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5 Ways Jesus Handled Stress and Suffering

If you are struggling with stress and overwhelm, look to Jesus. He knows our suffering and shows us ways to cope.

The Sunday school version of Jesus seems to portray someone who is unflappable, easy going, and always smiling. But the real, flesh and blood Jesus struggled on this earth in many of the same ways that we do. Jesus experienced stress and He suffered. And we can look to Scripture to see that He taught us to cope with it all by His example.

Why does this matter? Because if you find yourself suffering, Jesus gets it. He knows your pain. Not intellectually, but experientially. He knows and He sees. You are never alone.

The many sufferings of Jesus

We understand from Scripture that that Jesus was a suffering servant (Isaiah 53). But do we really take time to understand various ways He suffered on this earth that came before the cross? Below are some ways that Jesus suffered – just like we do.

He suffered hunger (Matthew 4:2)

While in the desert being tempted by Satan, Jesus experienced hunger. For 40 days He fasted and was approaching the limits of how long a human body can go without food. He was at His weakest when Satan tempted Him to turn stones to bread. Jesus knows what it feels like to live in a body that is weak, frail, and at its end.

If you suffer with chronic illness or a body that feels like a broken vessel for your soul, Jesus sees you. He knows that burden.

He suffered fatigue (John 4:6)

On His way to Galilee, Jesus got tired. He was worn out from his journey – so tired that He plopped Himself on the edge of well in the bright sun in the heat of the day. He may have been too weak to even pull up his own water. We know this story well – His encounter with the Samaritan woman – but if we skip over the image of a bent Jesus, tired from His journey, we miss His humanity.

Jesus knows the tired your feel to your bones. He knows the fatigue the grips you and forces you to sit. He rests beside you.

He suffered abandonment (Matthew 26:56)

When He needed his friends most, they slept (Matthew 26:40). And at the eve of His darkest hour, they all left Him – more scared for their own safety than the needs of their Master. On the cross, His abandonment became complete when He uttered, “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?”

If you have ever been surrounded by throngs of people, yet felt utterly alone, Jesus understands that feeling. He knows the pain of loneliness and abandonment to a degree we never will. That’s because we will always have Him. He will never leave us or forsake us.

He suffered betrayal (Matthew 26:50)

Judas was one of Jesus’ closest friends. They spent three years together, ministering, traveling, and “doing life” together. When Judas approached him with the religious leaders in the garden, Jesus called him “friend.” This betrayal cut deep.

Jesus knows what it is like to have someone close to you turn on you. He knows the sting of unjust accusation and broken relationships.

He suffered grief (John 11:35)

“Jesus wept” is touted as the shortest verse in the Bible. But it is significant for other reasons. We get to see right into the very heart of God in these two words. Jesus, God incarnate, experiences sorrow and grief over the brokenness and death that has stained every corner of His creation.

As a man acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3), Jesus knows the ache in your heart.

How Jesus coped with suffering and stress

When we survey Scripture, we can see that Jesus relied on several strategies to help Him deal with everything He faced on this earth. We can learn by His example and use these strategies too. As we do this, we can proclaim this truth in our hearts: never alone. Even if we feel like we are alone, we are not (Matthew 28:20). He’s not with us as a curious bystander. He bears the scars of all the brokenness we feel.

He prayed

Multiple times in Scripture, we see that Jesus turned to His Father in prayer. This was a regular practice for Him. His were not foxhole prayers but real conversations that sometimes lasted all night (Luke 6:12).

Prayer was the source of His strength and connection to His Father. It made a difference in how He lived His life on earth. How do I know this? Because the one question the disciples asked of Him was: “can you teach us how to pray?” (Luke 11). They didn’t want to know how to heal, turn water to wine, or how to multiply fish. They wanted to know how to pray. They knew that His relationship to His Father was somehow the key to everything. And when He taught them how to pray, He shared the most profound and comprehensive prayer ever uttered (book recommendation: 57 Words that Change the World by Darrell Johnson).

Regularly spending time with the Lord in prayer is transformative. It unburdens our minds, shifts our perspective on our situation, and lightens our load. If your mind wanders, that’s okay. You don’t have to clean yourself up to meet with the Lord. He takes you as your are.

He cried out to God

We know in the Garden that Jesus begged God to take away what was to come, to find another way. He always submitted to His Father’s will, but this did not stop Him from crying out. He was in agony and it took that pain to the only one who could help. When God revealed there was no other way, Jesus accepted His fate, got up and faced His accusers.

Do you cry out to God in your pain? Do you tell Him your hurts and your struggles? Or do you hold it in thinking that “good Christians” don’t rail against God? Take your deepest hurts and sufferings to Him (and read through the Psalms to see how others did the same).

He practiced solitude (Luke 5:16)

Many times in Scripture it says that Jesus went away to a solitary place. The crowds were relentless – they followed Him because of the miracles He performed (John 6:2) and the fact that He fed them. He had compassion on them, but He still took time to be alone.

When you are pushed to your limit, with demands from every side, what do you do? Do you just keep going, hoping for relief? Or do you take some time, precious time, to be alone? Our bodies were designed to rest. The Sabbath is for our good, not God’s. If we ignore our innate design, we will find our suffering and stress compounded. Jesus showed us how to withdraw and seek solitude to cope with the demands of life. Solitude was an important practice for Jesus.

He spent time with others

We know that Jesus spent time with others. He developed deep relationships with other people. We see that in His tears over Lazarus’ death and when He called His disciples “friends.” He was not all business, even though God had a job for Him on earth. He ate meals, fellowshipped and visited in people’s homes.

When we are overwhelmed with stress, we go into survival mode and sometimes that can look like isolation. But God designed us to be in community with others. We are made in the image of God and He is three in one. When we try to cope on our own, isolate or withdraw, we increase our suffering. Reaching out can be hard, but Jesus shows up as the hands and feet of those he puts in your life. Ask Him to give you eyes to see the comfort He extends.

He said no (Luke 4:42-43)

Jesus didn’t heal everyone. He left crowds. He left towns. He set boundaries because He was focused on what His Father had tasked Him to do.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, it can be helpful to examine your boundaries. Are you saying yes, when no would be better? Are you stretched too thin? Have you lost sight of God’s plans for you and taken matters into your own hands? Consider Jesus – He didn’t try to do it all. He left some things undone. We can too.

If you are going through a challenging time right now, look to Jesus. He showed us how to weather the storms of life and we can cling to Him as we ride them out.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.

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