Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Embracing Our Personal Gethsemane

It was one of those sunny spring days with a cloudless blue sky and crisp, clean air. The azaleas were covered in a glorious riot of blooms. Dear friends were on their way to my house for dinner. God was on His throne, and all was well. 

I heard a car pull up and my heart brightened. Perfect timing. My preparations were complete and my friends had arrived. I hurried out the door to greet them. 

But it wasn't my friends. It was someone else, even more dear than the awaited friends. With terrible news that would change my life and that of my son forever. It would, ultimately, end my marriage. I listened, dumfounded, and knew that nothing would ever be the same again.

God was still on the throne, and all was still well, but for a brief time, I felt completely alone. 

Abandoned. Crushed. Devastated.

I was shocked, but I tried to put on my happy-girl face and pretend that I was still fine. Still alive and filled with joy. A few minutes later, my friends arrived. We ate our meal and laughed and talked. I smiled and faked it the best I could. 

After dinner, we went to my little country clinic. In the prayer room, my sweet friend said, "Tell me what's wrong." And I did.

Together, the three of us laid on the floor, face down, and wept. We begged God to intervene. Finally, hours later, I began to thank Him for what He would do through the painful situation he had allowed. Somewhere in the dark night of my soul, I found my place of Gethsemane. 

It was my "Thy will be done" moment, and the rest of my journey through the pain depended on that one pivotal time.

We had prayed until I could "do it". 

There were horrible times ahead. More pain than I could imagine. I asked God and everyone else around me "Why?" and "How will I make it?" and "When will God move?" In the midst of my grief, however, God surrounded me with His love and peace. The body of Christ surrounded me with support and loved me when I was pitiful and unlovely. Our Lord carried me through. 

I didn't know it at the time, but it was the same pivotal moment that Job experienced. Right at the beginning of his trial, when he received the news that his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, three sets of servants, and all ten of his children were gone, Job worshipped. He shaved his head and tore his robes and fell, face down, on the floor. He worshipped God there, and found his Gethsemane. (Job 1)

"The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord."
                      Job 1:21 nasb

That one "Thy will be done" moment made Job's survival through the rest of his trial, faith still intact, possible. 

It's the kind of Gethsemane we all must face eventually. The moment when life comes crashing down and we see no way to survive the trial God has allowed is the one moment of critical opportunity. It is the moment when we allow God to strip every pretense away and leave us bare before Him. 

It's the moment when we allow Him to touch the core of our hearts and purify us as with hyssop and fire. 

Our personal Gethsemane is the place where we abandon our will to His and arise a new creature. We are transformed by surrender and equipped to do battle, shaky and tearful though we may be.

Job had more than forty more chapters worth of story and suffering to go, but the battle was won at the very start, on his face, on the ground, in his surrender.

Our personal battle through the dark night of our soul can be won. It can be won, but not by arguments or begging or demands. It is won only by surrender to the One who is still on the throne of heaven. It is won when we allow God to strip away everything else to which we've clung, cleanse every sin, and cling to Him. 

It is won by the prayer of Gethsemane. Thy will be done.

We never want surrender. It seems like foolishness to embrace God's way of pain, but it's not. The foolishness is in clinging to the tatters of our own will. 

Peace can be found in the pain, in the cleansing, in the surrender. Peace can be found when we embrace Gethsemane and accept His difficult and terrifying will. 

Years later, I can look back and see that the prayers of my Gethsemane were answered in tremendous ways. God used my pain to transform me. He brought me through. 

Gethsemane is a precious place to our Lord, and time spent there is never wasted. Not mine. Not yours.

If you haven't faced your own dark night of the soul yet, you will. We all will. When that time comes, embrace your personal Gethsemane. Begin your journey as Job began, with worship and surrender.

"Not my will, but Thine be done."  It's the way of Gethsemane. It's the way of Christ. It's the way that changes everything.

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In case you missed one of this week's posts, here are the links: The Changing of Our Culture: Physician Assisted SuicideThe Opportunity in Trials The Monarch Migration Badge,  The Sermon Without Words,  A Matter of Perspective, and Living in Goshen: God's Best.

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