Understanding Our Church

A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith

Experiencing grief, desolation, despair? Jesus knows how you feel

Published: March 21, 2020

By Betsy Wiederkehr Huss
Blessed Sacrament Church, Jonesboro

Ever feel punched in the stomach, beat up emotionally, spiritually, physically and/or mentally? Ever feel anguish, sorrow, regret, woe or grief? Ever think you are the only one going through something or feeling the way you do?

Losses such as friendship, job or health, a loved one or loss of hope can bring us to despair. We might experience grief when we move from our known environment or home into a different one. How we grapple with these emotions and situations matters in our lives, and the lives of those around us. Our spiritual lives are impacted as well.

In America magazine, a homily by Pope Francis on Sept. 27, 2016, shared about how to respond to spiritual desolation as he reflected on Scripture from Job. He expressed that dark moments in life, misery and times of spiritual despondency are experienced by all of us. “What should we do when we experience these dark moments, be it for a family tragedy, an illness, something that weighs us down?” the pope inquired.

Ever wonder how Jesus felt when he knew Judas would betray him, yet they dined together and dipped their hands into the same dish that night?

He recommends turning to prayer, not alcohol, drugs or avoidance to surmount our darkest times. How may a friend help one who is suffering or experiencing a sense of desolation? Pope Francis’ answer involves “the importance of silence,” but a silence together with much love, closeness and embraces; “using prayer,” even ones with strong emotional expressions toward God (check out Psalms 13, 18, 22, 34, 55, 69, 70, 130, 143); and cautioning, “words and speeches in these situations can do harm.”

Ever wonder how Jesus felt when he knew Judas would betray him, yet they dined together and dipped their hands into the same dish that night? How did the apostles feel at the Mount of Olives when Jesus told them they would have their faith shaken? What about Peter’s vehement reply to not denying Jesus?

What about the heartrending events in Gethsemane, when Jesus asks his three top guys to keep watch with him while he is distressed and sorrowful, and they fall asleep … three times? What about Jesus’ agonizing prayer after he fell to the ground asking God multiple times that, if possible, this hour pass by him? Then, Judas’ betrayal with his greeting kiss signal. The crowd with weapons; the chief priests, scribes and elders are there for the arrest of Jesus, whom they see as a threat; Jesus before the Sanhedrin where witnesses lie about him.

What disappointments, sadness and grief might Jesus have experienced in these dark moments? The high priest questions Jesus, then tears his garment, a sign of mourning for the supposed blasphemy of Jesus’ affirmative answer of being the Messiah. Peter denies knowing or being a follower of Jesus. The cock crows, Peter realizes and weeps. Heartache!

Pilate questions Jesus. “Crucify him!” reverberates. Ridicule, abuse follow. Jesus carries his cross. He falls. Jesus is crucified. Passersby, chief priests and scribes revile him. Jesus cried out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) Yes, Jesus knows what it feels like. Pope Francis in his homily asked God to give us “three graces: the grace to recognize spiritual desolation, the grace to pray when we are afflicted by this feeling of spiritual desolation and also the grace to know how to be close to people who are suffering terrible moments of sadness and spiritual desolation.”

Please, Lord, grant us these graces so we may grow in our faith and put your love into action.