Facing Our Own Worst Fears. When Suffering Knocks on Our Door 6


Tower where Joan of Arc was held prisonerPlace where Joan of Arc was burnedJoan of Arc praying

How often we long for the support of someone. Anyone! Don’t we all hunger for friendship? And it is very evident that we cannot face our problems alone. Especially the ones that fall in the “huge” category. But who is willing to stand by us? Our society is geared for rushing around, and this limits the time that we have to be there for others!

It may surprise you, but Jesus knows exactly how you feel, for He faced the same problem. The night of His arrest, being fully aware of what would be happening next, He, too, hungered for human support. It isn’t an easy thing to anticipate beatings, floggings, ridicule and a death by asphyxiation on a cross. Personally, I would have been tempted to do what Jonah did: Find a boat and run away as fast as possible!

But Jesus didn’t run away. Instead He encouraged His friends to stand by Him in prayer: "Sit here while I go over there and pray." (Matthew 26:36, NIV2)

Fellow believers are also human, and thus "...he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping”(Matthew 26:40a, NIV2). This happened not only once, but three times! No wonder Jesus said: “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40b, NIV2). At this crucial time when Jesus needed support, His own close friends were not there for Him. Those who called themselves “His followers” let Him down.

Does this sound familiar? You and I would turn away completely discouraged!

The anxiety Jesus faced was way off the Richter Scale, and even though He told Peter and the sons of Zebedee: "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me" (Matthew 26:38, NIV2), they couldn’t help but fall asleep at His crucial moment of need. We humans are truly not very compassionate. Our needs seem more important than anything else.

But who could blame these disciples? Shouldn’t sleep be the first thing on our minds when we are tired?

Yes, we will feel abandoned at times, even by those who are very close to us. But let’s always remember, Jesus can identify with us!

Just how much anguish did Jesus face?

"And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." (Luke 22:44, NIV2). This condition is called in medical term “hematidrosis”, and it occurs very rarely and only under extreme levels of duress. We, in this life, have all faced horrific trials. But have we ever faced such anguish that we sweated drops of blood? Remember: The worst anxiety you may ever face, Jesus can identify with you!

Where did Jesus get His strength?

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42, NIV2). Jesus relied solely on God. He placed His Father’s will above His own. After all God cares much more for each one of us than we care for ourselves! And consequentially Jesus received the necessary strength from above: "An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him." (Luke 22:43, NIV2).

Only when He felt the presence of His Heavenly Father after desperate prayer was Jesus able to face His foe. "Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" (Matthew 26:45b-46, NIV2)

This is why Jesus’ promise is so special to us who believe: "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20b, NIV2). We realize, or I hope we begin to realize, that "Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." (Hebrews 2:18, NIV2)

I have never met Joan of Arc, but one thing I know for sure is that she experienced Jesus fully, especially at the most crucial time in her life. She had dedicated her life to helping the King of France, but in her time of need, he did nothing to save her. Taken prisoner by the Burgundians in Compiegne, she was sold to the English, who wanted revenge for loosing Orleans to her armies. Transported to Rouen, she was locked up in the Arc tower, which is part of the castle of Bouvreuil. Interestingly, nothing remains of that castle anymore, except for that very same tower where Joan of Arc was incarcerated.

She underwent trial for five months, at which time she was accused of being a witch, a heretic, and she was criticized severely for wearing men’s clothing. To mollify these accusations, she briefly wore women’s clothing, but changed back to men’s clothing as rumors spread that she had been molested. Her accusers used this to condemn her to burn at the stake. After all, she had relapsed into her sin!

On May 30, 1431, a cart took her through Rouen to the Place du Vieux-Marché. Imagine being in her shoes! Our heart would be pumping overtime! She was then tied on the stake and set on fire. Fixing her eyes on the cross, she found courage. After all, Jesus could identify with what she was going through. She found her strength in Him, and before she died, she shouted the name of Jesus several times.

Interestingly, in 1456 Joan of Arc was declared innocent.

Joan too discovered: "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13, NIV2)

Still feeling all alone?

Rob Chaffart

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