Stillness doesn't come easy these days. Not in the twelfth month of a global pandemic. Not in the face of social, political, and economic turmoil. Not in the era of social distancing, zoom fatigue, and overflowing hospitals. No, it doesn't come easy. But it comes. It comes when we bow our heads, close our eyes, and humbly mutter, "Abba Father, come."
This was Jesus's prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. As He sat in solitude, anticipating His passion–which would begin moments later with Judas's betrayal–Jesus cried out, "'Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will'" (Mark 14:36 ESV). In this deeply human moment of grief, Jesus teaches us a few things about stillness. He teaches us how to find it, how to hold it, and how to carry it with us always.
Grieve with Hope.
Upon arriving in Gethsemane, Jesus tells His disciples that His soul is "very sorrowful" (Mark 14:34). Shortly after making this intimate admission, He falls to His knees and prays. And then He prays again. And again.
At times, it can seem to us like grief and hope are mutually exclusive. In fact, grieving a loss–loss of a person, a relationship, a feeling, an experience–often feels like the absence of hope altogether, especially if that loss is irreversible. But Jesus' grief in Gethsemane tells a different story. It tells the story of a grief anchored by hope.
We can find a comforting solidarity with this grieving Jesus. As Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, "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). In His grief, Jesus draws near–not only to the Father but to us. He assures us that it is indeed possible to hold both grief and hope in the same beating heart.
Pray with Persistence.
It can be tempting to think of prayer as a roadmap out of suffering–If I pray hard enough or long enough, God will deliver me from this hardship. While we do see Jesus in Gethsemane crying out to the Father, "Remove this cup from me," we also see Him humbly submit to His will. With this, Jesus confirms that prayer does not always guide us out of suffering. Often, it guides us through it.
In stark contrast to Jesus' time of fervent prayer to the Father, He returns to find Peter, James, and John sleeping. He then reminds them to keep awake and tells them to pray. Three times, He departs. Three times, He returns to sleeping disciples.
Here, we see Jesus demonstrate prayerful persistence. He knows that the hour of His suffering is coming. He knows that He will soon be taken to His earthly death. And He knows that turning to the Father is the only way to find stillness and strength.
Immediately following this time of prayer, Jesus rises confidently to meet His betrayer. His disciples, however, quickly desert Him. The earthly rest that they found while sleeping in the garden was fleeting. Yet, the spiritual rest that Jesus found through prayer gave Him the strength to forge ahead in the work of the Father. This is the rest that we must seek. Like Jesus, we can find it in prayer.
Know Him and Be Still.
On the heels of a difficult year, we can look to Jesus' example in Gethsemane and remember what it means to be truly still in the Father. This stillness has little to do with the events unfolding in our own lives. It's not about believing that God will never allow hard things to happen to us. And it's not about knowing that He will help us achieve all of our hopes and dreams on this earth. It's not about us. Jesus makes this clear when He prays, "not what I will, but what you will."
Instead, the stillness about trusting that He has a plan that's rooted in unconditional love and an intimate awareness of our deepest needs. It's about believing that every hard thing that happens is an opportunity to watch Him work all things together for the good of those who love Him. It's about fiercely pursuing the callings He has put on our hearts with a spirit that is willing to follow His lead in any direction.
Be still, and know that He is God. Know that He, in all of His omniscience, has not refrained from experiencing the sting of immense grief. Know that He hears your prayers and advocates for you in moments of weakness. Know Him, and be still.
Lara Renee is an LA-based writer and seminary student who is passionate about using her love for writing to serve God. While chipping away at a Master's in Theological Studies, she works as a senior copywriter for a fundraising agency, where her words help raise awareness and support for nonprofit organizations. To read more by Lara, visit lararenee.com and follow her on Instagram @larareneewrites