When distressed, we naturally react in one of two divergent ways. We tend to deny our feelings, minimize or suppress affect, not allowing others to know the inner turmoil. We say, “I’m fine,” but inwardly struggle, feeling confused and frustrated. The other reaction is to vent or explode in anger. We may lash out at someone or something, angrily yelling and blaming others. We are likely to overtly displace anger, but not genuinely own our feelings.
Jesus modeled a more healthy way of accepting feelings and expressing them appropriately. The Gospels record a variety of interpersonal situations in which Jesus displayed genuine emotions. He did not suppress or deny feelings, but expressed them honestly and constructively. For example, in John, chapter nine, Jesus wept openly at the death of his friend, Lazarus. In Mideastern culture, it was not honorable that a man show tears in public. Such action would evoke criticism and disdain from others. But Jesus was not afraid to be real in publicly expressing sorrow.
Jesus expressed anger toward the hypocritical self-righteous Pharisees. Mark 3:5 records that Jesus looked at them in anger and deep distress because of their stubbornness when he healed a man on the Sabbath. In Matthew 23, Jesus powerfully confronts the phony religious leaders with scathing words and piercing metaphors, displaying his disgust at their hypocrisy. We observe Jesus being frustrated with His disciples when Phillip asks Jesus, “Show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Can you feel Jesus’ emotional and hurtful reply, “Have I been with you such a long time and you still do not know me?” John 14:8-9.
Consider his sense of humor at the wedding of Cana recorded in John chapter two. Jesus celebrates with the people, cleverly surprising everyone by turning water into wine. It is the highest quality of wine at the end of the celebration. Who serves the best wine last when most people are partially inebriated?
Pause and ponder his deep and excruciating agony in the Garden of Gethsemane….alone, exhausted, and overwhelmed, He cries out to God asking if it is possible to escape the impending pain. Can you relate to any similar circumstance in your life in which you begged God to remove the distress or change the inevitable outcomes? Remember Jesus in such times. He is a Savior who emotionally sympathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15).
The sixth way that Jesus effectively coped with severe crises was that he knew the end of the story. Jesus continually looked forward to the finality of his life on earth, knowing he would be reunited with God, his Father in Heaven. He knew his destiny. Though he must suffer and die tortuously, he understood that resurrection would follow. Die he must; live eternally he must. He told his followers, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” John 11:25. While Jesus endured suffering, he anticipated the future. The writer of Hebrews states that, “For the joy that was before them, He endured the cross.” Hebrews 12:2.
Likewise, for us, we can look forward with confidence to the day of being fully united with Jesus, totally restored forever in Heaven. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes NOT on what is seen, but on what is UNSEEN ….what is ETERNAL.” II Corinthians 4:17-18.
Do you have that hope and belief? Hold to it firmly, for it can sustain you.
So the ways that Jesus models for us to cope with crises include:
- Time for solitude
- Develop intimate friendships
- Saturate in the scriptures
- Depend upon God
- Accept feelings and express them genuinely
- Know the end of life is resurrection with Jesus