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Anxiety? You don’t have to function at 100%: Let’s Look At Jesus

At the end of May, I ran a weekend-long Young Adults Retreat in the pines for Christians 18-30 years old. Between icebreakers and eating s’mores around a campfire, the lot of us attended workshops of our choice. One of the workshops I had arranged was about Mental Health which was a pretty popular topic, especially as many young adults (and people in general) deal with anxiety.

I graduated from university last year with a Psychology minor, courses in Neuroscience, and some experience as a Mental Health Ambassador at my school’s Health & Wellness Centre. As a result, I figured I knew at least the basics of mental illnesses and mental well-being. However, since I was more accustomed to this topic outside of religion is something I’m much more accustomed to, I was excited for what I could learn.

I’ve heard that people can feel like they’re not good enough because they struggle with anxiety or depression. And sometimes these can be the cause for feeling like someone isn’t enough, because they think they don’t do enough. These people end up convincing themselves that they aren’t good Christians. They don’t pray enough. Don’t help people enough. Don’t practice patience enough. And while we all should be praying, helping people, and of course being patient—this is an impossible standard to maintain all the time.

This is especially impossible for someone who’s experiencing high levels of stress. Stress can manifest in forms such as anxiety or turn into depression where there is a lack of zest for life.

Jesus himself was human. Son of God, a valued teacher, the only example of a life lived without sin. And as such, he also felt stress. He wasn’t treated as an earthly king was. Even though he was a king. Jesus was the humble son of a carpenter, often disbelieved, scorned, and disrespected. His own hometown didn’t believe he was the son of God. They had seen him grow without sin. Yet, they asked in amazement, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” Matthew 13:54.

He also received the worst death sentence. He was mocked, hated, beaten, and humiliated. And if that wasn’t enough, He hung from a cross holding on by only the nails driven through his hands and his feet, a punishment given only to the worst offenders. I think of anyone, Jesus had plenty of reason to feel depression or anxiety. And He did.

The night he was arrested, Jesus knew what was to come as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. Or, in other translations, the Mount of Olives. Luke 22:44 says, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

When reading this in years prior, I never thought Jesus was actually sweating blood. I thought that Luke was using a figure of speech, much like when we use the phrase “it’s raining cats and dogs” to mean it’s raining hard. We don’t actually mean it’s raining cats and dogs. As such, I thought Luke meant Jesus was really stressed.

However, it is possible. Hematohidrosis is a very rare condition where a person sweats blood, usually from extreme amounts of stress. “Around the sweat glands, there are multiple blood vessels in a net-like form, which constrict under the pressure of great stress. Then, as the anxiety passes, the blood vessels dilate to the point of rupture and goes into the sweat glands. As the sweat glands produce a lot of sweat, they push the blood to the surface, which comes out as droplets of blood mixed with sweat” (Biswas et al. 2003). And so this passage takes on a whole new meaning.

Jesus could feel such high levels of anxiety without it being sinful. Therefore the negative feelings we have, while annoying, aren’t sinful either. It’s okay to feel stressed or down, because these feelings and thoughts are human, and they are normal. It’s also okay to not do everything on our list. God understands that we have limitations. God also knows your limitations. Like how you can’t get out of bed for at least half an hour in the morning, or how you get tired of “peopling” after 4 p.m. As I sit and try to write a daunting thesis, of course, I feel these things too.

But I have to remind myself that God didn’t make us perfect—he made us human. He’s not expecting perfection, he’s expecting humanity. What he wants is for us to try, and it’s great if we succeed, but it’s not necessary.

So what’s the main point here?

The point is: If God doesn’t hold your limitations against you, then why should you? God’s not wanting perfection. He wants you.

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