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Judy Lair is a licensed counselor and owner of Counselorplace Christian Counseling. She is the author of “From the Other Side of the Couch: A Biblical Counselor’s Guide to Relational Living.” Judy’s personal struggles with fear led her through the valley of hurt and sorrow. She now embraces a joy-filled life grounded in God’s truth and freedom in Christ. Judy uses her professional counseling expertise to tell stories that help people find healing and freedom. Her vulnerable, godly approach helps people find courage to move from Fear to Freedom. For more information or speaking requests, email JudyLair@counselorplace.com or sign up for blog posts at http://judylair.blogspot.com

 “Freedom is attainable. Trust me, I’ve been on the anxiety side, gone through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and now I’m praising God, eating at the banqueting table, and helping others make the same journey. Whether you find yourself stuck in anxiety, disappointment, grief, or confusion, your heart can be set free.” Judy Lair, “From the Other Side of the Couch.”

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Garden of Gethsemane

I had the amazing opportunity to visit Israel a few years ago. It was surreal driving down a rocky road passing a Palestinian settlement on the left, a heavily protected Israeli settlement on the right, and seeing road signs for Jericho ahead. Standing on top of a hill overlooking Samaria, I felt the presence of God and sensed the sandaled feet that had passed this way. Psalm 121:1 came to mind.  “I lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  (NIV) What an amazing opportunity to lay my eyes on the same mountains that prompted David’s praise to the Lord.

It was awe-inspiring to stand in the center of the Old City, looking at the Wailing Wall to my right and the Temple Mount’s golden dome to my left. Viewing the City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, I had a profound sense of living in the past, present, and future all at the same time. 

The account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane shows the genuineness of living an emotionally open life. Being able to actually see the ancient, gnarled olive trees surrounded by white stone allowed me to capture the feeling of what it was like for Jesus that night. He’d been telling the disciples for weeks that going to Jerusalem would bring about his death. Talking about it was preparing both the disciples and Jesus for the upcoming events. Jesus knew he was going to not only experience a great deal of cruelty and physical pain, but also overwhelming emotional and relational sorrow.

As Jesus was praying, he began to be sorrowful and troubled, sharing those feelings with Peter, James, and John. (Matthew 26) Jesus was so burdened with the enormity of the task that lay ahead of him, he asked the disciples to stay awake and pray for him to be strengthened. He was asking them to mourn with him as he mourned. Jesus could have asked God to send a host of angels to care for him, but angels are not made in God’s image and couldn’t join with Jesus in a deep, emotional way.

I’m most struck by Jesus’ humanity. The Bible reports his deep emotional state caused him to fall to his knees, his face to the ground. Jesus honestly, fervently begged God to find a way to take the cup from him. This God-man Jesus was in agony knowing what excruciating pain he would suffer and he did the human thing of asking God if there was a Plan B. Without this picture of Christ in his humanness, I would forever feel like a coward when I ask God to take away the hardships in my life.

Jesus honestly and genuinely allowed himself to feel all the emotions surrounding his impending death. He wasn’t ashamed to be vulnerable and transparent in front of the disciples and God. I love that Jesus didn’t use some sort of rationalization or minimization of his feelings. He didn’t sound like a pompous martyr, saying he knew it would be hard, but he would clench his teeth and march through it. No, he wept.

At some later point, Jesus returned to the disciples and found them sleeping, exhausted from sorrow. Jesus woke them, encouraging them to pray so they would not fall into temptation. I disagree with opinions that villainize the disciples, saying they were lazy or didn’t really care about Jesus’ concerns. The text says they were exhausted from sorrow. Have you ever grieved and cried so deeply that you were exhausted? Then you know this type of mourning comes from the bottom of your soul because someone you love is hurting. Jesus’ words were said to put them on high alert because he knew his arrest was imminent.

We are uniquely vulnerable to the discouraging voice of the enemy in the midst of a heart-wrenching season. The enemy can be found in words spoken by hurtful people when we need compassion or in our own condemning words about what we should have said or done. But almost always, the enemy takes on the form of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, making us question whether God really loves us. The disciples would soon be surrounded by this enemy.

Three times Jesus begged the disciples to stay alert and pray because temptation was upon them. But for all their good intentions, Matthew tells us their bodies were weak. Next thing they know, a large armed crowd shows up and arrests Jesus. Bedlam breaks loose as Peter grabs his sword and starts swinging it around in panic, threatening everybody, even cutting off someone’s ear. We then hear the strong, confident, powerful voice of Jesus call out to Peter. The same voice that calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee restored order to the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus reminded Peter he didn’t need Peter’s protection. He had the power to ask his Father in heaven to send down legions of angels. Jesus also reminded the crowd he had made himself available in the temple courts every day, so their armed show of strength now was obviously unnecessary. In fact, Jesus declared he had known all along he was the fulfillment of the writings of the prophets. By his words, Jesus gave notice he stood ready to take on all the pain and suffering those next days would bring.

So how did Jesus go from weeping in the garden to exhibiting strength and determination in the moment of his arrest? He poured out his heart and emotions in prayer to his Father. In return, God sent an angel to give him strength when the disciples had none to give Jesus. Every week I have folks weeping in my office, pouring out their hurt and disappointment. Most of the time they know I don’t have any answers to change their circumstances. They walk out my door and nothing is fixed. Yet their burden’s been lifted, allowing them to continue to persevere. When we’re given the gift of someone praying and waiting with us in that emotional time, we receive comfort which comes directly from God’s heart. Knowing in our soul that God sees us in that difficult place, that His heart hurts with us, and that He is bringing joy out of ashes allows us to press forward with determination.

Photos by Judy Lair


  1. Judy, this is a wonderful post. Very thought-provoking. I have been to the Garden and had similar feelings. Those olive trees will always be with me, knowing that some of those tress were alive when Jesus was in the Garden. Pretty amazing.

  2. Thanks Lorilyn for joining me in this memory. I loved being able to take the stories in the Bible and cement the experiences I had in Israel with those words.