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“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)
In my spare time, I have been taking a class at a time towards a degree in counseling. My current class is called Crisis Counseling, and so much of my reading lately has been on the subject of trauma. As a Christian who knows apologetics, I am well-versed in how to answer the question “How can a good God let bad things happen?” But having the intellectual answers doesn’t change the fact that those “bad things” that happen to people so often take my breath away and bring me to tears at the depth of the horror some people are forced to endure.
In Luke 22, we read about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, turning to his heavenly Father in prayer before he is arrested and crucified. In verse 44, we are told that as he prayed, his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. This phenomenon is called hematidrosis – under extreme stress and anguish, blood can come out of one’s pores. No wonder that in Matthew’s account of Gethsemane, Jesus says to Peter, James, and John, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). You have likely heard of post-traumatic stress disorder; in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Son of God experienced “PRE-traumatic stress disorder.” As he came to his Father in prayer, he likely began to experience his Father withdrawing His presence, as He prepared His Son for the agony that would come soon, when He would experience the wrath of God on human sin while nailed to the cross.
I think of Gethsemane often when I hear or read about trauma. It is very difficult to say anything that might make the abuse or violence that someone experienced go away or get easier to deal with. So often, the effects of trauma last for a lifetime. But Gethsemane shows us a God who is not far off, removed from our suffering. Instead, we are given a picture of the Son of God, sweating blood and so overwhelmed that he feels as if he will die. At Gethsemane, we see our God, willing to undergo the most terrible of all traumas, so that we might know that one day our trauma will be no more, that we will be safe with our God forever. We see a God who loves, not just in words, but in the greatest of all deeds, coming alongside us in our experience and bringing us an eternal hope.
If you have experienced trauma in your life, I pray that the Son of God, sweating blood in Gethsemane, would melt your heart with His compassion as He endures his own trauma out of His great love for you.
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