Tag Archives: Jesus

My soul is crushed

He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38)


I had the privilege of teaching the message at our church this past Sunday. The message was on Jesus’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I love this story.

Oh, I know that might sound strange. After all, it’s not an uplifting passage, like the Sermon on the Mount or one that demonstrates Jesus’s mighty power, like when he calmed the raging seas. In this passage our Savior is admitting how crushed his soul feels and praying to God to “take this cup from me”. (Matthew 26:39)

I believe it is probably the most vulnerable, raw example of Jesus’s humanness. And that’s precisely why I love this story so much.

I know what it feels like to have my soul crushed with grief. I know what it feels like to be on my knees, in complete agony, sobbing and sweating and crying out to God to take away the suffering. (Luke 22:44)

About 12 years ago my marriage hit a very difficult spot. I was pregnant with Daniel and Olivia at the time, Hannah was only two and I honestly thought my marriage was over and our growing little family would be forever fractured. I was so overwhelmed with despair and the crushing reality that my marriage, my life as I knew it with the only man I’d ever loved, was not what I thought it was; that our story was not going to end the way I had always planned and hoped for.

I remember one night lying on our bed just sobbing in the most ugly way you can imagine, barely able to breathe through the tears and it actually felt like I was being suffocated because the grief and despair was pressing in on me so much.

In that hour of desperation I cried out to God and prayed similar words to what Jesus prayed in the garden: “Dear God, please take away this pain. Take away my suffering.” And then I prayed, “Tell me what to do! Please tell me your will.”

And I heard God so clearly in that moment…and I think maybe we never hear him more clearly than when we are in this place of soul-crushing pain and despair…but He said to me: “Stay.”

Of course, I don’t know what Jesus heard when he was praying in the garden that night. But given that on the second and third time he prayed Jesus said: “If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done,” (Matthew 26:42) I believe Jesus heard God. I believe God confirmed what Jesus had to do. I believe God spoke to his heart and told him that his agony would be relieved, but only after he walked through the pain. He couldn’t go around it because God had a bigger plan, and Jesus’s death and crucifixion was the cornerstone of that plan. He was to become the “spotless lamb of God” to take upon the sins of the world. (John 1:9)

When I heard God that night telling me to stay, it was because He had a greater plan for my marriage, for me and my husband, and my children. It was greater than what I could see in that moment. We would have to go through months and years of struggle and pain before it was fully revealed. But now, today? I really can’t imagine my life having taken a different path.

Of course Jesus’s anguish was much greater than anything that we could ever imagine or even go through, and I don’t mean to belittle it by comparing it to my own struggles. But if you’ve ever been in a dark place, if you’ve had a season of extreme pain and brokenness, you know how hard it is. So we can take that and imagine how much deeper Jesus’s anguish would have been. Yet he submitted himself to God’s will. He trusted God to take the lead, even if it meant leading him directly to the most brutal, humiliating pain imaginable.

I think maybe we never hear God more clearly than when we are in a place of soul-crushing pain and despair.

Jesus prayed to God in Gethsemane, which was actually an olive grove on the Mount of Olives. Historians believe that there would have been olive oil presses in this place. In fact the Hebrew word for Gethsemane literally means “press of oil” (gat shemen).

While I was preparing for my teaching I did some research on how olive oil was made in Jesus’s time. The olives were placed in a large circular basin in which a great wheel-shaped millstone rolled in a circle crushing the olives — pit and all. The pulp was then collected in baskets, which were stacked several layers high in stone pits. A stone weight was placed on top of the baskets, and a heavy wooden beam, with one end in a hole in the wall nearby (often these presses were found in caves) was placed across the pile of baskets. Stone weights were hung from the beam, applying enormous pressure to the olives and squeezing the oil from the pulp. It was a multi-step process so that every bit of oil could be extracted and used.

[Here’s a great video if you want to learn more about this process].

The olive has to be crushed and then pressed with an enormous amount of pressure — multiple times — before it can produce oil.

Sometimes we have to be crushed before we can fully deny ourselves and rely wholly on God. Before we can fulfill God’s predestined plans. But we are never required to do it alone.

Jesus had to suffer and die on the cross before we could be saved, but God was with him in the garden and on the cross. (Luke 22:43, 23:44-46)

My marriage had to go through a period of brokenness to get to a better, stronger place, but God was with me and David in our darkest hours.

God is not in the business of giving us easy.

God is in the business of redemption.

Sometimes 470,000 words just aren’t enough

I love words. As an avid reader, I love when just the right words are put together to perfectly describe an emotion, place, or situation — putting you right in the midst. I love stretching myself as a writer to try new or unusual words to really paint a unique picture for my reader.  But more than that, I respect the power of words. Words can inspire, they can heal, they can uplift and they can make us laugh. They can also wound, harm, and break-down.

When Noah Webster compiled his first edition of the American Dictionary he listed and defined 70,000 words. Today Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged Version) has roughly 470,000 words. Wow! With that many words to choose from you’d think we would never be at a loss for what to say. However, there are moments in life that knock the wind — and words — right out of me, leaving me stunned into silence.  And it’s this loss of words, or my inability to find the right words, that causes me to lie awake at night.

Last week I witnessed two dear friends experience hurt, pain, loss and struggles that no person should ever have to face. I lost many hours of sleep worrying, praying, and crying for these friends. In my heart of hearts I wanted to find some nugget of hope or advice, some bit of comfort or healing I could offer. I prayed for God to deliver the right words to me that would give them a tiny bit of peace. But in the end their situations were just too big for my words. I felt anything I might say would be, at best, empty noise and, at worst, trite and cliche.

Not knowing what to say left me unsatisfied, so I turned to scripture for some insight. I was struck by the story of Lazarus’s death. There are a couple of very key moments in this story that helped me to see my role as friend of the grieving in a different way.

First, scripture says that Jesus loved Lazarus. He was not just an acquaintance or the brother of Mary and Martha, he was a very dear friend to Jesus (John 11: 3, 5). Second, Jesus knew that Lazarus was going to die and be raised again. In John chapter 11, verse 4 Jesus says, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Later Jesus specifically tells His disciples that Lazarus has died. Yet, despite Jesus knowing how it was going to turn out, we are told that when He saw Mary and her friends weeping for Lazarus, Jesus was so moved that He, too, wept (John 11:35).

Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew the happy ending to this story. But that did not lessen the grief He felt when He saw his dear friends hurting. He did not come up to Mary and offer her words of comfort. He did not say, “time will heal your wounds” or “God has a plan, it will all be OK in the end.” No, He wept. Because sometimes the hurt is just too much and all you can do is weep.

Of course, in the end Lazarus was raised from the dead. Unfortunately, I don’t have the power to overturn my friends’ grief. But that’s not really the point. This is not about me or what I can do. It’s about God and what He will do.

Like Jesus knew about Lazarus, I know that this is not the end of the story for my friends. I believe in my heart that God will bring healing and restore happiness to their lives one day. Because “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” (Pslam 34:18). I don’t know exactly when or how it will happen, but it will happen.

Until then, I will offer my love, my arms to embrace them, my shoulders to cry on, my ears to listen. I will not worry about words or saying the “right thing” to bring comfort. Because sometimes even 470,000 words just aren’t enough. Sometimes, the most we can do is stand beside our friends and weep along side of them.