Anxiety and Peace

by Alison Shaw

Mark 14: 32-42 – Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

What are you scared of? Spiders, like me? And do you get worried? Do you worry about your health, or that of a loved one? Your job, perhaps? Or meeting strangers? These feelings of fear, of being scared, or worried or nervous are what we call anxiety, and we all experience these feelings from time to time, typically before an important event. But there may be times when we feel anxious or worried, and we don’t really know why. When this happens for a long period of time, or the fears and worries are out of proportion to the
situation, it makes it hard to go about living our normal lives and we can become unwell.

But we are not meant to live feeling scared or anxious. The most frequent command by far in the Bible is ‘Do not be afraid’. And it is often followed by a reason why we shouldn’t be
afraid. For example, Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with
my righteous right hand.”

But….we are human and we do worry! Most of my adult life I have experienced crippling anxiety and a few years back it got to the point where I became very ill and couldn’t work. I sought help from my GP. With a combination of exercise, medication, therapy, plus prayer and support from my family, friends and church family, I recovered. I wouldn’t say I am cured, but now I am in a much better position to manage my anxieties and help prevent them from taking over my life.

What can we do when we feel anxious, or others around us are anxious? Let’s look at what Jesus did in our reading, Mark 14:32-42, and follow his example.

How can we help others?

Jesus took Peter, James and John with him to the Garden of Gethsemane and instructed them to ‘sit here while I pray’. Verse 33 says Jesus began to be very upset and troubled. Notice that Jesus didn’t need the disciples to say or do anything. He was simply comforted by their presence, nothing more. We can help others just by being at their side. No fancy words, just fellowship.

When we are anxious

Jesus prays and asks God to change his mind. But Jesus knows that God’s plan must go ahead, Jesus must be punished by death to take the blame for all the things we have done wrong, so that we can be forgiven by God. And so Jesus asks God to change the way Jesus is viewing the situation. He then says, “But let what you want be done, not what I want”. I see this as a positive affirmation, something that if you say it enough times you start believing it.

Jesus is trying to accept the situation, because he knows it is the right thing, even though he doesn’t like it. This is Jesus at his most human.

Jesus prayed the same prayer three times, so he clearly was still anxious. Repeated prayer is not a sign that we are not praying properly, or that God is not listening. Prayers are
answered by God in his own time, not ours, and Jesus shows us here that it is ok to keep praying about a situation.

It feels good to not be anxious, to feel calm and confident. But our relationship with God goes one step further and by believing in Him, God gives us peace. In John 16:33 Jesus says,
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus also says in John 14:27
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

What does peace feel like?

Think of your happy place, somewhere whereby just thinking about it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It might be the settee where your curl up with loved ones and watch your favourite film, snuggled under a blanket and plenty of popcorn. Or a walk by the sea, the sound of waves gently lapping on the shore and the occasional cry of a seagull overhead, the sun warm on your back.

As you think about your happy place, notice how it makes you feel. Relaxed…Happy…Calm…Content… Secure… Safe…Loved… This is what I think peace is. And God offers us that peace,
that we can experience all the time, not just in our happy place.

Amen