Facing human suffering: The lessons of Gethsemane

Lessons of Gethsemane

Who among us hasn’t found ourselves in a situation where the inevitable seems impossible? Where the unavoidable seems unimaginable, asks James Martin SJ in the Religion News Service.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus utters his agonising prayer: 'Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.'  At this grave moment in the life of Christ, we are invited to learn more about Jesus of Nazareth, about God, and about ourselves.

Who among us hasn’t found ourselves in a situation where the inevitable seems impossible? Where the unavoidable seems unimaginable? Who hasn’t said to God, in so many words, “Remove this cup”?

The most difficult thing in such a situation may be its crushing inevitability. You want to escape from your life, which suddenly feels like an oncoming train about to run you down. It is the shock you feel when you receive a frightening diagnosis from your physician. When you are laid off from a job. When a friend dies. When a relationship ends. You say to yourself, “This cannot be happening.”

What’s worse, these situations throw us into panic, which make finding God’s “will” far more difficult. At the very moment you want to feel most tethered in God you feel unmoored. Sometimes panic and fear feel like the only rational responses.

When my father was first diagnosed with the cancer that would take his life, and when I heard that the treatments would only lengthen his life by a few months, I couldn’t believe it. “No, no, no,” I thought, this is not the way it is supposed to be. Everyone, if they live long enough, will one day know this feeling. Recently when a friend discovered that his father had an inoperable cancer, and had only one year to live, he said he felt lost. “I don’t even know where to begin,” he told me.

Photo: In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus experiences the full range of human emotions

FULL STORY What Gethsemane teaches us about suffering (RNS)

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