I’m just gonna say it. This post will be deep. And serious. If that’s not your style, you may now leave in peace. I’ll keep an eye on the word count, but I make no promises. If you stay, don’t say I didn’t warn you. We all clear? Very well.
Have you ever been in the middle of a tough situation? The kind that drags on for awhile, and you have no idea what the outcome is going to be? Maybe someone you love is sick – and they may or may not be healed, or even worse they may live a really long time in poor health. Maybe after a series of heartbreaks you’ve just met the last normal bachelor on the planet, but the road from “He might actually be normal” to “This is love and we are getting married” will take some vulnerability and while you really want to be married, you’re not sure you can stomach another broken heart. Or you’ve just applied for your dream job and if you don’t get it you’ll have to take a job in Dallas. (Wink. Love you, Dallas friends.)
Try to think of a time that you have lived in that unknown space and how insanely difficult it is. You know what you want. You know God cares about your heart. You don’t know if God is going to give you what you want (you’re not sure if trusting him is worth the pain if he says no). You have three choices: you can live in panic-mode where you are wantonly treacherous, you can decide the hope is not worth it and harden your heart so you don’t get hurt, or you can trust God. (Thank you, Psalm 25:3 for the term “wantonly treacherous.”)
For those of us who have been around awhile (I’m 31. Just call me Methuselah.), we’ve also seen enough of these experiences end poorly (i.e. untimely death, messy divorce, guy married your best friend, best friend got your promotion, dog ate your lunch) that if we’re honest, we are really not sure trusting God with our heart is worth it. The question I want to answer today is: How do we live well in that time between when we “present our requests to God” and when we get the final answer?
Case Study: Jesus. Think about Jesus’s prayer in the garden, minutes before he was unjustly arrested and forced on the road to the cross. He prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” This prayer is the pinnacle of Christian maturity. It’s the willingness to believe that God is able and willing to hear our hearts, but also the surrender to a Father who ultimately knows best and is able to work all things out for the good of those who love him. Oh, and P.S. Jesus already KNEW he had to die on the cross for the sins of the world (see John 12:27-28), but he STILL asked God to let the cup pass if it was possible. How’s that for not being afraid to ask for what you want?
My question for you is this. What happened in Jesus’s heart and mind between when he prayed that prayer in the garden and when he eventually cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This was Jesus’s unknown space. And if God the Father didn’t let the cup pass, then the final result was going to be a gazillion times worse for Jesus than moving to Dallas. What was happening in his heart on the road to the cross?
Let’s start with what we know. We know he did not become wantonly treacherous. He did not put up a fight and start cutting off peoples’ ears. If God was going to save him from that hour, it wasn’t going to be because Jesus picked up his sword and fought. He didn’t even use his mouth to defend himself or to ask for a legion of angels. Not once. So that option is out.
So we have two options left. Either Jesus said,”Oh well, guess I better pull up these boot straps and put on my big boy pants cause I’m on my own here.” OR he maintained a spirit of, “If it’s possible, please spare me… but not my will but yours be done” all.the.way.to.the.cross. (Obviously these options are simplified for the purposes of my already too long word count.)
Think about all the twists in the plot. 1- He’s betrayed by a friend and unjustly arrested in the middle of the night. 2- He is brought before the High Priest. 3- His best friend denies him in his presence (see Luke 22:61). 4- He gets sent to Pilate to be put on trial. 5- He gets sent to to Herod to be put on trial. 6- He walks up a mountain to the place where they would nail him to the cross. 7- He gets nailed to a cross between two criminals, one of which was also mocking him. 8- He is there awhile, says a lot of things, and then dies.
At each and every twist Jesus has a chance to either assume this gig was hopeless and give up trusting OR to keep hoping against hope that God could still spare him, while ultimately staying surrendered to God’s will.
I’ll let you decide which option was more risky, more painful, and ultimately more embarrassing if God didn’t come through for him. When Jesus cries out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” we get the answer about what has been happening in his heart this WHOLE.ENTIRE.TIME. He never gave up hope that God would and could make it turn out right for him.
I imagine his thoughts were something to the effect of what we see in the Psalms. Go read Psalm 22 and see the hope with which Jesus died. (Look it up, I’m watching my word count.) Jesus trusted his Father all the way to his death. And what did he get? Shame, Mocking, Pain, Heartbreak, Death. “It is finished” has never seemed so final.
Isn’t this what we are afraid of when we choose to live like Jesus did? When we trust God with our hopes and dreams (regardless of how “spiritual” they are), aren’t we most afraid that it’s not going to end well for us? Isn’t it safer and easier to just kill the hope and give it up?
I remember when I was first attracted to Matt. I was resolved to let HIM pursue me (because that’s what good Christian 18 year olds do), and I saw him having a conversation with another girl that I misinterpreted as flirting, and I immediately called my best friend and said, “He likes another girl! It’s over! I’m just going to give it up.” I’m sure this changed approximately 30 seconds later when he IM-messaged me or something really 2002 like that (gibbizzle11 + leahbug774 = luv4eva). This is a minor example, but I can think of a handful of times in my life where I was heartbroken over real stuff, and I gave up on trusting God too early, before all was said and done. A hard heart was so much easier.
But that wasn’t the end of the story for Jesus, or for us. There was more waiting. Why three days? I don’t know. I suppose it could have been one day or 45 minutes. But it was three, long, scary, agonizing days. And then… when the finality of death should have killed all hope: resurrection! life! justification! inheritance that does not fade away!
If you want to know why the resurrection matters, it is absolutely because it means you can trust that when you die, death does not win. That’s the BIG reason. But it is also significant for your daily life and your unknowns, no matter how small. Here’s my question. If we can trust that ultimately, when we breathe our last breath on the final day, that God has saved us and will not forsake us… if we can trust God with THAT, then can’t we trust him with our smaller, much less significant hopes and dreams? The resurrection gives you permission to hope against hope all the way to the point when the matter is final, and still not be ashamed. If he gives your the desire of your heart, glory to God! If your heart breaks, he can mend it. That is what he does. He binds up the brokenhearted!
When we live like Jesus did, we learn what he knew – that living without hope is worse than living with a broken heart in Dallas. (I couldn’t help myself.)
Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5.
Happy New Year!