Several places in Scripture tell us that Jesus was troubled or worried, or experienced grief.
John 13:21: After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”
John 12:27: “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.”
Weeping for Lazarus
The first two instances above refer to the death of Lazarus. Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” He knew Lazarus was dead. He allowed him to die. Jesus let him stay in the tomb four days before He came to Bethany. The Gospel reading on Palm Sunday which led us into the Passion of Christ and Holy Week recounts how Mary, the woman from Bethany, anointed Jesus with spikenard. Mary is Lazarus’ sister. Jesus is grief-stricken, moved to pity and suffers deep sorrow at the loss of his friend Lazarus. He is equally troubled at the grief of Martha and Mary. Scripture records that Jesus wept—perhaps two of the most powerful words in Scripture.
I always marveled at how Jesus allowed Himself to experience loss, how He chose to endure that feeling of grief. His very spirit groaned with anguish. I’ve experienced that grief at the loss of loved ones. That anguish penetrates to the very marrow of your bones. I would never voluntarily experience such grief. Out of love for us, Jesus subjected Himself to loss and grief. He shared in the grief of Martha and Mary and even subjected Himself to their reproaches. They blamed Him for not being there. They had seen Him cure the sick. Surely, had Jesus been present, He would have healed Lazarus. Although Martha and Mary believed that Jesus could cure the sick, they didn’t contemplate Him raising their brother from the dead.
Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus. He commanded that the stone be rolled back. Everyone was reluctant to roll the stone away. Lazarus had been dead for four days now. They told the Lord that there would be a stink. Their minds could not comprehend what was happening. Jesus waited for them to move the stone. As it was rolled away, people expected a terrible smell. Jesus, the Messiah, God, called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” And Lazarus came out. This great miracle caused many to believe. Yet, even knowing that He would raise Lazarus, our Lord suffered worry, anguish and loss. He suffers in us and with us in those sad times of our lives. He can relate; He understands.
The Judas Kiss
The next time we see Jesus troubled was when He predicted Judas’ betrayal. Experiencing betrayal by someone we love is painful, something you never get over. Betrayal destroys trust, diminishes love and leaves an indelible scar on one’s heart. It may be forgiven, but the pain is enduring. Jesus’ betrayer was brazen. He betrayed his Lord with a kiss. He abandoned his friends, the people he lived with for three years. He betrayed his very Creator. Why did he do it? Did he not see the miracles? Was he blinded by being so self-absorbed? Was he already in Satan’s grip? We will never know. Was Jesus troubled knowing what horrors He would soon endure? Was he troubled over the loss of His friend? Both? We can only speculate, but we know that Jesus was worried.
The Courage of Christ
Finally, we see Jesus contemplating His fate. It is almost as if He is talking Himself into going through with it. He rhetorically asks if He should back out, but no, He acknowledges that He was born for this. His whole life was culminating at the top of “the place of the skull.” He was ready, He was willing, but He was worried too. They say courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to conquer that feeling. The Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God, Our Savior, conquered fear and death.
Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry
Remembering our Lord’s victory over pain and fear should be meaningful to us in our own battles. Padre Pio always advised, “Pray, hope and don’t worry.” I always advise people suffering to think of that saying, but warn them that the last part is the most difficult. Even Jesus worried. He advised against worry to the people following Him. He told them not to worry about tomorrow, for today has troubles of its own. Yet He wasn’t immune to worry and neither are we. However, the way we handle worry is the problem.
Stressing and obsessing over problems, real or exaggerated, saps the life out of us. It is a powerful weapon of the devil. The best antidote is prayer, especially the Mass and the Holy Rosary. Eucharistic adoration is another weapon in the fight, as is confession. The Church provides these effective remedies for us.
When we are suffering, anxious, worried and depressed, it is hard to quiet the mind and concentrate. What I’ve discovered is that placing myself, in my mind’s eye, at the feet of Jesus kneeling on a rock in the Garden of Gethsemane, watching Him suffer the Agony in the Garden, gets me out of myself. I imagine being there to comfort Him simply with my presence. I dare not approach Him. I stay behind Him. I see His bare feet. I know they will soon be wracked with pain by nails. I cry with Him. I unite my sufferings with His. Suddenly my suffering is nothing compared to His.
In my imagination I see Him regain His composure. I see the strength enter back into His body. The angel of the Lord is there to comfort Him. I see Him rise, tall, broad, strong, muscular and full of courage. I rise also, still behind Him, following along. I see Him go to meet His accusers, bravely. He is fearless. And in this simple meditation, I am encouraged. I am strong in Jesus. I know He has my back.
I’ve also experienced times when that meditation just wasn’t working. The pain and grief were so heavy that I felt crushed under its weight. During those times I couldn’t meditate, pray or concentrate. However, when I’ve suffered like that, Our Lady of Fatima and the three children, Francesco, Lucia and Jacinta, come to mind. They prayed the rosary every day before they played, but found that it was taking too long, so they shortened it. They would merely pray the words, “Our Father,” then, “Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary,” ten times, instead of saying the entire prayers.
This laziness displeased Our Lady, and she told them so; but at times when I found it impossible to pray normally, I thought this condensing was helpful. I don’t think Our Lady minds in these extreme cases. So, at times when I had been suffering so intensely that even that was too much, I would pray the holy names of Jesus, Joseph and Mary over and over, uttering praise and thanksgiving to God in between. Nothing beats back the devil better then the holy names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and praises to the Lord.
In addition, to return to Jesus’ suffering, another lesson we can learn from Him is to call upon our angel. An angel was sent from heaven to comfort Jesus in the Garden; our angels can also provide us with guidance, strength and heavenly assistance. They are heavenly protectors. They are our friends and confidantes. Call upon them.
Following Jesus in Suffering
In all our trials, we can remember that Jesus suffered too; Jesus was troubled; He died and overcame death. He is always there to help us. We need not fear. Jesus told us that we will have troubles in this world, but we should not worry because He has overcome the world. Thank You, Lord Jesus. I trust in You. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Happy Easter to all. He has truly risen, alleluia.