Finding God in our Garden of Gethsemane – Lent 2024


Mankind often tries to avoid suffering; however, we close ourselves off to God’s presence in difficult moments when we refuse to embrace suffering. In this video, Karen May speaks on how to find God in the midst of suffering and how to go willingly into the Garden of Gethsemane with Christ.

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Reflective Study Guide Questions

“As Adam lost the heritage of union with God in a garden, so now Our Blessed Lord ushered in its restoration in a garden.”

– Ven. Fulton Sheen

1. In this talk, Karen May says that we close ourselves off to God’s presence in our sufferings when we refuse to go willingly into the garden. What is your gut reaction in the face of suffering? Do you tend to go into the Garden willingly? Has there been moments in your life where you have or have not?

2. Think back on the suffering and sorrow you’ve faced in your life–were you able to recognize God’s presence with you there or did you shut Him out? Can you recognize His presence during that time in hindsight? Where was He?

3. When you are in the Garden with Jesus, do you pray as He did: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Do you allow yourself to acknowledge your fear, uncertainties, and your lack of trust before you express your desire for God’s will? Why do you think it is important to pray this way?

4.  What is the difference between embracing your cross and just merely carrying it? How can you more fully embrace your cross as Jesus did?

Text: Finding God in our Garden of Gethsemane

Hello everyone.  I’m Karen May. I’m a Catholic author, speaker,  and spiritual director.  And today we’re going to talk about finding God in the garden.  How do we find God in our own gardens of Gethsemane?  And I hang out in the garden an awful lot.  So I’m a runner and I don’t really like running.  I run because it’s good for me.  I like how I feel when I’m done running.  I like how efficient it is.  And it’s less time for more effective exercise.  And so I do it quite often,  but when I do it, I stall, I delay, I need  to stretch a little bit more.  I need, oh, I need to go to the bathroom.  Oh, it’s too cold outside. I need some gloves.  Oh, I, you know, that dish really needs  to be washed right now.  And my husband’s always laughing at me.  He’s like, you’re still not going.  It’s been half an hour, you’re still not going.  It’s time for you to go run.  And eventually I do  because I know that I need to, I know that I’ll feel better.  I know that I need to go. But the other thing about my  running is that I pray the rosary when I run  and I try to be consistent with the mysteries of the rosary  that are assigned or you know, committed for that day. 

And I always run on Fridays,  and if you don’t know, the mysteries  of the rosary on Friday are the sour sorrowful mysteries.  And so I’ve been stalling. I don’t really like this running.  And I get out and I’m like, oh no.  because I keep forgetting to think about the  mysteries that I’m going to be praying.  And I’m back here again.  I’m even in the sorrowful mysteries,  like everything is against me for going on this run.  But I go into those sorrowful mysteries,  I go into the garden again and again and again.  Why am I always in the garden?  Well, part of it I think, is so  that I can be here for you today. 

Opening Prayer

So we’re going to start with prayer  and then we’ll figure out what in the world we’re supposed  to do in that garden.  In the name of the Father and of the Son  and of the Holy Spirit., Amen. Heavenly Father, I thank you so much  for the hard things that you call us to do, for the ways  that they strengthen us, for the ways  that they bring us closer to you, for the ways  that they help us to see you in our lives.  I ask for your blessing on every person listening today.  Help them to rest in you.  Help them to feel the ways that you are caring for them,  loving them, being with them,  helping them in the gardens.  We ask all this in Jesus’ name, amen.  In the name of the Father and  of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

An Instance of Blocking God Out

So if you are like me with my running  or kind of anything else, we avoid the garden.  We run from it. I don’t want to suffer.  I don’t know about you, but I really would rather not.  I would really rather my whole life be absolutely perfect,  absolutely joyful, absolutely fun, full  of blessings all the time.  And so when I’m heading into the garden,  I really don’t want to be there.  And sometimes I simply refuse to go. 

