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"My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." MATTHEW 26:38
Jesus understands the crushing weight and agonizing loneliness of grief.
I've heard Jesus speaking to me about as long as I can remember.
When I was a little girl growing up in church, I heard Jesus, the Shepherd of lost sheep, calling me into the fold. I remember sitting in the pastor's office as a small child as he asked me if I understood what it meant to be lost. I pictured myself lost in the forest or the shopping mall. That's probably not exactly what he had in mind.
But the day came when I did understand it-at least to the extent a child can understand, since I wonder even now if I really understand how lost I truly was when Jesus found me and gave me the faith to trust him. I heard his voice clearly, calling me to himself, into the safety and contentment of his fold. Hearing his voice enabled me to say, "The Lord is my shepherd" (Psalm 23:1). He spoke life into a spirituallydead little eight-year-old girl, and I came alive to Jesus, the Savior of my soul.
But like many kids who grow up in the church and "make a decision for Christ" early in life, I came to a crisis point in my teens. I knew I had to decide if I would submit to the authority of Jesus in my life, not only on Sunday but throughout the week-and throughout my life. I heard Jesus telling me that being Savior of my soul meant being King of my heart. Oh, how I wanted to put him in charge yet so often doubted he could be trusted.
As I headed off to college and then began my career, Jesus, the Source of truth, began to shape my thinking, challenge my assumptions, prick my conscience, and expose my false beliefs. But rarely did he warm my heart or stir my passion. I found myself dry and disillusioned, so busy for him but often so far away from him. There were times I didn't know how to get the conversation going again, and I wasn't sure if he'd be willing to listen to me or if I even knew how to recognize his voice.
That's when, with a sense of desperation, I made a commitment to listening to him by reading and studying his Word day by day. Jesus, the Word of life, broke through my religious activity and accumulated Bible knowledge and began to convict me and change me. I fell in love with hearing his voice through his Word and developed an insatiable appetite for it-so much so that sometimes I wondered if he was preparing me for something.
Then I found out. The day came when I needed to hear the voice of Jesus in a way I had not heard it before. As I faced the heartbreak of losing my child, I needed to know that he understood the deep pain I was in. That's when I heard Jesus speak to me as the Man of Sorrows, as one who has suffered, as one who knows what it feels like to be crushed by grief to the point that it is squeezing the life out of you.
So many of the other ways I had heard Jesus speaking to me-as the Shepherd of lost sheep, the Savior of my soul, the King of my heart, the Source of truth, and the Word of life-were mostly about listening for what he could do for me. But in this hard place of grief, hearing Jesus was less about what he could do for me and more about the companionship he could share with me. Jesus' words told me that he was safe to spend time with in my sadness.
I realized that my sorrow gave me the opportunity to know him with a depth I had not experienced before, in a way I could not have known him without going through deep sorrow myself.
Hearing Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, speak to me told me something about his character, his experience, his demeanor. It told me about his heart.
He has a heart that is broken.
Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, draws close to those of us who hurt and speaks to us as one whose heart has been broken too, calling us to himself.
Hear Jesus Convey His Own Deep Sorrow
A couple of years after my daughter died, during the days in which I was anticipating the birth of my son Gabriel, I read these words of Jesus, spoken in the garden of Gethsemane the night he was arrested.
Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." MATTHEW 26:36-38, NIV
I made a note in my Bible that day in April 2001: "He understands how it feels to be 'overwhelmed with sorrow.'" What a relief it was to know that Jesus understands what it is like to feel like sorrow is pressing the life out of you. He understands the lump in your throat, the heaviness in your chest, the sick feeling in your stomach.
His sorrow was so intense that he had a physical reaction to it. Luke writes that Jesus' perspiration became like "great drops of blood" (Luke 22:44). His agony was so intense that his blood burst through the capillaries and ruptured them, coloring the perspiration and enlarging the drops that continually fell to the ground.
Sometimes, in the desperation of deep grief, we begin to think that no one around us "gets it." We think that no one has ever hurt like we are hurting, that no one really understands how hard the simplest things of life are these days.
But Jesus does. Jesus is not a distant deity who knows nothing about the pain of disappointment and death. He knows firsthand. He understands. Hebrews 2:18 says, "Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested."
Hear the words of Jesus: "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," and let them draw you closer to him.
Have you always wanted to be closer to Jesus? I know you wouldn't have chosen this method to get there. We wish we could get closer to Jesus by saying a prayer, going to a Bible study, reading a book, or in some other convenient and controllable way. But the truth is, it's uniquely through our own sorrow that we can draw close to the Man of Sorrows.
It's in our suffering that we can truly begin to identify with his. We can finally get a tiny taste of what he was willing to endure out of his love for us. This is the deep knowing most of us have at least said we wanted, though we never thought it would cost us this much.
It is the kind of knowing Paul wanted when he said, "I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!" (Philippians 3:10-11). Paul recognized that all his suffering-being imprisoned, shipwrecked, stoned, threatened, rejected, criticized, cold, and hungry-allowed him to experience a special fellowship with Jesus. It gave him access into a sacred fellowship-the fellowship of people who share in the sufferings of Jesus.
