“My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death.” – Trusting God’s will can stir big changes -inside of us

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The first time I read it, I didn’t believe it.

“My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death.”

That’s what Jesus said to his three close friends the night before he was arrested and executed. He asked them to keep him company, to pray with him, to steady him.

“My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death,” he said.

For whatever reason, I didn’t remember that line from the religion classes of my youth. I remembered how Peter, James and John fell asleep on Jesus. I re membered how Jesus prayed three times, and how in one account, he even “sweated blood.”

But not the utter despair of Matthew 26:38.

“My soul is over whelmed to the point of death.”

That’s one of my favorite Bible verses, which probably says something scary about me. I share that line with friends who are so depressed, so overwhelmed. They know they are people of faith and tell themselves, “God is on the throne, so I shouldn’t feel like this, right?”

Well, Jesus did.

And if anyone was sure God was on the throne and what that meant, it was Jesus.

There are times – those Garden of Gethsemane moments in hospital beds and waiting rooms, in courtrooms and lonely bedrooms – when we feel our souls being overwhelmed to the point of death.

A woman recently e-mailed me about how this was the first Easter since her husband died. “When you marry, two become one,” she wrote. “When one goes to be with the Lord, you are torn in two. . . . I’m still my own person, but half of me is missing.”

That’s a little like Jesus in the garden, praying three times that he would not have to face the cross and the pain. He seemed to know that heaven awaited, that he had a mission and that it was worth the agony. But still he felt empty inside – at least, at that moment.

In his prayers that night, Jesus went from “My will be done” to “Thy will be done.”

When my father had a stroke that disabled him and robbed him of his speech, I prayed for a miracle. Then I prayed that he would die quickly, so that he would not endure a silent life in a wheelchair with so much of his old life gone. And, selfishly, I wanted it over because it made my life harder.

After a year, neither prayer was answered the way I wanted.

Someone once told me, “Prayer often does not change the situation, but it does change how we think and feel about it. So keep praying.”

I began to pray, “OK, God, get me through this.”

It’s a prayer I’ve heard from cancer patients, from parents of adult children who are having problems, from people who find themselves without a job, a spouse, even hope.

About four years after my father’s stroke, I finally was living in “Thy will be done” territory. I figured I might as well go along with what God was doing because it was not about to change. My father died six months later, and those were the best six months we had.

On the surface, nothing changed. Inside, I did.

Some Christians love to talk about “the breakthrough,” when lives changed. But it often takes heartbreak to get there. For every Easter Sunday, we have a personal Good Friday, and before that, a Thursday night in the garden.

To reach Terry Pluto:

terrypluto2003@yahoo.com, 216-999-4674

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