September 02, 2020
God places us purposefully in different environments for our good and His glory. Often, we don't see them as such, and we resist and run from these places. But, if we are to experience all God has, we should embrace each place, even if it’s hard.
A PLACE OF DISTRESS
Then Jesus came with them to a PLACE called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me." And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me, yet not as I will, but as You will." (Matthew 26:36-39)
Jesus knew what lay ahead. The deepest suffering any human would ever experience was His to drink. The man Jesus looked at this cup with dread. He "fell on His face" in prayer. Another gospel writer says that before this time of wrestling was over His sweat became like great drops of blood.
God did not deliver Him from this distress. He could have. The Father could have swept in and delivered His Son from this painful night of prayer. But for reasons that are obvious to us now, it was a garden He had to visit. It was here that the battle of the cross was won.
There are times when God knows we must go through such wrestling as we face the possibilities of following Jesus. These times are not random, but deliberate, just as it was with Jesus.
A PLACE OF DEEP SURRENDER
It is easy to speak of surrender sitting in a nice chair and an air-conditioned auditorium. These are not insignificant times and often are incredibly legitimate. But look at Jesus. He knew—with full understanding—what was before Him. He faced the suffering with reality. He also knew that this path is what would bring glory to the Father and salvation to those He had come to save. And in the greatest act of surrender ever experienced by mortal man Jesus cried out, "not my will but Thine be done."
Deep distress is often the pathway to deep surrender. God hears our distress and will meet us and help us where we are, but He does not always deliver us from the distress nor the suffering. This life is brief, and He has purposes for us beyond our knowing. But they are always good. They are always eternal in their impact. They are that which opens the door to bring salvation and life to others. Our suffering is never without purpose.
So what should we do? We should "fall on (our face) and pray" as He did. We should face the reality square, understanding the possibilities. We should take others with us to pray (even if they may fall asleep, not knowing the depth of what we are experiencing). We can pray like Christ did to be spared from the cross (a very legitimate request). But if we are to be used as our Firstborn Brother was used to glorify God, we must come to the blessed place of full surrender to God's will.
But we must also know that, at the end of suffering, there is joy! Jesus "who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of God." (Hebrews 12:2). The will of God is always best for all concerned even though the path is sometimes painful.
And, we must realize that what lies ahead, rightly responded to, can be a means of life to us and countless others in ways we cannot imagine.
Father, help me to understand. Help me to always embrace Your will, knowing that Your grace is sufficient, and Your purposes are Divine. Help me understand the brevity of life and the rewards for all eternity of a faithful life. And help me to pray with faith, “Not my will, but Thine be done!”
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