Jesus and Anxiety

by Susanna Fleming | August 8, 2023

Did you know that Jesus experienced intense anxiety? In Luke 22, we read about Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew his arrest and crucifixion were imminent, so he brought a few of his friends to an olive grove to pray – but they fell asleep. 

Then, as Jesus prayed alone, his anxiety was so overwhelming that it manifested physically. Some scholars even believe that what Jesus experienced in the garden was nothing less than a panic attack!

And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44). 

Agony? Sweating drops of blood? Scripture tells us these things, yet somehow it still feels awkward to admit. How could Jesus, the Savior of the world, experience anxiety? How could the One who holds victory over death have ever felt worried or fearful? 

While these questions are understandable, they reflect a lack of full understanding in the beautiful truth of the incarnation. We must remember that Jesus was both the Son of God and the Son of Man. He was both fully God and fully human. And because of this, Jesus experienced the full range of human emotions. Anxiety. Worry. Sadness. Pleasure. Joy. Passion. Boredom. The list goes on…

And because Jesus was fully God and fully human, he also showed us what it looks like to fully surrender the breadth and width of our emotions to God. He didn’t allow his emotions to sweep him away into sin. He didn’t try to take care of his problems on his own strength. Instead, he demonstrated how to live in deep connection with God – not in spite of our human emotions but in the midst of them!

Jesus didn’t stuff away his pain or worry. He placed all of his emotions at the feet of God the Father. He fully trusted God with them. And though he was not initially rescued from his pain – though he ultimately did go to the cross – there would be an end to his suffering. There was joy in his future. 

For the sake of the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, ignoring its shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). 

What does this mean for our human experience today? Doesn’t the Bible also tell us not to be anxious? 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6-7). 

Importantly, this statement in Philippians 4:6-7 is not meant to be a dismissal of the reality of the human experience. It is not a cold or tone-deaf commandment. If you are experiencing worry, anxiety, depression — or any other negative human emotion, for that matter – this does not diminish your worth or spirituality. When these emotions overwhelm you, it is not an indication of fragile faith. 

Instead, Philippians 4:6-7 is an invitation into a relationship with the One who is perfect love (1 John 4:18). It is an invitation to take our worries and allow them to be shaped into honest and openhearted prayers.

It may be awkward to recognize that Jesus experienced anxiety, but this is a powerful truth. His experience challenges us to reevaluate our understanding of the relationship between anxiety and faith and encourages us to embrace vulnerability through relationship and surrender. 

Jesus doesn’t want you to experience shame! Instead, Jesus wants to walk with you in the midst of all of your emotions and fears. He cares deeply for you. And he is strong enough to bear the weight of your emotions. 


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