I know one time my daughter had,  I think she was in fifth grade, had fallen  and broken her arm really badly.  Like really badly. And that wasn’t really my problem.  That wasn’t my garden. That was not fun.  But we’re in the ambulance  and they’re of course checking her  and taking all kinds of, you know, tests  and EKG and all these things.  And as we’re getting to the hospital,  the ambulance tact tells me you might want to check her heart.  Whew. As a ten year old child of mine  and something was kind of funny.  And I remember going into that emergency room  and just sitting there praying  and telling God, you can’t have her.  I’m not going here. I’m not going to let you have her.  She is mine. She’s not.  But I had that conversation. I will not go into that garden.  I can’t. I don’t want to go where you’re taking me.  And I will tell you that it took me months to come back  and feel God’s presence and hear his voice  and know that he was present with me.  Not because he left, but because I closed him out.  And the end of that story is that my daughter is fine.  There was not a heart problem.  There was a problem with the way  that the ambulance tech put the, the things onto her chest.  But even so, even though everything was perfectly fine,  even though I wasn’t even supposed to go into the garden,  the fact that I had refused to go, that I’d shut that door  left, that that thing behind me,  it really affected my ability to connect with God. 

Difficult Moments With God

Again, We don’t need to block those.  We can’t stay out of it.  It’s okay to go in even if it’s hard, even if it’s something  that we don’t want to be doing.  And the thing is, is that garden, when Jesus went in,  don’t you think he kind of felt the same way?  What was his prayer? His prayer was, Lord,  if this cup can pass, let’s do that.  If we can do this any other way,  any other way, that would be awesome.  His, the humanity of Jesus said,  I don’t really look forward to this.  This is going to be hard.  And if we can do anything else,  can we please do it that way?  It’s okay for us to ask the same thing.  It’s okay for us to feel the same things.  I don’t want to go here. I don’t want to do  what I think you’re calling me to do.  And sometimes that’s not what he’s calling us to do.  And we can receive that comfort in the garden. 

Sometimes it is. And we need to be able to go.  And we have all kinds of ways that we avoid going, all kinds  of ways that we think that we’re going  to the garden, but we’re not.  We can go in because the end of that prayer  for Jesus is your will not mine.  I want to do your will, not mine.  Well, that’s where we’re going, right?  That’s the goal, is to be able to get to where we can say,  yes Lord, your will be done.  But we can’t get there if we can’t acknowledge  that we don’t want to be there in the first place. 

Trust and Not Trusting Jesus

I remember talking to somebody  and who was really struggling with a very,  very difficult situation in her family.  It was really hard. It was really not a good situation.  Very, very difficult, very scary.  And she kept saying, I just keep praying Jesus.  I trust in you, Jesus. I trust in you.  Jesus, I trust in you.  And I looked at her and said, you don’t mean that.  It’s okay to say Jesus, I don’t trust in you.  But that’s the beginning of the prayer.  I want to trust in you. But you know what?  I don’t right now. That’s how we get into the garden.  We get into the garden by acknowledging our fears,  by acknowledging our uncertainty, our lack of trust.  We get in there and we bring it to God.  We don’t leave it out.  And then what happens is the same as what happened to Jesus,  the angels ministered to him.  When we can come to Jesus and say, I don’t trust you.  I don’t want to do this, but we finish that prayer  with I want to do your will.  I need the strength and I don’t have it, then God can come  to us and he can bring us comfort in that.  Because the thing is, suffering is part of being human.  We are human. We will have suffering.  We’ll have physical suffering, we’ll have mental suffering.  We are in a fallen and broken world.  So this is what will happen. 

