(Quick side note: My blog “location” will be changing at the end of April. Info regarding the change can be found following the prayer at the close of this post.)
When it comes to writing this blog, I often find myself under additional (self-inflicted) pressure to convey the importance of a Christian holiday, to make sure that I address it in a way that illuminates its relevance and value in the lives we live today. Easter is always the granddaddy of them all; it’s the time I feel the most weight of “getting it right” where it pertains to Christian blogging. Today, though, I don’t really feel that. Maybe that’s due, in part, to the fact I am not going to attempt to show you something “new” about the resurrection. As off as it might seem, I want us to spend today focused on the circumstances surrounding Jesus just prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. It’s an Easter message, I assure you, but not a very conventional one. I hope you’ll read on.
Recently, I decided to put my barely-mediocre crafting skills to work and create a wooden sign for my living room. This sign reads, “You were made to do hard things,” and OH. MY. WORD did the Lord make me live that little sermon 100% of the time I worked on that $%#@ sign!! It’s boring and too long to include here, but, y’all, not a single thing–I am not joking…NOTHING–went easily with that sign. It is finished, however. Does it look fabulous? No, it does not. Is it perfect? Not even in the slightest. Is it hanging on the wall and am I still proud of it, despite the challenge of getting it made? You bet, and honestly, even more so because of how hard it was to make.
I wanted this sign up in my living room, because as we’ve grown more in our individual walks with God, my husband and I have had so many, many discussions about how detrimental, how truly dangerous the worship of ease and convenience is to the Christian faith. Over the past few years, we’ve begun noticing more and more the lengths people will go to in an effort to avoid a challenge, to make sure they don’t have to put themselves out or inconvenience themselves in any way. And HEAVEN FORBID we actually are inconvenienced for a reason that doesn’t directly benefit us, am I right?! I mean, most of the time instead of “Yes, Lord, send me,” we tend more toward, “Yes, Jesus, I will love my neighbor, but I will only do so when I have the time and resources and will not be in need of my own attention. I’m sure someone else will take care of it, but thanks for thinking of me.”
As with any lesson, however, it’s Jesus to whom we can turn to find how we should handle any problem or concern, any upset or difficulty. I want us to focus today on Matthew 26, in those hours just prior to the crucifixion, and I’d like us to begin in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus went to unburden Himself to His Father. Let’s begin with verse 36.
36 Then Jesus went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with Him, and He began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
Friends, how many of us have wished with ALL our might that whatever awful thing directly in our path would just go away? That we’d be saved from ever having to face that circumstance…that death….that heartache…that incredibly difficult conversation…that new beginning. Jesus knows. He has felt that very same thing. In fact, He was so overwhelmed with sorrow, as this NIV translation puts it, so scared and burdened that He prayed for God to take it away, to change His plan. Look at verse 39. Notice Jesus’s posture before He ever speaks: “…He fell with His face to the ground…” When you are on your literal face before the Father, you are at the very, very rock bottom, y’all. You have no further left to fall, no reasoning left in your brain, no strength left in your soul. Jesus knows. He, too, just wanted God to take it away. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me.” You and I have asked this exact thing of God many times, we just worded it a little differently. It might’ve sounded more like, “I can’t do this, God. I don’t want to, and I’m not sure I can make it. I am OVER every bit of this, and I need You to do something about it. Help me. Heal my loved one. Fix my marriage. Break this addiction. Save my child. Find me a good spouse. Find me a job. Bless us with a baby. Bolster my finances. Make me feel loved.” And in Matthew 26:39, Jesus says to all of us who’ve ever been there, “Yep, me, too, friend.”
I learned recently a GIANT important detail that I’d never heard before about this scene in the Garden of Gethsemane (will I ever be able to type that out without having to do it one letter at a time??). Did you know, when Jesus was praying here, He was within one hour of full and total escape? No? Well, same. Seems like someone should’ve told us all this before now, huh? So here’s the deal: off to one side of where Jesus is prostrate at the feet of His Father, there was an area of great wilderness. That means, if Jesus hadn’t been Jesus, instead of His walking sacrificially into the death He had coming, Jesus could have absconded and been free within the hour. He could’ve hiked down that incline (especially since His disciples were sleeping instead of praying) and been swallowed up in the wilderness, unable to be found by Pilate and his cronies. Y’all, if ever the mind-blown emoji was needed, it’s here! Jesus could have walked away from EVERY BIT OF THE PAIN, but instead, He offers this prayer: “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Praise Jesus! Sometimes, when I realize what He did for me, I’m undone. I type this with tears of gratitude in my eyes, because what would have become of us all if Jesus had just been another Lindsey Thomas and tried His very best to escape every difficulty that came His way? Praise Jesus for His goodness, for His heart, for His love!!
