“Watch with Me”
By William B. McGrath
When Jesus was about to enter His most agonizing ordeal, He made this request to His three most trusted disciples, Peter, James, and John: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). We all know how they failed Him. Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, there were times when He could have really appreciated some moral support, some human companionship. He was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3) and “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He experienced human suffering, and disappointments.
And at the time preceding His death we have a magnified look at the sorrow He endured. Contemplating His near future, He wanted companionship; He wanted to know they were there by His side. He was about to face the ultimate, supreme suffering. All of us know how much it can mean to us when some extreme sorrow arrives in our life, and then someone whom we know checks up on us, unselfishly caring enough to come to our side, just to “watch with us.”
There’s an old song, “Someone to Watch Over Me,” that expresses this human need, this longing that we all have, just to know that someone will be there, to watch over us, to watch with us, especially when trouble comes.
Recently I felt convicted and experienced godly sorrow for having failed someone in this way. I failed to really be there for them, to watch with them, when they needed me. They didn’t plead for my concern or companionship, but it became evident after the fact how much I was needed to support them at this time in their life.
I was told, months after my visit with this one, of the seriousness of the emotional trauma that they had been going through and the lasting effects it was having. I know that I could have been more sensitive to what this person was going through, but looking back, I know I acted quite oblivious. After hearing the news of the seriousness of this person’s emotional condition, a day or two passed, and then I happened to come upon an old song “When a Soldier Makes It Home,” sung by Arlo Guthrie. While listening, I was deeply moved, and felt the need for honest repentance before the Lord for my serious failing. I knew that I had failed to really “be there” for my loved one in their time of need. It saddened me, but it also woke me up to the need to pay more attention to others, to watch and pray, especially over those of my immediate family.
As is brought out in Arlo’s song, soldiers can return from war and feel lonely and abandoned. They may have been deeply scarred emotionally from their experiences. And all of us, in some way, are just like the lonely soldier returning to a world that just doesn’t seem to care. All of us can be deeply scarred, from some sort of abuse, a hurtful relationship, or painful mistreatment. And then the neglect and the indifference people can have only serves to make things worse. It seems Jesus suffered this the night of His agony in the garden. May God grant His compassion, His watchfulness, and deliverance from this world’s cold and lifeless indifference. As a parent, I pray that I might ever be faithful to watch and pray over each of my children and grandchildren.
We can fail to realize when those around us really need even just a bit of our time and moral support. If we are married and have children, we become responsible, for life, to be sensitive to our loved ones, and to spend some of our time to watch with them, especially during their difficult times.
It takes practice, yieldedness, and sensitivity to His Spirit’s prompting, when those special opportunities arise. God may need us to watch with someone when we are not expecting it, or when we consider ourselves not fully prepared, or maybe just when we have other plans or preferences. We can’t control the outcome of events, nor prevent the breakings that others must pass through, but we can be there for them and give them a touch of God’s Spirit of Love, and a prayer, which may seem like a small thing to some, but really means a whole lot.
In Jesus’ time of need, His closest disciples failed Him, and then fled, but they must have learned their lesson well. After Jesus’ resurrection, He visits them. Their obedience to His command to wait in Jerusalem1 brings wonderful, far-reaching consequences. We know from early church history that these first twelve apostles went on to be greatly used of God, and ultimately, to receive great honor.2 Although the disciples blundered during their early years of training, they went on to do many mighty works.
I know the Lord will have special commissions, special requests during my life. And, most likely, it will be action that entails sacrifice on my part for others. I need not be anxious about it, but to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41), that by His Spirit I might comply. His commissions need to be done in His timing and not according to my own convenience. I know I have to lean on Him, stay close to Him, and maintain a yielded heart that will walk forward when He confirms the way I am to take. He may lead into situations that, on my own, I couldn’t handle, but if He is going with me, it will all work out well, and my life will bear lasting heavenly fruit.