Fear and The Empty Place: Did Jesus Ever Feel Like I Feel?

Originally published Thursday, 16 August 2012.

I don't want to be one of those people.

Someone who is afraid.

Someone who can't deal with hard things.

Someone who has failed to overcome the things that could make me fall down.

But, here I was, unable to deny that -- I am afraid.

I think I am going to fail. I'm discouraged and I can't find my way out.

What I'm really trying to say -- what I'm terrified to face is this -- I can't make my place in this world.

And I'm afraid you're going to walk away from me.

You're going to turn your face away and shake your head.

And leave me here.

All alone.

Place of Empty

These are the words I found myself speaking in the dark room of my soul last month.

You would've never known I had truly felt this way.

Because quite honestly, I have never allowed myself stay in this place of empty for very long.

All my life, I've nurtured a determination to do whatever I could to never come close to this place of alonenness. I am a child of light. Why would I want to face into darkness? I believed that faith was relegated to creating a safe place for myself in this world and for the ones I love.

I never imagined that faith in Jesus is exactly what it takes to enter into this place of truth and vulnerability -- this place of empty.

By the grace of God, Jesus knew it wasn't time for me to fully be in that place for most of my life. Jesus gave me a growing faith to survive and empowered me to have great joy to do lots wonderful and beautiful things with Him -- and for Him -- to serve and love Him. He's given me a deep passion to serve others, to enjoy people and extend an open heart of friendship, comfort and encouragement wherever I go.

But, recently, Jesus somehow led me on a path that He knew would place me at the doorway of fear and confusion. Jesus knew I was strong enough to finally face the parts of me He wanted to love back to life: my wounded self.

Jesus knew I was going to experience my first panic attack.

And Jesus knew that I would no longer be able to provide for myself, using the strength and hope I have always drawn from. He knew that I would no longer be able to create a safe place for myself in this world any longer.

Jesus knows because he's been there himself. This place of alone. Of truth and vulnerability.

This place of empty.


Did Jesus have panic attacks in the Garden of Gethsamane?

I think maybe he could have.

"And being in agony... his sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground." Luke 22:44. Jesus had escaped to a private place where He felt safe (Remember? The Jewish leaders had to pay Judas to buy this valuable piece of intel).

Matthew tells us "Jesus fell on His face and prayed, saying "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me." (Matt. 26:39)

The Gospel of Mark gives us an exclusive look into a Jesus we rarely talk about: "He began to be very distressed and troubled."

Overwhelmed by anxiety, Jesus confides to Peter, James and John. "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death." (Mk.14:33,34)

Jesus is utterly heartsick, down where pain has never reached before.

No Other Way

Eventhough Jesus was in total control of His choice to become the scapegoat for sin, I think Jesus experienced desperation in this place of honesty.

Jesus cried out, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me...". (Mk.14:36) If there was any other way out, He wished for it then.

But there wasn't any other way.

I've been thinking a lot about Jesus as He faced this struggle.

His cry has been my cry. God, please. Anything but this. Isn't there any other way? Jesus knew He had to face the toughest journey: being broken, feeling scared and enduring abuse. On every level -- emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Even though Jesus placed Himself willingly in God's rescue plan before the beginning of time, Jesus could not escape the place of empty.Philippians 2:5

I imagine Jesus falling to the ground, struggling to breathe, choking waves of tears, his body shaking, hot from crying his eyes out, his chest hurting from the intensity -- and I ask, "How did you do it Jesus? How can I endure something so dark when I am not you?"

He Answers

Jesus answers me by allowing me to hear His voice -- thick with sadness -- crying in the garden of Gethsamne -- "... yet not my will, but Yours be done." (Matt. 26:39, Mk 14:26, Lk 22:42)

You can accept this Bonnie --

because I know how it feels when God's plan leads the world to see you as wounded. Broken.

I will give you the courage to accept this. You don't have to be strong. I will be strong for you.

