“God does not give us patience as we might go and buy a can of beans at the grocery store. He gives us patience by letting us suffer tribulations,” – A.W. Tozer
If I had to describe 2010 in one word, it’d be “chaotic.” In the early part of the year, I struggled to figure out if law school was the route God wanted me to take; during the spring a friend from high school took his own life, which brought about plenty of terrible memories in my own experience; in the summer I struggled emotionally to learn what it means to be a son of God and to trust in Him as a Father; and in this past fall, I wrestled with both work and school, trying to find a balance between the two. I also moved three different times – all during the summer, too. Throughout it all, though, I also struggled against lust and my inclination to search the web for porn. After such a chaotic and frustrating year, I’ve found myself wanting out.
I’ve prayed plenty of times for God to just remove certain temptations or problems from my life. I certainly would have liked someone to call dad in this world – someone who would have led me through the basics of life like how to shave, how to change a tire, how to ask a girl out – you know, the basics. And I certainly would have liked it if tuition didn’t exist so that I wouldn’t have to work to pay rent, but obviously, things didn’t turn out the way I would have liked. This is a common theme within true struggles in the faith, true trials in one’s walk with God. And as I read through Mark 14 tonight, I even saw that Jesus went through a similar time in His life.
“And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will,’” – 14:36.
This has been a highly debated section of Scripture because it depicts Jesus “alone” in the garden, praying. But if He was truly alone, how could Mark know what He said? Such a debate, though, is not what I want to discuss here. What I do want to highlight is how Jesus, the very Son of God, felt a very human emotion: fear. He knew what time was arriving in His ministry – the time for His sacrifice – and He was terrified. He wanted out. And yet unlike me in the peaks of my struggles, He does something extraordinary; “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” He remains steadfast in surrendering His will to the Father.
What’s really interesting to me is what happens next.
“And he came and found them [the disciples] sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words.” – 14:37-39
At the peak of His anxiety (Luke’s account has Him sweating blood), He prays for its removal, surrenders His will, and then teaches His disciples the very teaching He was acting out; that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Jesus in His flesh, suffered a terrible anxiety few people ever experience, and then He went and was crucified. So what does He exactly teach in this garden of Gethsemane? He teaches us attitude.
Instead of crying and complaining throughout the night, He ends His prayers by saying one thing; “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” This attitude is what gets us through our own trials, tribulations and struggles; not what we want, but what God wants. Throughout Scripture, it seems to be God’s great desire to have Godly characters developed within us rather than religious piety. Anybody can go to church, pray the right prayer, sing the right song, and give every indication that there is something genuine within. But few people press on with God when a loved one passes or a marriage begins to fall apart or a job is lost. Few people – myself included – are willing to continue when our worlds seem to fall down upon us. But that’s just it; Jesus’ world fell apart and yet He rose from the grave. He died on a cross and was separated from God, but yet His tomb is empty.
And it is because of His example and what He endured that you and I have the ability to continue on. It is because of Jesus that we are able to rise again after we’ve fallen so short of the glory of God. I wasn’t too impressed by the movie Robin Hood with Russell Crowe, but one quote has definitely helped me in my walk with God; “Rise and rise again until lambs become lions.” Get up. Get up again, until simple sheep become conquering lions.
Ultimately, it will not be easy. Like Tozer said, it’s not meant to be easy. If it was easy, there’d be no character within us; no strength of heart built up within us. To live that life where every thing is just done for you and no true struggle is had, we’d eventually become mindless, heartless, soulless puppets. God did not create us to be puppets; He created us to bear His image.
Christ’s death and resurrection snapped the chains of sin, which bound us to our mistakes and shortcomings. Such freedom, as one might guess, is not to choose the same sin again, but to choose not to sin; to choose to follow and reflect God. And reflecting God is as Jesus showed us; surrendering to His will though our world is going through hell.
“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” – Mark 14:38