When we hear Jesus speaking into our sorrow, we hear his assurance that he has been here before us and that he has things about himself to reveal to us in this hard place, which we could not have been ready to listen for and learn without the hurt. We hear his promise to walk with us on this difficult journey, providing companionship and compassion.
Hear Jesus Express His Aching Loneliness
When we listen closely to the words Jesus uttered in agony in the garden, we discover that it is not only the pain of our sorrow Jesus can relate to. He also understands the loneliness of it. He knows what it feels like to be at the lowest point of life and find that some of those you thought would be there are not there for you.
Here was Jesus, with his face to the ground, praying and asking God to take away the agonizing punishment for sin that was about to be poured out on him. Jesus, who had never committed any sin, was about to become sin.
Even though it had been his plan since the foundation of the world to give himself as a sacrifice for sin, Jesus was now standing at the precipice, staring into the cavernous darkness of death itself. And he was alone. Desperately alone.
Wrung out from the intensity of his pleading with God, he found his closest friends not praying as he had asked them to do but sleeping, seemingly oblivious to the battle going on inside his body and soul.
Lean in and listen to what Jesus says. Try to hear his tone of voice.
Couldn't you watch with me even one hour? MATTHEW 26:40
Do you hear the humanness in his words? The aloneness?
On top of the betrayal Jesus was aching over, the humiliation he was anticipating, and the physical exhaustion he was enduring, Jesus was experiencing the loneliness of having friends who were not there for him when he needed them most.
Were there friends you thought would be there for you when the going got tough? And have you found that some of those friends have disappeared? They don't get it. They can't deal with it. They want you to get over it.
Find comfort in the companionship of the one who understands what it is like to be all alone. "He was despised and rejected-a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care" (Isaiah 53:3).
When you feel like no one understands, listen to the words of Jesus and find comfort. He has been there.
When you feel like everyone has abandoned you and no one cares about the agony in your soul, listen to the words of Jesus and find companionship. Hear him calling you to a deeper, more real relationship with him than you've ever had before.
He, too, has been overwhelmed with sorrow. He will meet you in this place of pain and speak to you, letting you know that you are never alone.
HEAR JESUS SPEAK As He Reminds You He Is with You
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I know this situation you're going through can cause you to wonder if God, our Father, has abandoned you, if he has left you alone. But you can be confident that he will never turn away from you or leave you on your own. Anything and everything that could come between you and the Father was placed on me when I hung on the cross. It was then that he turned away from me-but only so he would never have to turn away from you. He abandoned me that day so he could open his arms to you forever. And he will never let you go.
Even though you may sometimes feel like you are on your own, your feelings don't tell the whole story. You are not on your own. I am with you always-in every situation and in every moment. In your darkest, lowest experience, I am right beside you. When everyone else falls away, I will still be here. So you don't have to be afraid.
My Holy Spirit is with you and within you. He is the one who helps you hear my voice and understand it. He is the Counselor, showing you what is true and what is false so that you can embrace the truth of who I am and what I'm holding out to you. He is the Advocate who turns the words on the pages of your Bible into something powerful and personal that can penetrate your soul and change your heart. He is the Comforter who soothes your troubled thoughts with whispers of my love for you.
Whenever you feel alone, remember that I came to make my home with you. I'm here with you, even now, and I will never leave you.
Adapted from Mark 15:33-34; Matthew 28:20; Mark 6:50; John 16:13-15; John 14:16-26; John 1:14
Excerpted from Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow by NANCY GUTHRIE Copyright © 2009 by Nancy Guthrie. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted July 18, 2009
"The Word of God has the answers, and that is exactly where Nancy Guthrie, a woman acquainted with sorrow, takes us. If you will let Nancy take you by the hand, lead you where she has been, share with you truth that never changes, and cry, 'Heal me, O Lord' (Jeremiah 17:14), you will find yourself hearing Jesus speak into your sorrow . . . and there you will find healing."--Kay Arthur, co-CEO of Precept Ministries International
My first book from the Tyndale Media Center is "Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow" by Nancy Guthrie. Guthrie's book is a touching account of how a mother suffered the loss of an infant son and daughter, and learned to cope with the pain and suffering that we all hope we never have to encounter. She does so remarkably well, by searching the scriptures for answers; she uses eleven statements that Jesus Christ spoke about in the New Testament.
I am an avid reader of obituaries and I came across the most touching obituaries this past week of a mother and her ten year old son that were fighting against cancer and they died just two days apart. We can ask ourselves, "Why would God allow this horrible thing to happen?" I mean it's heart breaking to think of all the pain they are going through, even though they are now set free and safe in the arms of Jesus.
"When you face the death of someone you love, you don't have to surrender that person to an unknown, uncaring nothingness."
This is just one example of what many of us deal with each day of our lives. The sadness of a loved one or friend that is in pain. the loss of a family member or friend, etc. The list goes on and on. Let Nancy share with you the revelations that she found while searching the scriptures to help us understand that we are not alone and that Jesus does still speak to us today.
Are you struggling with unanswered questions? Won't you listen to Jesus speak?
Review by Janet Carter
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