Over the course of our lives, it is inevitable that we will experience suffering. It is also inevitable that this suffering will cause us to ask many questions:
What should I do?
Is it okay to feel anxious or sad?
Can God help me?
Fortunately for us, the answers to each of these (any many more) questions about suffering can be found by studying Jesus’ actions on the night before He died. Here are 10 lessons that we can learn from the Agony in the Garden.
1. It’s Okay To Be Troubled – Sometimes we think that feeling sad or nervous means that our faith is lacking. We assume that if we trust God, we should always be happy. Not true! While we should avoid worrying, fear and sadness are normal human emotions. Jesus was “sorrowful and troubled” (Mt 26:37), “greatly distressed” (Mk 14:33) and “His sweat became like great drops of blood” (Lk 22:44). It’s perfectly acceptable for you do feel the same way when faced with difficulties in your life.
2. Prayer Matters – While there’s nothing wrong with feeling distressed or sad when facing difficulties, we should never succumb to useless worry. Instead, we should imitate Jesus and PRAY!
3. Ask Your Friends For Help – One thing that makes suffering more intense is the feeling that we’re in it alone. In his agony, Jesus teaches us an important lesson. Ask others for help! Jesus asked Peter, James and John to accompany Him as He prayed in the garden. When we’re in trouble, we should ask people to pray for us. In addition to our earthly friends, we can ask the saints in Heaven and the souls in purgatory to intercede on our behalf. There is never a reason to suffer alone!
4. God Can Do All Things – No matter what you are facing, ALWAYS remember that there is hope. Jesus assures us with the following words, addressed to His Father:
“Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.” (Mark 14:36)
5. It’s Okay To Ask For Relief – Sometimes we’re afraid to ask the Lord to take away our suffering. We shouldn’t be. Jesus did exactly that:
“My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me.” (Mt 26:39)
Always feel free to ask the Lord to remove your suffering, but…
6. Thy Will Be Done – We should accept the Lord’s decision. When Jesus prayed that His suffering might pass, He appended the words “but not as I will, but as thou will” to the prayer (Mt 26:39, Mk 14:36, Lk 22:42). Adding this powerful phrase ALWAYS ensures that we are praying in accordance with God’s will, even if His will is unknown to us!
7. Prayer Always Works – We often complain that God doesn’t answer our prayers. What this really means is that He doesn’t answer them in the way we’d like. We have to trust that, when we pray, we’ll always receive what we NEED, not necessarily what we WANT. In His humanity, Jesus prayed that His suffering would be removed (if it be the Father’s will). As it turned out, this was not the Father’s will. It was necessary that Jesus endure suffering so that mankind could be redeemed. In addition, Jesus received something that He didn’t request, but something that helped Him to carry His cross:
“And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him” (Lk 22:43)
8. Don’t Stop Praying – In times of trouble, one of our biggest temptations is to stop praying. If the Lord doesn’t answer fast enough, we often stop praying. Big mistake! In his gospel account, St. Matthew tells us that Jesus prayed three times in the garden “saying the same words” (Mt 26:44). Therefore, it’s perfectly fine for you to continually ask God to heal your cancer or help you find a job!
9. Pray To Avoid Temptation – While He was in the garden, Jesus warned Peter, James and John to pray that they would not enter into temptation (Mt 26:41, Mk 14:38, Lk 22:46). What’s one of the biggest temptations that we can encounter in the midst of suffering? Despair! Without prayer, it’s very easy to give up as we tire of carrying our cross. Take Jesus’ words seriously and keep praying even if you don’t feel like it.
10. Angels Are Real – Do you believe in angels? You should because they are VERY real and can help you! When Jesus was agonizing in the garden, who was sent to strengthen Him? Certainly not Peter, James and John because they were asleep! Instead, an angel was sent to strengthen the Lord (Lk 22:42). Each of us has a guardian angel who watches over us. Remembering that fact during times of trouble can be extremely comforting. If an angel was sent to strengthen the Lord during His incredible agony, couldn’t your angel do the same for you?
As Christians, we are all called to imitate Jesus. There is no better time to do so than during our times of suffering. Not only did Christ suffer much, but He can teach us a great deal about HOW to suffer. Following His example can help us greatly as deal with our daily struggles.
[Gary Zimak is a full time Catholic Evangelist, author and radio host. In addition to hosting Following The Truth on Blogtalkradio (M-F at 8 PM Eastern), Gary is a frequent guest on EWTN, Relevant and Sirius/XM Radio. He is the author of A Worrier’s Guide To The Bible and Listen To Your Blessed Mother (coming in August 2013), both from Liguori Publications. ]
(Image: “The Agony of Christ” Gaetano Gandolfi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)