02/19/2012 08:29 am ET Updated Apr 20, 2012

Getting through Spiritual All-Nighters

This past week, I have had my first real dose of "college all-nighters." An all-nighter occurs when a student stays up all night to complete studying, an assignment or a project. All-nighters are frustrating, tiresome, brutal, and it always seems as though that night is never going to end. The hardest part of pulling an all-nighter is not staying up all night; neither is it having to complete the assignment. The hardest part of pulling an all-nighter is trying to get your mind, body, and will to all align on the same goal. In fact, half the time is spent actually doing the work, and the other half is taking measures to try and bring whatever part has gone astray, back into alignment. Sometimes the will to do the work is there, but the body is tired and worn out. Other times the body is strong and rested, but the mind is so pre-occupied with worry, concerns, memories, thoughts, or stress, that it can not focus on the task at hand. Sometimes the mind and body are able and ready to move forward on the mission, but because of anxiety, fear, or distractions, the will opts out. As Christians, we often fail to overcome certain situations, not because we do not have the necessary skills or resources to preserver, but because we fail to unite our mind, will, and body.

An example of this in the bible is found in Matthew 26:36-46. When the time had come for Jesus to die, he was in his worst emotional state yet. He beheld the agony that he was going to have to endure and his heart was wrenching with anxiety (how else could one feel when he is about to take on the sins of the world?). Jesus went into an open place called the Garden of Gethsemane, where he prayed a very special prayer regarding his death. As he headed into the garden, he takes his three closest disciples with him, and instructs them to watch and pray. He wanted them to watch for the soldiers who were looking to arrest him, and he wanted them to pray with and for him, that he would be spiritually strong as he faced the difficult road to death. Jesus goes off to pray and when he comes back, he finds his special prayer team fast asleep. He questioned why they were not able to stay with him even one hour, and then he answered the question for them: their spirits were willing, but their flesh was weak. These three disciples likely had all the best intentions to be there for Jesus, but they did not align that will with their mind or body, so that the will could be turned to action. One major reason for this is that they did not understand the sense of urgency that surrounded what Christ was going through. Often, the only thing that will awaken us out of complacency is a crisis. The more serious something is, the more effort we will put towards overcoming.

There are things you and I can do beforehand, so that we do not have to rely on the urgency of crisis to align our spiritual and physical system. When it comes to the mind, the best way to get our minds to focus on a goal is to eliminate distractions, and address any fears that may be hindering our concentration. When it comes to aligning your will with your goal, find a way to provide a sense of urgency before the situation becomes urgent, by evaluating the benefits of "biting the bullet" and/or the consequences of what could happen if you do not give your best effort. When it comes to the body, maintain a healthy lifestyle. This does not mean just the usual "eat right and exercise." Living a healthy lifestyle includes taking care of our physical and spiritual states of being. When you're at peace with people, keeping a stress-free environment, and doing your best to make the right choices, the body will generally tend to feel better. The key to this is the understanding that the entire process starts in the mind. Get your mind focused, and your will follows where your focus leads. When the mind is supported by the will, the body will put the action towards the goal.

At the end of the story, it was not their lack of praying ability that led them to fail; Jesus had taught them how to pray. It was not their lack of watching ability; they had capable eyes. The disciples let Jesus down because they lost the internal battle. In verse 46, Jesus lets them know that it is too late, and his time to be arrested and to be crucified is at hand. One of the worst feelings in the world is to look back and know that you had the ability to overcome an assignment, project, struggle, or temptation, but you let spiritual disorganization deter you until you were overcome by whatever it is you were struggling with. When we fill our minds with positive thoughts and the word of God, and allow our will to be driven by the potential success we can have, we align our inner being and enable ourselves to make it through those "spiritual all-nighters."