And when we can go to God  and say, I really don’t want this to happen,  but what I want is to feel your presence,  to hear your voice, and to do your will,  then he can come and open those doors that bring us comfort.  He can bring us those people  who can help us walk with our crosses.  Because Jesus left the garden  and he walked the hill to the cross.  And this garden really connects with the cross, right?  This, can we have this?  Can I, can we can this cut past from me?  Even on the cross, he says, my God, my God,  why have you abandoned me?  This is hard. But in the middle, he knew  where he was going and he did it.  He had the strength to do it even when he fell.  But then on the cross, why have you abandoned me?  But same on the cross as it was in the garden.  It ends with God. Your will is good. I will do your will.  The end of the psalm that Jesus refers to in on the cross  of Psalm Twenty Two, which talks about,  I will sing your praises in the temple.  I will sing your praises.  It ends with knowing that God is good,  that knowing God is with us.  And we continue to do that.  So as we go into the to the garden with our doubts,  with our fears, and we bring them to God  and allow God to allow God to transform those,  then we walk out of the garden with Jesus knowing he is  with us, knowing  that he can give us strength and we don’t have it. 

Embracing Our Crosses

And we can embrace our cross.  And I know that can be so hard.  I’ve definitely had so many times that, again, I don’t want  to embrace this cross.  I remember a while ago, I had some physical issues  with my vocal cords, with spasm as I was breathing in,  which is kind of a problem for getting air.  It’s kind of a problem. And I was with my spiritual director  and kind of doing exactly what I told you just not to do,  saying it’s going to be fine.  I’m, this is what God wants,  and when I’m done, it’s going to be  better and I’m going to be stronger.  And he looked at me as we were sitting in the church  and he looked up at the crucifix  and said, what if God wants you to be here?  What if he wants you to embrace this cross,  not just carry it and put it down?  Well, I didn’t like that very much,  but I knew deeply that peace, that knowing  that resonance hit me hard.  And I knew that’s exactly what God wanted me to do.  He wanted me to embrace this cross.  This is where I was supposed to be. 

And as soon as I did, as soon as I quit fighting that cross,  as soon as I went into the garden  and said, I don’t like this cross,  but I will do your will, all of a sudden  I had the strength to do it.  It wasn’t gone. I had a lot of work to do to get this, this,  this situation handled.  But the peace that came from that embracing of my cross,  the ways that I saw God’s blessings in the middle of it,  and the ways that I saw God using my suffering  to immediately help me, to help someone else  who needed my help desperately, who needed my love,  my attention, my compassion was instant.  And so I knew that I could embrace that cross,  that I could walk that road of suffering with joy.  And that’s another difference that I want to make sure  that we understand, is there is joy in suffering.  And sometimes we change that to the joy of suffering.  We are not called to be joyful because of suffering.  To want suffering.  Joy in suffering is very different  that I can take that suffering and I know that God is in it.  I know that God is working through it,  and there can be joy within the suffering.  There’s a huge difference that I think is really,  really important here. 

We can’t deny our pain. We can’t pretend nothing is wrong.  That doesn’t go well. It goes totally sideways.  Every time we have to acknowledge our pain, we have  to acknowledge our suffering.  But then we walk with Jesus on the road to the cross,  on the road of suffering, knowing that that will lead  to redemption, to restoration, and to resurrection.  Then and only then can we walk in a way that helps us  to grow in faith, that helps us to walk with Jesus  knowing that he is with us always from the garden  until the very end.  And this is my prayer for you. God bless.

About Karen May

Karen May is a dynamic and inspirational author, speaker, and spiritual director who believes that powerful, transformational faith doesn’t have to be complicated. Helping people to discover the profound truths of God in a way that is simple, inviting, and filled with joy is a gift that she shares in her writing and speaking.

Karen has been featured in two Pray More Healing retreats, the Jen Fulwiler Show, Formed, EWTN, Relevant Radio, and more. She is the author of Be Not Afraid: Living with Faith in the Midst of a Fearful WorldWalking Through Holy Week, and Draw Near. Karen and her husband Mike enjoy cooking, traveling, hiking, and spending time with their daughters and son-in-law. You can find her at