About a week has gone by since my last post. I have been busier than usual, busier in good ways, like having an old friend visit my wife and I for several days. Spending time in a wild life preserve, with my friend, taking pictures. Also eating out more than usual, and enjoying every minute of it. Yes, it has been busy, but I needed that, as I have found myself turning in on myself more and more. I would not have noticed it, except a good friend of mine, asked me if all was well, and after replying, yes, was confronted with a statement that went something like this, “You seem to be placing a cocoon around yourself.” Without realizing it, that is what I was and am doing, turning inward more and more. I must fight what I am doing, and break out of the mood I have found myself in, even though I did not realize it.

I write and study several different subjects, for the purpose of sharing my faith, as well as keeping my co-harts (SLL/CLL) more informed on what we have, what’s new in the research of this particular cancer, and also it helps me to stay positive. It is so easy to look at yourself with self-pity, when you have an uncureable cancer. You want to be left alone, spending your time with your own thoughts, fears, questions, and sorrow. Yet it is exactly what you should not be doing. Family, friends, activities, laughing, and engaging in many different things is the correct medicine. So I am thankful that someone noticed where I was heading, and told me about it, I hope that I will do the same for others.

Well enough of that, for all you SLL/CLLer’s out there, chin up, keep the faith, and keep on keepin on.

Sinful emotions such as hatred, self-pity, and anxiety can destroy us personally, and our relationships with others. Although we naturally defend ourselves from such experiences through what psychologists call defense mechanisms (denial, projections, repression, etc.), these serve only to keep our rage, hurt, and worry out of our conscious awareness. The “bottled-up” emotions from past and present experiences will, sooner or later, find expression through psychosomatic disorders, personal dysfunction, and relational difficulties. So I want to comment on ways we may cope with these sinful emotions. One I have been going though, without even knowing it.

Moving from Self-Pity To Joy – In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, reveals the manner in which we may learn to cope with real pain, without becoming bitter and hateful. As he entered the garden Jesus experienced a shock wave of grief and astonishment (Matthew 26:36-45). How he dealt with his personal agony that night offers us a helpful model for coping with ours.

First, it should be noted that Jesus was willing to face his pain and be honest with the Father and others about it. Our natural defenses will often seek to minimize pain through denial. I recall telling my Oncologist in October, that “I guess I had better start taking this disease seriously, I guess I really do have it.” Jesus honestly embraced his pain without pretending it did not affect him—he was honest with the disciples who were with him. In verse 38, he said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.” This open admission of his suffering is in strong contrast to the religious pretense of so many who deny their own hurt to avoid looking unspiritual. If we are going to learn to cope with pain we must learn to honestly face the pain without any pretenses whatsoever.

After honestly facing his own pain, and openly sharing that pain with others, Jesus fully acknowledged his agony to the Father. His words, “O my Father, if it were possible, let this cup pass from me,” (kjv) reveal the intimacy he had with God that would allow him the freedom to be honest about his own feelings. This is especially true when our feelings run contrary to what God has called us to do or permitted to happen to us. We do not need to play religious games with God, pretending he does not know how we are really feeling. He knows! We need to fully express and admit openly our true feeling to him.

In addition to fully admitting how he felt, Jesus immediately submitted himself and his suffering to the sovereign will of the Father. His statement, “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (kjv), demonstrates the highest faith possible. Jesus completely surrendered his own will into the hands of his Father because he fully trusted in his goodness regardless of the pain he suffered. Likewise, when we are willing to trust the Father’s will, rather than our own, we will also submit ourselves to him. We will quit seeking to save our lives in favor of trusting his plan, even though it involves suffering and pain.

The personal benefits of giving up control of our lives to the heavenly Father are seen in Jesus immediately after his prayer. In his gospel, the physician, Luke, tells us Jesus’ agony was so intense that he suffered the psychosomatic response of bleeding through his sweat glands. Following his prayer to the Father, however, angels appeared to strengthen him in the garden. Having received such comfort Jesus was able to return to his sleeping disciples, and actually minister to them in spite of his own agony. Because of his faith in the goodness and will of the Father, Jesus was filled with the joy that was necessary to free him to minister to his disciples.

However, the account of Jesus’ agony in the garden is more than a beautiful example of how we may face our pain. It is actually the record of Jesus fulfilling an ancient prophecy concerning our suffering. In Isaiah 53:4, the prophet tells us that Jesus would actually bear our griefs, and carry our sorrows. The shockwave grief and astonishment Jesus submitted himself to in the garden that night was really all the pain of the human race. “O, my Father, if it were possible, let this cup pass from me.” This cup, he could not avoid, held all the hurt we will ever experience. As Jesus experienced the full weight of our sufferings, it was so intense that his words, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” were not an exaggeration, but a true statement. Had he not submitted to his Father’s will, and received supernatural strength, our collective stress would have surely killed him, physically.

Because Jesus won the victory in the garden, he is referred to by the author of Hebrews as our High Priest who knows, by personal experience, all about our pain. “For we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15,16).

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