Day 34: Sleeping for Sorrow
We have seen the anguish of Jesus’ first season of prayer. The Hebrews passage indicates that Jesus expressed these prayers with loud cries and tears, and yet when He returned to the three disciples whom He had told to watch with Him and pray against temptation, they were fast asleep. They weren’t all that far away, so doesn’t it make you wonder how they could sleep through all that? Luke, who as a doctor always seems clued into the physical and emotional aspects of events, notes that they were sleeping from sorrow. The word used for sorrow here has the context of grief or affliction, and surely the sight of their Lord in such a state would cause them to grieve, both out of sympathy and perhaps a bit of fear.
Granted it had been a long, stressful day, and now they were witnessing the One they looked to for strength seemingly falling apart; certainly He was in great distress. Being a witness to that sort of scenario can either get the adrenalin pumping or cause a person to shut down emotionally and try to cope by tuning it out. Did they just want to curl up in a ball and shut it all out, living in denial of what it all meant?
As we have mentioned, the disciples had been very sure of themselves when they loudly proclaimed their faithfulness to Jesus. Perhaps this self-confidence lulled them to sleep, as well. Why watch? What could go wrong? After all, weren’t they in the inner circle of the new Kingdom? He had it all under control, right? Right? If not, well, maybe sleep was the best option. Maybe when they woke up all this would have just been a bad dream. That’s how it can feel when God takes a left turn when we are leaning right.
It should cause us to take warning. We need to guard ourselves from thinking we couldn’t succumb to such a stumble. When things aren’t going as we have planned, perhaps it even feels like the wheels are coming off. We may be susceptible to grieving to the point that we pull away and curl up into a spiritual stupor rather than courageously face what lies before us. We don’t find that courage by digging deep inside ourselves, but by doing as Jesus told His disciples—watch with me and pray that you not enter into temptation.
• What has it been like for you when God has acted far outside the box you’d put Him in? What kinds of grief have you faced at such times?
• When you are in deep grief, do you pull away from the Lord, or draw near? If you pull away, how long does it last? What has drawn you back?
Lord, it can be such a challenge to lean into my griefs rather than sleep through or run from them. Yet, I know You send them my way for my good, teaching me to press into You as my comfort and strength in the midst of sorrow and trial. Teach me to hold everything—things, people, expectations, plans—with an open hand, knowing that clinging to them only makes the parting more painful.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries