It was late at night. Dinner had been over for a couple of hours, and Jesus was tired. He overheard the disciples murmuring about how they could see the weariness in his eyes and in his gait all the way to the Mount of Olives. And now he was at Gethsemane, with his three closest friends: Peter, James and John.
He looked up at the dark sky and realized it was star-less… pitch black. He couldn’t help but wonder if His Father had done this on purpose- a sign to him of what was ahead. The agony invoked by the mere thought of it was overwhelming.
He turned to his friends:
“Peter, John, James… I know what’s about to happen will be hard on you. You will no longer want to be associated with me”
The three scoffed at even the suggestion that after this long, and how far they’d come in their faith, they’d ever turn away from their charismatic leader. But deep down inside, a spark of worry grew within them. For the first time, they saw something in Jesus’ eyes they had never seen before:
“Stay awake with me while I go pray over there. I’m going to need all the support I can get” He said to them. His friends nodded in understanding.
Jesus turned and walked a ways off, then stopped and got on his knees:
“Papa, Father, you can—can’t you?—get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want—what do you want?”
And then he waited to hear from his loving Father… but heard nothing. He sighed and headed back to where he’d left his friends- maybe his Father had revealed something to one of them while they prayed. Maybe God would hear their collective prayers and change the original plan.
As he got closer, he realized that his friends had fallen asleep on him. He shook them awake.
“Simon, you went to sleep on me? Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour?” he asked. His friends bowed their heads, ashamed.
Somewhat annoyed, he walked away again to pray on his own.
“My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way.” He prayed, still somewhat hoping his Father would show mercy like He had so many times before and spare him having to play center stage in this tragedy. He knew God could do it if He wanted- change the course of history, find some other way. But He knew there was a purpose in this particular path. It was more than just a sacrifice. If he endured the tragedy, if he simply yielded to the plan, there would be victory.
Returning back to his friends he found them asleep again. “Unbelievable” he murmured under his breath, not even bothering to wake them up this time. He knew that his friends were well-meaning, but only human. He could not expect them to care about his grief or what they could not yet understand. In fact, he knew they would betray him before the day ended.
And yet he couldn’t help but love them. He couldn’t help but understand the storm he was about to face. Yes, he dreaded it, and wished it didn’t have to be so- but as he looked lovingly at his sleeping friends, he understood why it had to be done, and why he had to be the one to do it.
But he went ahead and prayed to his Father one more time to change the plan any way. And once again, from the Father who had once spoken so clearly and answered so quickly, all he heard was silence.
Then, resigning himself to trust the plan in spite of the agony he felt now, and would endure ahead, he woke up his friends.
“Wake up guys. My time has come. Let’s go.”
Over the last few days, I’ve talked about the storms faced by people as they followed Jesus. But it’s a different matter altogether to see Jesus himself in the eye of the storm as we do in Gethsemane.
We sometimes forget that while Jesus was fully God, he was also fully human. He had human feelings, human fears, human pain. We lose sight of the fact that he went through alllllll the motions we do in our lives every day, and he faced the kind of storms and temptations that we may never have to. He lost friends. He was betrayed. He was doubted. He was persecuted for what he believed in. And he was literally slaughtered for doing nothing wrong.
He prayed and prayed for his Father to deliver him from the storm like we do. And as we’ve found in our own situations, all he got in return was silence. We think because he was God, it somehow was made easier for him. Like the betrayal isn’t as painful because you know it’s going to happen- but it is! The fact that he was God didn’t make the pain and anguish any less real- it didn’t make the fact that he would have to die for a majority of people who neither loved him nor acknowledged him any easier.
But He was able to weather it, because he knew what was at the end of it. He was able to weather it because he knew that, no matter how bad the storm that God allowed, it didn’t change the fact that God was still good and he could still trust Him to stand by His word.
You see, we like to believe that a good God will never allow bad things to happen, because it somehow detracts from His goodness. But can I tell you God’s goodness is a fact? And by fact, I mean it cannot be changed, altered, configured, adjusted, reduced, diminished or discounted. He is good in His very being, no matter the circumstances we face.
Many people ask me why I don’t talk about my mom a lot. If you haven’t asked, you’ve probably wondered. Well, it’s because I don’t have the closest relationship with my mom- but not because of anything either of us did. As far back as I can remember, my mom was sick most of the time. In and out of hospitals or somewhere being prayed for. My dad basically raised us on his own (He even permed my hair, which is probably why all my hair falls out the moment a perming kit touches it- but he did it out of love, so I forgive him lol). Being the last of 4 kids, and younger by 6/7 years than the others, I was pretty much alone most of the time. Sure, there were times she was well, but it would never last very long. Most times, my mom would be in the hospital or in bed, my siblings at school or with friends, and my dad at work. I literally had to learn to take care of myself- I could actually baste a turkey by the age of six, no lie.
And I can’t even begin to tell you how very alone I felt. I had friends, yes, but no kid or teenager ever wants to confide in her friends about living the way I was. I can’t tell you the number of times I cried asking God ‘why me?’. Why I had to do everything for myself. Why I had to be the kid with the sick mother, why it was almost as if I’d never even had a mother. Why I could never invite anyone home. Why I had been born into this family where no one seemed to care and everyone thought that I was just so very good at taking care of myself that no one else had to bother. Why I had to spend so much time at my friends’ houses cos being at home just reminded me how bad I had it. Why being at my friends’ houses made me sad that they had ‘normal’ families, and everything I’d been praying for but never got. Why I had to watch my dad take care of everyone but himself. Why I couldn’t do anything to change anything. Why HE didn’t change anything.
And I would pray and pray and pray for my mother to be better. And I would cry and cry and cry. I remember my youth mentor at church came to me one day and asked me why I was always crying during prayer at youth service. It was just a constant barrage of tears, and begging, and unanswered questions. And I never told her why.
But you know what? Even through all that, I never once doubted God’s goodness. The fact that my mom had been sick most of my life didn’t change the fact that He loved me. It didn’t change the fact that He was watching out for me. And even through that storm, even though He didn’t quell it, He continued to work in my life, even in the times where i disowned Him and abandoned Him. He continued to be faithful.
I can tell you now my mom is healed. I can’t pinpoint the exact time it happened, or when that storm ended, but God answered my prayers when I wasn’t looking- and at just the right time. Looking back I understand why I had to go through that. I don’t regret being born into that situation. I don’t regret having to rely a lot on myself. I’m not angry that I never had that mother-daughter bond thing. I love my mom, and she loved me the best she could while she was sick, and she is part of the reason I go so hard, because I want to give her everything in the world- everything the years of sickness took away from her.
But I don’t regret the storm. Because I can see now who I’ve become through it. How God allowed me to grow in it. I can tell you for a fact, that i wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t been allowed to grow through it. I wouldn’t have a father who wakes up in the middle of the night to intercede on my behalf and the behalf of his family. I wouldn’t have the relationship I have with him now. I wouldn’t be better understanding of what people go through. I wouldn’t be as mature and as unreliant on others as I am now. I wouldn’t be a rock to the rest of my family. I wouldn’t push myself so hard. I wouldn’t have come to trust Him the way I do.
And I wouldn’t have this testimony to share with you.
Jesus understood this. He was able to see ahead and see what he would become at the end of it all. He saw how better off the world would be if he just trusted God and allowed the storm to do its worst. He knew at the end of the day, if he weathered the storm- never doubting the goodness of his Father- he would come out victorious.
And I know someone needs to hear this. I know what storms look like, the majority of my life has been FULL of storms- more than I currently care to share lol. But believe me when I say that the moment you start to see the bigger picture- that God allows you to go through these things to build you up and make you into the person He created you to be- you’ll be able to weather them. When you hold onto the fact that God is good NO MATTER what your circumstances tell you, or how silent He may seem in them, you will come out of it for the better.
Jesus did. And so did I.
Oh man. I’ve really enjoyed all the things God has put on my heart this week. Trust that this is a learning process for me too. These aren’t things I’ve fully mastered myself. But I trust God to work them out in me, and in you too.
I pray that whatever storms come our way, we will take the time to
NEVER forget who we are while they rage,
trust and obey when God speaks in them,
trust that God sees them, and is working in them
not let fear overcome us
and remember that no matter what the forecast looks like, no matter how dire the situation is, no matter how pointless the pain may seem, if we stay grounded in the belief that God IS in that situation, no matter how silent He may be, we WILL weather it, and come out for the better.