How Jesus dealt with anxiety (and how we can follow him in this, too)

“Jesus understands everything you’re going through.”

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

Anyone ever read that and think, “Yeaaahh, but not ____” or “But my situation did not happen back then” or “Jesus could not possibly understand how I feel about ….”

Anyone? Just me?

I confess, I have had this thought, many times over the past few years, for multiple reasons. Satan’s whispered lies usually center around a few themes..

Jesus was not a woman.

Jesus was not a mother.

Jesus did not have a child, much less a child with special needs.

I’m sorry. My head knows that the Creator of the universe is not limited by earthly things like sex or familial role. My head knows this, but my heart sometimes has a hard time with it.

Jesus was not depressed. Jesus did not have anxiety.

These are probably the two I’ve wrestled with the most. I know he experienced an unimaginable amount of pain, but somehow my sinful heart thinks that my weeks-long, soul-sapping, energy-draining, foggy depression is out of his realm of understanding.

But lately I’ve been paying more attention to Jesus’ actions, and not just his words. I read today how he stood silent during his Roman trial. How, Jesus? How did you just stand there? No weeping, no heartburn or stomach pain, no panic attack. You were all human, how did you do that?

I back up a few verses. I remember that he hadn’t even slept the previous night. Instead of sleeping, he took his closest friends and prayed in the garden. He poured out his tears, his feelings, his soul.

I guess I’ve always assumed this was a single incidence of sorrow. An isolated episode. Of course Jesus was afraid right here, he was human after all.

But think of this. He’d known about this upcoming agony for years now. This wasn’t a single isolated incident of despair, this was the culmination of carrying around a terrible burden for years and years.

Anyone else carrying around burdens for years? A trial assigned to you, with no end in sight?

We have four children, two with special needs. The process of getting each of their final (true) diagnoses took literal years. We hurt, agonized, begged and prayed for answers. We sought specialists and therapists. We carried a heavy burden through the waiting. And we consider our situation very fortunate. Some parents wait much, much longer.

And our children’s futures? I don’t carry much worry for my daughters, at least not right now. But with my boys, there is worry. There are a lot of unknowns.

Will they be independent? How much support will they need?

Who will they marry? She must be ready to take on some extra challenges. She must be ready to give up having children of her own with my son.

Who will be there when we’re gone? Will they still need someone?

Will they find new life in Jesus? Are we reaching them, showing them the love of the Father, in a way that’s appropriate to their abilities and needs?

Jesus, in his absolute humanity, carried around a burden heavier than any one of us could ever imagine. Heavier than yours. Heavier than mine. From his early years, he knew he was the Messiah, the Savior of all people. He knew just what the saving would look like. My soul gets rattled when Covid-19 world throws off my schedule. Jesus lived years knowing how and when he would die.

How does anyone carry that, without a nervous breakdown?

His word tells us.

He frequently drew away to isolated places to be quiet, to be alone, and to pray. It wasn’t always easy. Sometimes he had to get in a boat and literally sail away.

He surrounded himself with good people who nourished him and supported him.

And this, this is big. He kept going. The unbelievable weight he bore, which surely caused significant anxiety, did not stop him from doing the next right thing. After hours of praying on the mountain, he always came back down and continued his holy work. He poured out his soul to his Heavenly Father and received God’s strength in return. Strength to keep going.

Next time the grey of depression settles in, or the paralysis of anxiety holds you back, remember that he understands.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

It is not sin to experience depression or anxiety. Do you need to hear that again? because I have to have a regular meeting with myself to remind myself of this very important fact: It is not sin to experience depression or anxiety. Our own Savior did, too. He understands. And like him, we are given the strength to carry our burden.

Remember to rest and be quiet. Get away when you need to. Maybe that looks like a drive to Sonic. Maybe that looks like two uninterrupted hours every month to just be, and not have to be on. Figure it out, make a plan, and write it down.

Remember to surround yourself with people who feed you. Make sure they know your rest plan, so they can keep you accountable to it (talking to you all, Type As).

Remember you’re not walking this journey alone. Your friend, in the truest sense of the word, your friend Jesus walks with you.

Remember to pray. Position yourself to receive His strength.

And finally, trust. Trust that he understands your feelings, your good days and your bad days. Simply trust that you can keep going, living in his grace and doing his will.

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