Henry David Thoreau dared me to change up my life and “live deliberately” in 2014, so that’s what I’ve been attempting to do for all of 4 days now. I was eager to take up his challenge, and many of you have jumped on board for the journey. If you need to catch up, just click the links for “Deliberately on Purpose” and “Present-ing Ourselves in the New Year.” It’s going to be an amazing year of adventure; I just know it!
So far, we’ve realized that living deliberately has to be connected to purpose. Otherwise, we’re just generating a list of activities and field trips for ourselves. As believers in Jesus, meaningful purpose comes from partnering with Jesus to fulfill God’s purpose in us and through us. We also realized, however, that positioning ourselves to fulfill God’s purpose may expose us to extreme difficulty that will tempt us to excuse ourselves from the present until the pain passes by.
Checking out of the present keeps us from growing, and it also keeps us from having a strategic impact on the people and events around us; it’s a ditch. The disciples checked out of the present when their pain became too intense, and they were completely useless to Jesus when he most needed them.
When was that?
In Gethsemane. Agonizing Gethsemane, where Jesus went to pray on the night of his arrest. (see Luke 22:39-46)
Jesus’s spirit had been troubled all evening because his torture and crucifixion were just hours away. Clearly understanding the enormity of what was at stake, Jesus asked his Father to alter the plan. “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me, yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Well, God wasn’t willing. Now, there’s an intense revelation.
In his humanity, Jesus was deeply troubled and needed courage, but he also knew exactly what to do with his intense emotions. He needed to care-take them so he could live deliberately and remain present in the present. To do that, Jesus retreated. He went to a place of peace, to Gethsemane, into his Father’s presence to seek the strength he would need for the extreme trial ahead.
Jesus brought along his disciples for support. It was one of the rare times Jesus ever asked his disciples for anything, but he asked them to watch and pray with him through the night. His closest friends were a wash. Luke 22:45 says they slept through it all because their sorrow was too much to bear. That’s unfortunate because Jesus was providing them an example of how they should handle grief.
As Jesus began to express his emotions to his Father in prayer, he grew deeply troubled. Scripture says, “His sweat became like drops of blood falling down on the ground.” That’s extreme. During the entire ordeal, Jesus didn’t deny his emotions or suppressed them. He never checked out of the present. Instead, he provided an accurate model for us to follow when we are overcome by our own emotions; he prayed. Yes, Jesus was thinking about his “tomorrow,” but he avoided speculation about it. Instead, he moved to disclosure. Jesus remained present in the present by disclosing his heart to his Father.
So, the second key to living deliberately is:
KEY #2 DISCLOSE OUR HEARTS TO THE FATHER IN PRAYER
God can handle our emotions; truly, he can. God is more than able and more than willing to hear our heart-cry. He can even handle your most extreme emotions. David knew that when he cried out to God in Psalm 42:9-11: “I will say to God my rock, ‘Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?’ As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, while they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?”
St. John of the Cross, a Spanish monk writing in the 1500’s, wrote a poem entitled, “Dark Night of the Soul” which has become a Christian classic. In the poem, St. John vividly describes the spiritual reunion he experiences with God after suffering through a soul-searing ordeal of his own. Many, many spiritual travelers since then have described their own “dark nights of the soul” when the bottom dropped out of their circumstances and they were faced with a severe crisis of faith in God.
Years ago Bob took a job on a congressman’s staff in Washington, D.C.; it was the opportunity of a lifetime for him…
…and the spiritual crisis of a lifetime for me. After uprooting and traveling 3,000 miles across the country to relocate to D.C., we realized that staying would not be possible. It was too expensive, too stressful, and too incompatible for our little family to remain in Washington, so Bob had to resign.
Panic set in the night we realized we had to leave. Seriously disillusioned with God, I bolted from the dinner table so the boys wouldn’t see my impending meltdown. I stumbled on the unfamiliar stairway looking for a bedroom, any bedroom, where I could be alone. I flung myself onto a bed, buried my head in a pillow, and sobbed until sweat dripped down my face and neck and the muscles in my sides ached.
Gethsemane’s gate. Wave after wave of inconsolable emotion crashed over me as I agonized over the realization that God had abandoned me in the midst of my obedience.
Only, it wasn’t true. It felt true, but it wasn’t. Emotionally I “felt” forsaken by God, but in reality, God did not, has not, and will not ever abandon me.
Staying present in the present that night was the most painful experience I’ve ever shared with the Lord, but mysteriously it has provided incredible strength during every hard time I’ve faced since.
If you ever have encountered a faith crisis in your life, or are in one at the moment, know that God can handle it. Don’t check out of the present and wait for the pain to pass by; it won’t. Instead, do what Jesus did; take your cares, concerns, and worries to the Father in prayer. Jesus gave his disciples the antidote for grief and worry: “Get up and pray…”
Disclosing our hearts to the Father invites him to enter our pain with all the resources of heaven…
Literally, all the resources of heaven. Why would anyone resist that?
So, change it up this year.
Instead of checking out of the present by reverting to the past, zooming ahead to a fantasized future, detouring off to a cyber-ditch, or sleeping through the pain, take your concerns to the Lord in prayer.
He can handle them.
He is able.
He is willing.
Change it up!
© Copyright, 2014 by Donna Tallman.