Adulting is not for the faint of heart.
It can often feel like dancing with a partner who is constantly stepping on your toes. You move left or right, and so does life, landing on top of your foot … and smashing your toes. You zig, and life refuses to zag; instead, life zigs right in front of you, forcing you off balance and off your rhythm. You move forward, and life does not move at all, causing you to stumble and fall to avoid crashing into it.
Yesterday, I danced with life. Yesterday I faced the possibility of having something – possibly minor, concernedly major – medically named, which would give it the ability to change the cadence of my steps and the direction of my feet as I move through daily life.
It was a dance that started with a possibility.
Which became conversations … and the frustration of being unheard.
Then the coordination into scheduling … and trying to get documentation into the right hands.
Then the waiting begins for the day of testing to come. The confusion.
Then the testing itself. The questions.
Then the waiting for the results. The unknown.
So much time from the beginning of the possibilities until the end of the testing. So many hours and days and weeks to waver between fear and faith, surety and scared, and assurance and anger.
And it was a masterful plan by the enemy. Pure genius. Because it was just subtle enough to create disillusionment yet pointed enough to build desperation – one thought at a time. All in an effort to distract me, to disturb me, and to disquiet me so I would become disengaged from my faith, disconnected from God, and disenchanted from hope.
In the possibilities of the unknown the enemy works best.
To fill me with fear … and question God’s goodness.
To overwhelm me with anxiety … and tune out God’s comfort.
To sidetrack me with stress … and reject God’s endurance.
To cause me to be concerned … and turn away from prayer.
Ultimately, his great hope was to confuse me into believing this one dangerous thought: “If God allows this, then He is not good.” But that is SO NOT true!
Because hard things do not disprove God’s love for us. In fact, they show us the exact opposite. It is going through such things – these Gethsemane moments God has purposed for our lives – that we become absolutely convinced of God’s love and care. And even though they usually the hardest things we go through, they will show us the faith we are made of and the grace all around us.
What is a Gethsemane moment? Jesus shows us when He goes to the garden of Gethsemane the night of His arrest to spend His last hours as a free man – “37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” 39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” 40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words” (Matthew 26:37-44).
Jesus is feeling the human side of Himself. He knows what will happen to Him once the morning approaches, and it is going to be filled with pain and anguish and torture … and eventually death. And the human side of Him wants to abort God’s plan and find another way. It will be too hard.
And He is feeling every human emotion you and I would. “He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed” (37). He is mentally anguished. He is full of heaviness in His spirit. He is adēmonéō (ad-ay-mon-eh’-o). Because He knew how deeply each of those 39 lashes (if given by Jewish custom) He would receive in the morning would cut, and He knew His skin would be torn to shreds. Because He knew how long and hard that walk from the temple to Golgotha would be, with a broken and bleeding body trying to carry that heavy cross. Because He knew how much more pain would radiate through Him once they pounded the nails into His wrists and feet. Because He knew the torture of trying to breathe while hanging on the cross as a public spectacle of shame. Because He knew how it would feel to His human soul to be completely separated from God’s love, grace, and comfort as He lovingly and willingly took on every one of our sins – from the petty to the perverse – to make us right with God.
And in Gethsemane, the human part of Jesus is wrestling hard against the horrors of all this against the divine Spirit with Him, who is reminding Him this is the best plan. God’s hand is on this, and the rewards will be innumerable and eternal. The suffering is a temporary moment or two before He will conquer death and reclaim the world and all man for God.
But feeling every ounce of His humanity, Jesus spends the night praying. Notice – not once, not twice, but three times Jesus prayed the same prayer – “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (39, 42, 44). Father, I know this is definitely not going to be easy. This is not going to be remotely pleasant. This is not going to be any sort of beautiful on this side of the cross. Things are not going to go the way anyone expects. People will abandon Me. People will deny they know Me. People will hide to keep from being associated with Me. And the physical pain is going to be excruciating! So, if there is any other way, please Father, now is the time to let Me know. Because in just a few hours, it is going to be too late.
“But….” Father, if this is the best way, I am in. I am all in. I know You know best, and I know You are working out of Your love for the world You have created. So, I choose to lay down My will to follow You. Completely. I will not follow My human mind, emotions, and will that want Me to end this now by walking away and staying safe. I know today will be the hardest day, and I know I will walk through it unable to defend Myself as I find Myself abandoned by almost everyone who claimed to love Me. So, please help Me. Help Me to keep going. Help Me to hold on to what You are doing. Help Me to remember the ultimate purpose. Give Me the strength I need to walk out each moment of this phase of Your plan.