And while Jesus is the greatest example of how we can and should do the hard things in our lives, the Bible is filled with others: Paul, Ester, Ruth, Peter, Daniel, David, the friends who lowered their paralyzed buddy down through the roof to Jesus, and several other unnamed women of questionable decision-making, just to name a very few. I guess, if I boiled it all down, the greatest lesson I want to take away from this Easter is this: Since Jesus didn’t avoid the hard, the inconvenient (understatement of a lifetime!), and the spiritually challenging, I shouldn’t either. Instead, I should do what He did.
1. I should acknowledge how I’m feeling about what I’m facing. Jesus didn’t mince words with His disciples; He told them he was overwhelmed, that He was sorrow-filled, and it was clear He was afraid of what was to come. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling those same things. Just be honest with yourself.
2. All of my feelings, good and bad, need to be taken to my Heavenly Father. I need to be honest with myself (see #1 above), and I need to be honest and direct with Him. There’s NO HARM in asking God to intervene and remove your problem. Remember, Jesus did that, too. But it’s crucial that we not act like infantile Christians if He refuses. Jesus got a big fat no, and not once, not even sort of, did He pitch a fit. We shouldn’t either.
3. And lastly, in keeping with the right attitude toward God, we should approach the challenges before us being more interested in God’s will being carried out than our own ease being placated. Our goal should never be convenience. Our goal should never be just to do whatever is easier. Friends, our goal is a relationship–a good, strong relationship–with God the Father through Jesus, and the only way to get to that is for us to experience exactly what He’s planned for us on this side of Heaven. God doesn’t sugarcoat it; He makes it clear that we’re destined to have times of troubles and hurts and aches and pains, but He promises never to leave us. Jesus wasn’t excused from His painful burdens, and neither are we. Thankfully, more good than can be verbalized came from His suffering, and that promise holds true for us as well.
Have you ever heard the age-old motto, “Only do the easy stuff. Forget having anything of value”? What about, “Resist anything hard and live as mediocrely as possible”? Of course you haven’t, because they’re not real mottos (today’s realization: I am awful at making up fake mottos). Wisdom is no fool, and she is very aware that hard work, inconvenience, and trials are what grow us. If we spend our whole lives, especially our whole spiritual lives, trying to outrun the hard stuff by running off into the wilderness where we can’t be found, we won’t be the only ones who suffer. No unbeliever ever met Jesus after being inspired by watching others skate through life doing only what served them and was easy. This Easter, friends, while you meditate on the incredible resurrection of Jesus, take a few extra moments to remember the death that had to come first. Remind yourself that without His pain and His suffering, Jesus’s resurrection wouldn’t have been possible. God is offering you a really wonderful experience by His side, but it won’t be easy, it won’t be comfortable, and it sure won’t be convenient. He’s going to expect you to do hard things. He’s going to expect you to do things that cramp your style and take up time that you don’t even think you have. He’s going to ask you to love people you don’t even want to look at. But He’s a God who’s chosen to leave the decision-making up to us. He’s not going to force us to say, “Not my will, but Yours, God.” I am curious, though. The next time you’re faced with choosing ease and convenience over the harder but more life-affirming way, where will your worship lie?
Whatever it is in your path that’s not the easiest route, whatever it is that’s going to take more of you than you are sure you can give, He’ll be right there every single step of the way. Friend, God made you to do hard things. He made you to worship Him, to honor His will. He did not make you to worship a life of ease. If it’s God’s will you choose, there will be blessing and breakthrough in your burden. Your Father guarantees it.
Dear Lord, thank You so very much that You have promised to be right beside me no matter what trials I face. I have some big things going on, God. I have some scary things before me, and to be totally honest, I would much, much rather they go away than for me to have to face them. I relate so much, Lord, to Jesus in the garden because I ask You respectfully to please remove this burden from me. However, although it’s scary to say this and I’m struggling to feel it fully in my heart, I want Your will in my life more than I want my own. You know more than I do, Lord. Your ways and thoughts are higher than mine, and I trust that You’ll never lead me where You don’t follow. Be with me, Lord. Help me to sense You at every turn. Make Your comforting presence known as I choose the route You’ve determined for me, not just the route that seems easiest and most convenient. I want to worship You, Lord, not my own convenience. Help me to grow in this area. Thank You for hearing this prayer, prayed in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.
BLOG POST CHANGES:
Hi, blog readers/followers. I will post specifically about this really soon, but I wanted to let you know that as of June 1, my blog will be moving from WordPress to MailChimp and straight to your inbox! If you are already receiving my blogs via your email inbox, you will be automatically switched to my MailChimp serve list (there will be an unsubscribe option). If you are reading this and you’re not currently getting my posts via email, feel free to choose that option between now and April 30th. More info to come….
Thanks so much!!