I love living in the Deep South.
God brought me on wings of angels. That’s true. You can read about those miracles in my book.
But I’ve been away for months, trying to sell out-of-state property badly damaged by intruders: Copper pipes torn from walls, furnaces ripped apart, doors stolen, commodes cracked. I'm taking legal cases while I’m here to cover the expenses, but my hole keeps getting deeper—one highly-recommended workman after another creating more problems than they solve.
Every day I ask: “Why Lord?” It’s felt hopeless, except there’s always hope with Jesus. But it’s painful.
This column reflects my heart, but I let God lead me to Scripture. This week the choice seemed unrelated to my situation: Peter, James, and John—the trusted disciples.
Remember that it’s Andrew, Peter’s brother, who first talks with Jesus. A great story. (John 1:29-42)
Some wonder why Andrew gets demoted below Peter, James, and John. But maybe James and John are first, since they’re probably Jesus’ cousins, and Peter rises above them. Email me if you want more on this.
So Jesus takes only Peter, James, and John with Him on three occasions. The first two are the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter, and then when Moses and Elijah appear and God speaks. Both moments are BIG, and Jesus instructs these disciples to tell no one.
But the third event is greater.
After the Passover meal, Jesus goes to pray taking his disciples. He then leads Peter, James, and John further, and they’re probably excited. These moments are always BIG!
But Jesus is suddenly upset.
He says, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death…” Jesus goes a bit further and lies down to pray. The three must have been disappointed. No resurrection, no one appearing from heaven, no SHAZAAM! They fall asleep. Yet Jesus has said his soul is near death. (Mark 14:34)
An angel comes to help Him—His body in agony as sweat like great drops of blood falls to the ground. It’s a condition known as hematidrosis caused by extreme stress. (Luke 22:33-34)
Too many Christians read this passage quickly, summing it up as Jesus saying, “Not my will but thine.” They don’t realize the sheer torment of that night. Jesus is at the crux of his life—the moment He must decide whether to go forward or to turn back, and His strength threatens to fail Him.
Jesus wants to be spared, saying, “Father, all things are possible for you…” Maybe there’s another way. But Jesus won’t turn back without God, and God won’t force Him to go forward.
It’s His decision.
After an hour, Jesus goes to Peter, James, and John. We don’t know why. Maybe He needs to walk, but Jesus finds them asleep.
Perhaps another hour passes or even two as Jesus prays again. We know He finds the three sleeping again, “their eyes heavy.” It’s probably early morning.
A third time, Jesus prays—the cross must be decided tonight. Our Lord must choose.
Jesus submits to God's will. It’s then that Judas arrives with guards and Jesus surrenders.
By mid-afternoon He’s dead.
Few of us will know suffering like what Christ endured, but our pain may have one thing in common with His. Meaning.
Perhaps you recall how your mom and dad sacrificed for you and did so willingly. My parents did. Most do. To suffer for a reason dear to your heart is a choice you selflessly make.
I want out of this mess I'm in, pleading for guidance daily. But God showed me something else. The meaning in my suffering.
I represent a delinquent here, a boy facing lock-up until he’s 21. His whole youth. If you knew his record, you’d understand.
I point him to God every day, and God is changing his heart—he’s suddenly cooperative, saying, “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am,” dumbfounding the court. He’s trying, and I want to help him.
Jesus wrestled with the crucifixion in the Garden and accepted it for our sake. To free us from evil.
A reason makes all the difference—it renders pain bearable. Even if you don’t understand your suffering, trust that Jesus does. What you bear, bear for Him.
Copyright © 2019 R.A. Mathews. The Rev Mathews is a faith columnist, attorney, and the author of “Reaching to God.” She resides in Florida part of the year. Contact her at email@example.com