Have you ever gone to God in prayer feeling anxious, depressed, defeated or other negative emotion and emerged feeling supported, comforted and even empowered even though circumstances remained unchanged? I have, and I suspect that’s happened to you, too. It happened to Jesus, too when He prayed in the garden prior to His arrest and crucifixion. Even though His disciples fell asleep while He prayed so fervently and in such agony that His sweat resembled blood, Jesus emerged purposeful and empowered, fully committed to sacrificing Himself so that we can be redeemed and forgiven for all our past, present and future sins. It should be noted that Jesus took time to pray by Himself regularly during His ministry. Here’s an example:
Matthew 14:23 (NKJV)
23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.
Matthew 26:38-40 (NKJV)
38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”
39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?
It’s no coincidence that Jesus commands all of us who are His to take up our crosses and follow Him. Life is not easy and has its burdens. The wonderful thing is that we don’t have to bear our burdens alone. Jesus even invites us to take His yoke or burden upon ourselves and give our burden to Him. In this way, we share burdens with Jesus. Our burden becomes purposeful just like His burden of the cross was and is purposeful for us.
Luke 9:23 (NKJV)
23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
Matthew 11:29 (NKJV)
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
You might wonder how it is that He perceives His yoke as light while ours are heavy. Perhaps it’s because Jesus is God and is eternal and the physical, though sometimes difficult to bear, is light for an eternal God. Perhaps it is because He as God knows that nothing is impossible for Him. Consider that His burden is purposeful and is for the sake of love for His creation. Consider that His burden has long term joyous spiritual consequences while our burdens, even though this physical life is temporary, can seem to us finite beings unending and wearisome.
Some years back, we wrote an emotional recovery workbook for Christians. It’s divided into twelve chapters, with each chapter addressing a different life challenge like depression, divorce or chronic illness. There’s a prayer in each chapter that tells God that even if things never change in this life, it’s okay because having Him in our lives makes life worthwhile. The prayer helps the hurting look beyond present circumstances into the spiritual relationship we have with God now that will last for eternity. That encourages us to keep moving forward emotionally even when life is tough. We know God is there with us in our hard times and that somehow He will make all things work for the good of those that love Him. I know I love Him, and I believe you do, too.
Will you give your burdens to God right now and receive Jesus’ lighter, spiritually purposeful burden in its stead? Will you literally rejoice in knowing God has everything covered and that all you have to do is get through this challenge? Do you have confidence in God that He will supply your need?
Some think prayer changes things, but the truth is that prayer changes us. It connects us to God and helps us see things from His perspective. It literally helps us transcend the physical. Prayer comforts us, and we know we are never alone or unsupported with God in our lives. Prayer reminds us that what is impossible for us is not impossible for God. Prayer helps us yield to God’s will, plans and purpose in spite of our feelings just like what happened to Jesus in the garden.
Pray with me, please: Father God, thanks for being there for me when life gets hard just like You were there for Jesus. Thanks for granting me what I need to be able to move forward to be and do what You have for me to be and do. Thanks for helping me to bear whatever I need to bear. Even if my situation doesn’t change in this life, having You in my life makes it worthwhile. Thanks for giving my life purpose and meaning just like Jesus’ life had meaning. In Jesus’ name, amen.
copyright 2015, Pastors George and Sharon Billington, All Rights Reserved