stopped me in my tracks:
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (NIV)
36-38Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.” (MSG)
My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow. To the point of death.
When I read this verse– this line particularly–I let out a gasp. Chills were up and down my arms.
If I hadn’t been in Starbucks, I would have fell to my knees.
In that moment, something I’d heard time and time again finally became real to me.
He gets it.
He understands me. He knows how I feel when the dark night of the soul has come and taken over my life.
He knows how I felt when I contemplated walking into my busy street and standing in front of a car last year. Or when I researched pill combinations I could take to kill myself in my sleep.
How my heart and my soul were just so overwhelmed that I didn’t feel like living anymore. How I felt when I thought the world would be better off without me.
He knows what that’s like because he had those emotions too. And while his was more circumstantial and obviously very different reasons (since he was about to be betrayed and eventually crucified in this scene), he knows my innermost and complicated thoughts and feelings of depression that I deal with every. single. day.
That sorrow, as so aptly put in the message version, crushes my life. There are good days– great days, actually. But then there are low days. Lows so low you don’t know if you’re going to rise above them. Lows are when you are so overwhelmed with sadness or numbness or anxiety or all of the above that you aren’t quite sure how to function anymore– all you feel is a fog. A wave of emotion or frazzled-ness you just can’t shake. And you just don’t know if tomorrow is worth the sorrow of today.
Jesus felt that sorrow– that deep, soul-crushing, agonizing sorrow. He felt it. He lived through it. He chose to suffer through those feelings– that mental anguish– for me.
He didn’t just suffer physically on the cross for me. The mental and emotional anguish he suffered before (and during, let’s be real here) the Cross was just as important. And just as necessary for me, a person struggling with mental illness, to see written.
He decided I was worth the pain– all of it. I would never choose to suffer from depression or GAD for someone. Many times I’ve asked why this was my battle or why this was written into my story– how could someone choose to go through the hell that is the dark anguish of sorrow for me? I am so unworthy. And yet He did it. He suffered, both mentally, emotionally, and physically, for me… and now I sit here in the same sorrowful suffering. And I can’t help but be thankful that if I have to have this as part of my story, at least I have a savior who stepped down into this mess and feels it with me. A savior that knows what I’m going through because he chose to feel it, too.
We’ve heard time and time again how Jesus was fully God and fully human. He felt like we felt, he understood and handles our emotions because he felt our emotions. I don’t think I ever fully believed that until now. Now I look at this story and I see me and this fully man, fully God savior as someone who knows me and what I’m going through.
He gets every part of me, even the darkness that I am scared to feel, or to let others see. He sees my sorrow and my sad. he sees when it’s crushing me under the weight of the world. And he’s been there.
He gets me because he gets it.
And to me, someone who so often feels alone in this mess that is mental hell…I cling to that thought now more than ever.