It was the darkest of nights, tiny pinpricks of stars were scattered overhead as they had done over thirty years before, pointing the wise men to a Bethlehem stable. The time was coming when Jesus would taste the death that those strange birth day gifts were preparing Him for. Jesus was under a weight of pressure and pain that few could endure. He chose to sit at the foot of the Father in prayer. Abba. Daddy, he cried. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death’. The Son of God, who a few short days before had ridden into Jerusalem triumphant, now cries out to His Father in unspeakable pain, his sweat tainted with blood. That night, thousands of years ago, Jesus’ heart was breaking.
His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane is a picture of pain that speaks to each of us. It is a picture that speaks particularly to the one in four people who will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lives. I am one of those one in four and mental illness has pushed me to seek God in new ways and take comfort in the God who became Immanuel, suffering not only the physical pains of this life, but the anguish and heartbreak of humanity.
The betrayal and the fear, the pain and the of burden despair. It is the kind of pain that begs for escape, a pain that begs for release. It is the cry heard from those suffering from the effects of depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, when it is doubtful that the dawn will ever break through such a dark night.
What breaks through that dark night is deeper and more powerful than any theodicy, because God himself enters the story through Jesus.
The person of Jesus is where our hope takes shape, and that whatever challenge our hope faces, Jesus is greater.