I’m absolutely delighted to introduce you to our very first guest writer, Kristen Esch. Kristen and her husband lived with us for about 5 years and she is one of my most favorite people in the whole wide world. I can’t wait for you to meet her and hear from her yourself.
Greetings! Kristen here—It is such an honor to share with you today. It’s my hope these words will give you a little sustenance for your soul this week.
I want to start off today’s letter by jumping right into a familiar passage of scripture: Jesus praying on the Mount of Olives, found in Luke 22:39-46.
“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place … He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’
An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more …
When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them.”
Friend, can I be honest with you? I have never, in all my years of following Jesus, read this passage without feeling condemned.
I’ve heard dozens of well-researched and well-meaning sermons emphasize how the disciples, in spite of alllllll that Jesus was about to do for them, couldn’t even muster the strength to stay awake and pray with him before he was literally tortured to death. Perhaps you’ve heard similar messages?
They’ve always left me feeling like if I could just try harder I wouldn’t “fall asleep” in my faith like the disciples did in Gethsemane.
Well, last week I got tired of reading this passage through a lens of condemnation so I asked Papa (how I refer to God) for help. “God, help me see these scriptures with a fresh set of eyes. Help me see whatever it is I’m not seeing,” I prayed. And Papa changed my perspective entirely!
In reading these verses, have you ever noticed the disciples were asleep because they were exhausted from sorrow? Why did Jesus want them to stay awake in the midst of so much pain? I’ve heard many folks explain that he needed companionship and while that may be true, I’ve always felt like there was more under the surface.
The disciples, in all their weary humanity, couldn’t stay awake in the sorrow they were experiencing.
If they had, however, they would have seen something pretty miraculous.
Verse 43 tells us that as Jesus was praying an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him.
Wow. I wonder what would have happened to those sorrow-filled disciples if they were able to stay awake long enough to see heaven step into their garden of grief.
I wonder if all the sorrow they were feeling might have become a little more bearable with the help of a heavenly handful of hope (Jenny was very excited about my alliteration here?!). I wonder if the message was (and is) more comfort than condemnation.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (Passion Translation) says:
“All praises belong to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he is the Father of tender mercy and the God of endless comfort. He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial. We can bring them this same comfort that God has poured out upon us.”
God comes alongside us to comfort, not condemn. This was the revelation I needed. I used to read this passage and feel like I had to do better for Jesus, as if I was being chided or condemned for my weakness. Now I read it wondering if perhaps Jesus, in his absolute lowest moments of utter emotional anguish, wanted his disciples (present and future) to experience a precious gift in their present pain: comfort from above.
Comfort from Above: Our Little Life Words of the week.
- How can you come alongside your own pain or the pain of others with comfort instead of condemnation?
- In Job’s painful years, in what ways did his friends do the opposite – offering condemnation over comfort? What can you learn from their negative example?
- Make a list of ways people have come alongside you in your pain or weakness – what did they do that brought comfort? – what did they do that brought condemnation (intentional or not)? What do you notice?
- Who can you come alongside to comfort? What might that look like?
- Our song of the week is: You’re Gonna Be Okay by Brian & Jenn Johnson
- Papa, please come alongside me to comfort me, and help me to do the same for others.
If you’d like to contact my beautiful friend Kristen, or see more of her work, you can find her at: firstname.lastname@example.org / Personal Facebook page / Photography Facebook page / Website