And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled.
If our Lord, who was sinless, had times in which He became distressed, how should we who are sinful expect to escape them? There have been many people who have preached what is called the "Victorious Christian life". Although this is never actually stated, if you extend the arguments out, what is implied with this type of teaching is that if we walk close enough to the Lord, and spend enough time in prayer and devotion, we will attain some type of abundant life which enables us to walk in victory and be above sin and distress. When trials come, our faith will be solid and we will feel at perfect rest knowing God is in control. And there are clearly times when we will go through outward trials with this sort of inner success.
But to imagine that we can reach a point where we will not have times of heaviness and distress is not Scriptural. For even our Lord had to face times like this, and He had no sin to remember in His times of trouble. Times of distress will plague us all, but in our distress we are not to feel like we have not reached some spiritual peak. Or as if we lack some, "deeper Christian life". This type of thinking can lead to a spiritual elitism, which can excite pride. In fact, many in the church get so caught up in trying to reach these allusive spiritual peaks, that they have forgotten what pure an undefiled religion is, visiting orphans and widows, helping the poor and the down trodden, and extending grace to the sinner.
The very phrase "Victorious Christian life" is redundant because to be a Christian is to be victorious. You cannot be a child of God and not have the victory. If you are a child of God, He is your Shepherd and this Shepherd cannot fail. Though He may bring you through High water, He will be with you. In the dark valley of death you may tremble, but He will not falter. There will be times where He will forge you over the fires, and all of this is done is to fulfill His purposes in your life. But this does not mean the fire will not be hot, or that the hammer will not sting. As one southern preacher said, "When the Lord sends tribulation, He ‘spects us to tribulate." As Christians we will share in the sufferings of Christ and this suffering causes pain and distress, if it doesn’t, it’s not suffering.
When trouble and distress are upon us, we are to fight it, not by trying to reach some higher state of spirituality, but by holding on to the truth that He will bring us through every trial victoriously. And nothing, not even death itself can separate us from His love.
Failure and victory are not determined by feelings, but by our actual position in Christ, regardless of what our feelings tell us. Trust Him to lead you through and remember when Christ looks on those who are distressed, He has compassion, and is near to those who call upon Him in prayer. At times, we may be hard pressed on every side but we will not be crushed. And we must remember that the distress our Lord felt in the scripture above, led to the greatest victory that has ever been won.
My soul at times will not be still,
And tremblings with my heart doth fill
Yet perfect bliss was not His pledge
Nor paradise within His hedge
But every trial will be endured.
The victory has been secured.
And death itself’s a vanquished foe
By resurrection’s mighty blow.