In many ways I believe this may be one of the most important messages I’ve given, and I’m trusting that it will resonate with whom God intends.
“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” Psalm 55:22
For the last several days I haven’t felt myself. I’ve been a swirl of emotions, agitated, and somber at times. The crazy thing is, I haven’t been able to really pinpoint exactly what I’ve been feeling or why. What I do know is that it’s not a place that I care to remain because my family suffers and so do I. I’m not a trained psychologist, nor do I pretend to know every reason people feel the way they do. However, I do have an extensive background with God’s inner healing work, and I have a good handle on many of the things, both past and present, that effect a person’s mind and emotions. Because of this, deep emotions are not foreign to me and I understand much of who I am and why.
With that being said, these recent days left me a bit baffled, just wanting to move on from this state of mind without the need to psychoanalyze myself to find if there was something deeper going on. I really didn’t think there was. The conclusion that I came to was actually very simple – I just feel.
The fact is that my family and I are still in a drastic season of change. Growing kids entering adolescence, new church, new careers, financial strains, following dreams, leading people, and attempting to build community is just some of what’s going on. It would be futile for me to try to pinpoint one single emotion, and often times I don’t even have the capability to express what I’m feeling; I just know that I’m feeling deeply and I need help. My prayer is that by sharing my thoughts you may gain validation for similar experiences. I believe it’s okay to say to God, “I’m feeling deeply right now and I need you.” Psalm 55:22 doesn’t say to identify your cares first and then cast them on Lord; it simply says to cast them.
Something interesting that I noticed about myself during these times is that I have a strong desire to sleep, and I find myself going to bed earlier than normal just to see if tomorrow will be different. How’s that for honestly? I really believe this is an important topic, and I’m willing to risk vulnerability and a look into my personal walk in order for these things to be heard. Pastors are no different than anyone else – we all feel. Throughout this time, I knew that sleep was just an attempt to avoid what was going on inside of me and not working through what needed to be done – prayer…and lots of it!
I’d like to insert a disclaimer here and state that I do pray frequently. During this last week, I even went to a conference with other God-loving people, spent time in worship and prayer, and I still left with much of this “heavy” feeling. I say heavy because I know it’s there, and the prayer that is needed is persistent and concentrated towards it. This involves casting your cares and feelings upon the Lord every time they begin to weigh you down until they lift. I know this to be true because at a time when the disciples where overwhelmed with their feelings as well, Jesus asked them to pray.
In perhaps one of the most intense moments in the Bible, we can see this play out right before Jesus’s betrayal and capture. What Jesus was experiencing was overwhelming, and the Bible tells us he knew what he was feeling: great sorrow. The disciples, on the other hand, hadn’t pinpointed their emotions, and they represent more accurately how people typically handle themselves. We want to be like Jesus and have it all figured out, but we usually end up like the disciples! Here is the account:
“They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay her and keep watch.’ Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’ Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Simon,’ he said to Peter, ‘are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is week.’ Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.” Mark 14:32-39
They didn’t know what to say because they couldn’t put words to what they were feeling. They were just feeling a swirl of emotion, not unlike me. Jesus had laid some heavy stuff on them at their last supper together, they had just learned that one of them was going to betray him, and that Jesus would be killed and raised from the dead. As they were still trying to make sense of everything, they found themselves weary and unfocused. Again, like me, in an attempt to flee from these feelings, they succumbed to the temptation of sleep instead of praying persistently as Jesus advised. Not once, but three times! First, Jesus showed them that whether or not they could identify their feelings, they should go to the Lord and cast their cares upon him. Next he told them to “watch and pray”. In other words, maintain alertness, don’t be tempted to ignore your feelings by sleep but face them head-on and keep praying. He wanted them actively praying with him while not expecting them to have it all figured out. In this case, and in my own, the prayers could sound something like this, “Lord I have no idea what’s going on or exactly what I’m feeling, but I know it’s affecting me negativity. I cast whatever it is upon you and ask for your help pushing through.”
I think much of what I’ve been feeling is a result of actively working to build a better community around me. We’ve been talking about that for a few weeks now. It’s a big task and it involves working with people who have different opinions and ideas. Sometimes the hard or negative things can cast a big shadow, even though they may be small in reality. As we become vulnerable and put ourselves “out there” in order to make a difference, we are exposed to the world around us and all that comes with it – good and bad. The disciples were on the brink of changing the world and had literally risked their lives to be with Jesus. From the way our passage ends, it may not look like the disciples learned the lesson of prayer from Jesus, but in fact they did. Just about a month and a half later, right before Jesus returned to heaven, he tested them in this. He told them to wait for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit that would come. In the midst of what I can only imagine was a time of intense feelings and emotion, Scripture says, “They all joined together constantly in prayer” Acts 1:14. This time, there was no sleep.
As I’ve been honest with myself and honest with God this week, my confession has been that I just feel. I don’t need a label for it, nor do I think it would help. It’s simply deep emotion that is a result of living and working among people in a world that needs help. My prayer is that if you’ve ever felt the same, heed Christ’s instruction to pray, and become cozy with the fact that your life is a task too big not to cast your cares upon Him.