Jesus took some of His disciples with Him and told them to pray while He went off to pray.
He went away and agonised in prayer. When He returned to check on His friends, He found them sleeping. In fact the account recorded by Luke has a fascinating phrase that they were ‘sleeping for sorrow’. What an intriguing phrase. I think the context of that episode helps us to understand how this could have happened. First of all the time was late anyway. The bigger issue, however, was that here was Jesus sharing with His friends the weight He felt as He approached the final hours before His crucifixion. He shared His burden with His friends and His friends took it on to the point that they were overwhelmed by their friend’s evident sense of grief. Overwhelmed to the point that they fell asleep.
There is that kind of tiredness that is not about physical exhaustion from physical exertion. It’s the sense of being burdened by weighty emotional baggage. Your concern for your loved ones, your concern about the ill health, your concern about the addiction, your concern about the impending court case, your concern about the doctor’s prognosis, your concern about the relative locked up for that crime, your concern about the job uncertainty, your concern for your friend’s ongoing rejection of the truth and the love being offered to him. Concern after concern. You dwell on it and the sense of it seemingly never ending just catches up with you and tires you out. The burden feels like its more than you can handle. You are collapsing under the strain.
This is where the invitation to literally throw your cares on God is so essential. In fact when you don’t even think you can throw them, crying out to God gives Him the opportunity to lift them from you. It is not the burden of the issues that’s necessarily lifted – the incarceration may well be ongoing, the bills will still be there to be paid and the loved one might still have the terminal diagnosis. The burden that can be lifted, however, is the burden of the concern. Rather than being weighed down by that concern, having it lifted by God can liberate you to approach the situation with newness and vigour. You can approach that which should be bad news, with a sense of hope. Hope in the one who took the burden of humanity to the cross so that we could live free.
I recall on one occasion I felt that overwhelming sense of the burden of concerns. It really felt tiring and crushing on the inside of me. I certainly could hardly pray for myself. Thankfully there was my wife and some other precious saints in Christ who were able to remind me that burdens are lifted and put my issues to the Lord. As they prayed and sang, I was reminded of the truths of God’s Word, God’s Will and God’s Way. As they prayed and sang, I get those burdens lifted, I sense the easing of the pressure in my mind, I felt the relieving presence of God ushering in peace so that I could thrive in the circumstances. It’s a wonderful experience made possible because saints were there to remind me that these overwhelming concerns could be handed to God and my burdens could be lifted.
This experience is certainly not unique to me and definitely not exclusive to me. It is available to you if you turn to God now and trust Him with all your burdens of concern.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden