Fridays, Catholics reflect upon the Sorrowful Mysteries in the life of Jesus while saying the Holy Rosary, and this morning, while praying the first decade of the Holy Rosary, I reflected on Jesus’ suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and how it relates to those suffering marriage problems today.
Jesus’ Suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane:
Picture Jesus walking up the path to the garden of Gethsemane. Peter, His beloved disciple, is on one side. Two sons of Zebedee walk along His other side, but the Man Jesus keeps His head bowed. He carefully studies His sandal clad feet as they trudge along the rocky trail. It is more the desire to avoid the eyes of His friends than out of any interest in His feet or His sandals or the trail He follows that cause Jesus to keep His eyes glued to the ground.
It’s not their fault. Jesus knows that. They don’t know what He’s going through. They can’t understand, and honestly He wouldn’t want them too. Jesus knows His friends too are hurt, confused, and afraid, although no completely aware of the events that have been happening, of the anger directed at Him even though He has done nothing deserving of such anger, such hatred.
But that knowing doesn’t lessen Jesus’ wish that there was someone to understand, someone to take away the fear and uncertainty He is feeling. He knows there is only one who can help Him and Jesus knows He must speak with Him.
Jesus turns to His friends:
“Sit here while I go over there and pray.” (Matt 26:36)
Their eyes meet but only for a moment. Jesus tries to look deeply into the souls of each of His friends, but in turn, they each look away, powerless to change unfolding events, confused by what is happening, and unable to bear the agony in Jesus’ face.
Jesus is disappointed in His friends although He tries not to be. They are only human after all.
He continues deeper into the Garden of Gethsemane until He can go no further and drops to His knees. He does not allow anyone to see Him like this weak, frightened, and with a deep, cutting desire to want things to be different, to not have to face what He knows is coming.
Thoughts fly through Jesus’ head, “How bad will the pain be?” “What will they say about my family – my mother?” “What suffering is coming to them?” “Dear God, is there another way?” “Lord, help me help them love you!” “Forgive me Father, but I don’t want it to end this way!”
Finally the thoughts can be contained no longer and the Man Jesus cries out,
“My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39)
…and then again…
“My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done.” (Luke 22:44)
Jesus’ Suffering & Your Marriage Problems
Marriage problems affect so many homes today. Picture your friends and family who feel like they are walking into their own Garden of Gethsemane when returning home at the end of each day. Outsiders may flank either side of the struggling couple, but often the pain remains hidden behind closed doors.
Or maybe that hurting couple is you. As you walk on your path, you keep your eyes averted, your voice cheerful, your hands animated. You continue walking, but the careful observer sees that your path is wavering, unsteady, lacking direction. Your feet continue trudging up the trail but are devoid of their former spring.
You are hurt, confused, and although you don’t want to admit it, more than a little afraid. When you turn to your friends, they cannot understand, are at a loss for words, and, powerless to change you or your life, they avert their eyes.
Returning home at the end of the day is no longer your refuge; your home is now your Garden of Gethsemane, and at bed at night or in the solitude of the shower stall, you drop to your knees over and over again crying out to God to relieve your suffering, to make him love you, to change how you see this ending.
There are so many parallels to Jesus’ suffering and that of long-suffering husbands and wives experiencing marriage problems. There is some comfort in the fact that, just as Jesus knew His Father truly understand the agony He was in, your Father truly understands the agony you are in. Just as the Father shared Jesus’ agony, so He shares your agony if your marriage is in peril. Because of this complete understanding and absolute sharing you can turn to Him in your agony, and He will bear some of the burden for you.
There are several major differences between Jesus’ suffering and marital suffering; however, the one to focus on is the fact that, while Jesus knew what the outcome of His suffering would be, no earthly person knows how your story will unfold. No one can predict what the final answer to your marriage problems will be, but, like Jesus, you can use your time in the Garden to draw closer to your Father and to make plans, plans to better yourself, your family, and your community.
Will you use your time in the Garden to cry out loudly and stubbornly or to cry out in trust that are being heard and can safely hand your fate over to the Lord, letting Him help you make plans to better life for yourself and others no matter what the final outcome?
My next post will discuss those plans you can begin making now. I’d love to have you share about your time in the Garden and what worked for you.
My heart is with you.