Jesus points me to the scene of his betrayal, when Peter tried to stop Jesus from walking down the path of weakness, "Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?" (Jn 18:11)

You can swallow this cup Bonnie --

because I drank from it myself. You don't have to fight it. It's time to drink it.

You can feel afraid with me. I will hold you and love you through it.

I look into Jesus' eyes. His gaze is aching. Tender with my pain.

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said, "Not my will...". Jesus had a will -- and it was contrary to God's will -- in that moment of weakness Hebrews 2:17. It was the human side of Jesus, overwhelmed with the uncertainty of what He had to face. Jesus may have cried out, "What is going to happen to me?"

It is comforting because even as I take this cup in my hand, I don't want this.

Jesus understands this. He understands my fear -- and how it makes me feel ashamed because of it.

Time and Again

Unlike me, Jesus did not sin in His temptation to avoid the place of empty.

Jesus surrenders and says, "Not my will, but Yours be done."

I too want to get up immediately, like Jesus. To be resolute and face the reality of hard things. But, I want to do this act just once -- when in fact, it's time and again we fall and rise with Jesus.

It's time and again. Just as Jesus falls and rises with us. Every day. From sun up to sun down, Jesus walks with us.

When we find we can't make a place for ourselves in this world, Jesus gently whispers --

Come here.

Collapse into my arms.

You can always stay here.

You don't have to go anywhere.

I am your place.

Here. With me.

This way.


Are you facing the place of empty, where you once made a place of safety for yourself? Are you finding yourself holding a cup that you don't want to drink?

Maybe like me -- you've always walked around that place of empty -- or run away from it whenever you feel it brush by you? If you're on the leg of your faith journey where your place of safety has become a place of uncertainty, Jesus is folding your hand into His today.

Let's embrace the reality of what has happened -- what is happening -- and what needs to happen.

This is a new kind of obedience, one of the highest calling that our sweet Lord Jesus had to embrace himself as well.

Surrendering to accept where God is leading us -- especially into a place of loss and pain -- is a surrender to trusting God as Abba, by yielding to His will and goodness in this way.

We don't have to be ashamed.

A Place For Us

No matter what is hurt or broken -- whether it's our childhood, a relationship, career, marriage, children, health, finances or ministry -- or it's our dreams and opportunities -- this place of empty is never out of His reach.

I'm looking into your eyes to tell you Jesus is here. And He's not going away. Jesus gathers us into His arms to a place where we are truly safe. Safe to experience our traumas, safe to be real, loved and accepted.

I'm smiling, as I show you my tears. We're alike you and me. We are both stepping into a place of vulnerability.

We are exposing our hurts, so that we can feel the touch of His healing. we are coming alive in our dying. And friend, this is where Jesus is shining through -- with new strength and new hope -- to walk in new ways in this world.

You and I -- we are one of those people.

We are safe, hidden in the heart of Jesus.

You and I -- we have a story to tell.

Yes, you and I -- He's prepared a place for us -- the most beautiful place in this world.

It's Jesus in us.


Hebrews 5:7


Hebrews 6:19
(Jesus has entered our hearts.
This is where our faith rests, hope that anchors us to God. He is our place in this world.)


How has God led you to your Gethsemane -- where you face the cup before you?

What is Jesus saying to you in this place?

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I love hearing pieces of your story, as it's unfolded and unfolding in you today.


By Bonnie Gray, the faithbarista serving up shots of faith for everyday life.

join bonnie on her blog at http://www.faithbarista.com, on facebook or twitter.

Bonnie Gray is an inspiring Christian writer and blogger, offering encouragement to keep faith fresh in the daily grind. Her writing springs from the belief that the beauty of faith often takes place when life goes off script. Bonnie is the Founder of faithbarista.com and featured writer for Hallmark subsidiary DaySpring's (in)courage. Bonnie is currently working on her debut book, to be published by Revell Books. Bonnie is a native Californian living in the heart of Silicon Valley with her best friend Hubby, wrangling their two heaven-sent boys on the homestead.


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