Some of you are going through marital distress, financial ruin, illness or are picking up the pieces of a loved one's poor choices. I know what it's like to have courage slip from your grasp, to free-fall into fear and feel the swirling flood waters of anxiety rise within. I know what it's like to force yourself to do what you do not want to do. I know what it's like to feel a lump in the throat and for eyes to swell with tears when asked, "How are you doing?"
I "know" the HARD DAYS.
But I know something else. I know this world is not my home. I know one day my tears will dry forever. I know one day my faithfulness will be rewarded. And I know that one day my heart will swell with joy and never again with pain.
But until that day, how do we face adversity, sorrow and disappointment?
How do we go on when we don't even want to get up?
Jesus faced this same kind of sorrow and pain.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed for submission of His will to that of God’s.
In agony, He prayed more earnestly until His sweat became like drops of blood.
Jesus knew the HARD DAYS, too.
But He knew something else, as well.
Jesus knew His purpose.
To seek us. To save us. To give us Eternal Life.
(John 10:10, John 17:1-5, Luke 19:10)
And yet He also knew there would be great pain—physical, emotional and spiritual—as He pursued His purpose.
(Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:41, John 11:35, Luke 22:41-44, Luke 22:63-65, John 19:1-30)
So just how did Jesus hold fast to His purpose even as He faced down His own pain?
Jesus passionately embraced His purpose in the midst of pain by fixing His eyes on what He knew lay just across the far edge of His endurance.
“…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
But what about you?
And what about me?
After all, Jesus was fully man while also fully God. Yet even as I type these words, I have an inner witness that speaks, “And you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit.”
So what about me?
When my twelve year old son, Andrew, was undergoing his third of four brain surgeries, I whispered in the ear of a friend, “If things don’t turn out like we are hoping and praying I want to go, too.”
Words I was afraid to voice aloud for fear of frightening my family.
Words I was to write in a journal a few months later, “Maybe I will die soon. Then I will see Andrew.”
Silent words I heard spoken to my heart as I ran 3 miles one night by the occasional lights of passing cars. “This is not your last mile,” when I considered that veering into the center of the road might allow me a “near death” experience and give me a glimpse of Andrew in Heaven.
No longer afraid to die, I needed courage to continue to live.
So what about you?
Are you in need of courage to really live? Do you need a renewal of hope as each new morning reminds you of a hopeless situation?
I do not write this as a narrator, a casual observer of someone else’s story. Just this week I have received “punch in the gut” news. Once again, our family will have to decide to live like we believe what we say we do.
So back to the question: How do we face adversity, sorrow and disappointment? How do we go on when we don't even want to get up?
We fix our eyes on Jesus. We follow His lead.
He endured the agony of the cross by focusing on the joy ahead of Him.
His joy was found in finishing the task for which He had been sent. He made the way for us to be reconciled to the Father. And in so doing He glorified God.
His joy is in us and our joy is in Him.
Sounds great, right? You already knew that, didn’t you?
So how does that instill courage and hope for each new day?
Because of His courage and endurance I take courage and I endure. Because of His hope in a soon to be realized joy, I hold onto hope.
Jesus knew His purpose and He fulfilled it. Because of this, my life has purpose and I can fulfill the call of God on my life and endure whatever comes my way.
Hebrews 12 begins this way: Verse 1 - “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so a great a cloud of witnesses, let us aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”
To endure is to hold one’s ground in conflict, bear up against adversity, hold out under stress, stand firm, persevere under pressure, and to wait calmly and courageously.
I can get weighed down with grief and the feelings of unfairness in losing a child to cancer. Often I have to lay that weight aside so that I can keep running. If I am to run with endurance, I must lay aside those weights that burden me. I must also guard myself from the sin that would trip me up.
You see, my goal is to not only "hold my ground," but to gain ground! I want to encourage others in their race, as well. I want to run further and faster and without fear.
I want to finish well.
(to be continued...)