If Jesus, divine and perfect in His own right yet with the help of His brother the Holy Spirit, wrestled this hard … knowing how things would turn out … how much more do we need God?
With every breath we breathe! Because unlike Jesus, we are far from divine. We are stuck in our humanity, which means we have a limited perspective and understanding of what God is trying to do and what is at stake for us to fully obey.
And what God wants us to come to in our faith is the same point of determination and endurance Jesus did – “not as I will, but as You will” (39).
Not what I think the outcome should be … but God, I defer to the outcome that will promote Your purposes.
Not how I see the situation in this moment … but God, I adjust my vision to focus on You and You alone, trusting that You see all and will guide me where I need to go.
Not how my emotions are leading me … but God, I choose to tune Your whisper up high and all other voices out, so I can hear the truth You need me to hear.
Not what I want but what You have planned for me, because it will be better than anything I would have expected anyway.
And often we do just as Jesus did and wrestle to get to this point of faith, where we know that no matter what, we are going to do our best to hold onto hope and trust God.
And this is where I have been since January 23rd, when my doctor called me to report an abnormality on a test. It could be nothing … but it could be something serious. And it amazed me that a community of medical professionals tried to guilt and shame and scare me into doing the “right” thing without hearing my concerns about the cost coming directly out of my pocket. I should just set up payment terms and not worry about paying the equivalent of two to three car payments to find out if I had a medical issue to navigate or not.
And that was when I walked into Gethsemane and started wondering. God, how is this going to turn out? God, what is Your purpose if I have to walk through the unimaginable? God, is this really necessary? God, I trust You but isn’t there another way? God, do You really think I am strong enough to walk through something that big? God, why would You do this to my family?
Let me point out that I wondered more than wrestled. No, I did not want to do any additional testing. No, I did not want to find out there was something potentially deadly in my body. No, I did not want to think about the conversations I would have to have with my family and the torment it would put them through.
But, even with this big possibility, I did not have to wrestle to the point of faith. Because I have seen God’s goodness over and over and over again in my life that I know it to be true in all circumstances. Because I am absolutely convinced that Romans 8:35-39 is true and nothing can separate me from God’s love and protection. Because I know that if God calls me to it, God will strengthen me to get me through it.
And maybe God was positioning me to meet someone who needed to hear that God is good, even in the middle of the treatment. Maybe God needed my family to see that I refuse to give up on God, even when things aren’t easy. Maybe God was intervening to help me before something worse could take over and prematurely take my life.
And I wondered what was going to happen and if my life was going to change. Holding tightly to my faith while the enemy subtly … and then not so subtly … came at me with doubt, fear, anxiety, and stress. While he tried to convince me that I could not be strong enough to go through anything bad and did not really deserve anything good.
But I chose to use my time in Gethsemane wisely. Every time the enemy came for me, I leaned completely into God. I did just as Jesus did – God, if there is any other way, let’s do it, but otherwise, “not as I will, but as You will.” I won’t promise to like it, and I won’t promise to always have a joyful attitude. But I will promise to trust You, with everything I am. I will promise to know that with You I can get through anything I have to to be healed. I will promise to share my story with and show my faith to whomever You put in my path.
And praise God, the testing came back with good news. There was nothing to worry about. Nothing that required additional testing. Nothing to bring radical life change. And Iam humbly thankful that my Gethsemane had a happy ending this time.
No, we don’t want Gethsemane. But we need Gethsemane. We need to know that God is OK with our questions and fears and doubts … He will never love us any less. And He encourages our questions, because they help to develop our faith … especially when we have to dig deep down and wrestle for it. We need to be reminded that God is in control and has already purposed everything ahead of us … and the choice to surrender to His plans is entirely and always ours. We need to be assured that even though grace doesn’t always take the easy path there is always something good waiting for us on the other side.
And though I never want to repeat this particular Gethsemane moment, I can’t deny its value. Because I was able to see that my heart is secure in faith and the enemy was unable to sway me away. I trust God completely, and I was able to speak this into any doubts and fears that came up.
What has your Gethsemane experience taught you?
Marie Fremin. 2/25/20, 2/27/20, 2/29/29.