The Cup

John 18:11 “… Am I not going to drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Here is Jesus; standing in the garden facing off with one of his disciples and a troop of soldiers. “Are you Jesus?” At the answer “I AM…” they all find themselves stumbling backwards. Still they are going to take him. This is what they came for. But this was also what He came for. The zealot grabs a sword. Not here! Not now! Not on his watch! He’ll fight for Him. He’ll fight for the promise. Jesus stops him. It is not the time for fighting. The cup is to His lips and it is time to drink.

As I watched this scene play out I was again struck by Jesus’ confidence in His calling. His time on earth was so slight. How little teaching he actually did. How few places He actually traveled. His words fill mere pages. There was so much Jesus could have done but He only did what the Father had sent Him to do. He knew His purpose and when the time came He had peace.

And so I pray- Father, what is the work you’ve created me to do?

I know sometimes that answer doesn’t always come at our bidding. And since we cannot fabricate God’s call on our lives we just wait patiently. He will send His word in season. For now we remain faithful in the little things. We stay engaged as mothers, fathers and spouses. We look to serve those around us and honor our leaders. These are things that God places a high value on. Above all we draw near to God then when the calling comes we will find ourselves ready.

I was also struck by Christ’s simple submission to the Father’s will. I go kicking and screaming when He tells me to talk to my neighbor. After all I’ve got laundry to do!  In contrast Jesus walks silently into the hands of those who are going to beat and mock Him. Those who should have been worshiping Him! He didn’t argue, even when the Father’s perfect will included pain.

And so I pray- Father help me not begrudge the cup you’ve given me.

I know some of you are drinking a much more bitter cup than I am right now. You have children with cancer. You are battling chronic pain or living in an abusive marriage. I do not pretend to grasp what you are enduring and I pray for you even now. For others of you life just feels hard and you feel unseen. When we pray and God does not see fit to deliver us from our circumstances we are left with this: to drink from the cup He’s given us. Even if it means pain.

And just when one sentence from the master’s mouth takes me farther than I want to go, I catch the secret that stayed Christ in the midst of it all. That one word in all those words… Father.

Too, often when we talk about Christian suffering we intrinsically distance ourselves from God. He becomes far off and aloof. But Jesus doesn’t do that. Even in this moment He called God father. He knew this wasn’t a casual deliberation from the God-in-the-sky. No, Jesus trusted that His wise and loving Father would only permit what was absolutely necessary to accomplish His perfect work in the earth.

And so I pray- Father let me be convinced our your goodness and love for me in all things.

If your cup tastes bitter, take heart. Your Father loves you and is with you in this pain. He cares for you dearly and Christ, having suffered too, is now in the throne room, as your advocate, interceding for you in this moment. He is intimately acquainted with the pain you are feeling and the faith it takes to stand firm in this trial. He knows exactly how hard it is and exactly how foreboding and endless the cloud line appears.

His sweet Holy Spirit will encourage, comfort and sustain you in this. You do not have to be strong enough. Fall on your knees and let Him carry you. And your pain is not for want. It has purpose. Your pain has purpose! God will not leave you in this place. Through understanding or change He will deliver you from the hold of this struggle. So be of great courage and do not lose heart. Your Father is good and, in time, He will make all things new.

Stand Firm

Two(ish) months ago I was certain in what direction I was headed. Silence before the LORD had yielded it’s dividends and in hearing His tender, omnipotent voice the seas of my restless heart fell still and a course was set. I knew trials were imminent, as well as discomfort, but I was convinced of purpose in the pain and sure the glory of the destination would pale the struggle to get there. But the way of God often leads through desert places and the horizon was long ago swallowed up in great sandy dunes. The journey has been labored and the night watch filled with more whispering serpents than I thought. Vigilance, patience and faith have run low.

When things get hard it’s easy to question. Sometimes we question God. But I’m finding the more subtle pitfall of questioning my ability to hear God. Questioning God doesn’t hold much merit for me because I’ve come to know He is infallible and good beyond all understanding of the word. However, questioning myself… well, that has more validity to it. Which makes it so dangerous. Now I’m half way through that desert (the one without mile markers to tell me I’m on track) and in self examination I start to slow my pace. I glance from right to left, then, peer back over my shoulder. Finally I stop. My God! I am exhausted, frustrated and lonely. Why is this so hard? Maybe I did something wrong? Am I going the right way? What am I doing here again? Maybe this isn’t what I thought? 

Habakkuk 2:3 For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it testifies about the end and will not lie. Though it delays, wait for it, since it will certainly come and not be late.

I’m often blown away but the people in the Bible. The greatest of them didn’t just believe in God, they believed God. More specifically they believed that God talked to them. But so often the vision “delays”. He shows up and tells Noah to build a boat and the man is crazy enough to think that he heard the voice of God and does it. One hundred and twenty years! What!? He was staying that course for one hundred and twenty years before a drop of rain fell. At any point he could have just doubted himself and stopped. David, Moses, Paul- they all actually believed that they personally had heard God’s voice and so responded. It’s amazing. God is so vast and immeasurable and yet so blatantly personal in how He deals with humankind.

Maybe God has spoken to you; perhaps there is a vision in your sight. Maybe it’s something “small”, like a change you need to make in your daily routine. Maybe its “big” like your life’s work. My guess is no matter what He said, if you actually have made any attempt to follow through things have gotten harder. I hit the headwaters of my hard last night. There, in the middle of my desert I started to make camp. One by one, I invited to serpents of discouragement, weariness and isolation to take their seats and started to hear them out. And then something shook me enough to remind me…

No! I heard the LORD speak and I knew this was going to be hard and I’m not going to start questioning myself now just because I’m not sure when/how this is all going to shake down. I kicked the sand into the fire, collapsed my tent, spit at those forked-tongue snakes, turned back around and kept on walking. Call me closed-minded, call me short-sighted but sometimes you just got to stick with your gut and keep on going- even when it looks like there are reasons not to.

Deception is real. We can get it wrong sometimes and go chasing rabbits down black holes that lead to no where. Sometimes circumstances are there to tell us “wake-up! It’s time to do something different!!” We need to stay in the word, keep good fellowship and be sober to avoid those traps. But sometimes, things are hard because we’re headed straight in the direction God has planned for us and we need to gird ourselves up for the fight. This life with Christ takes faith. It takes not only believing that God can but that God is. God is using me. God is speaking to me. God is calling me. Doctrine about God (though very important) doesn’t really require active faith but when God gets personal- well, that’s where the rubber meets the road.

And if it’s gotten personal for you then be encouraged. Don’t give up. Call to mind the things the LORD has done; both in scripture and in your own life. Write down the things you feel He has laid on your heart. Put them in a separate journal so you can easily go back and review and confirm them. Take heart that He has been speaking to and using very flawed people since the dawn of humanity. You are in good company so let your faith be renewed. Be humble before Him, be patient in suffering, be bold in faith, and be gentle in speech. God wills to do greater things than most of us are really willing to consider. If it’s starting with a small thing right now then let Him do it. It will create a pattern in your life that will set you on course. But today, take heart, and keep walking. When you arrive it will be suddenly and you will find yourself all the more ready for that promised place. Remember what you are fighting for and keep it in your mind. God is always with you so be comforted and full of joy.

Lastly, I submit to you these words that came to me last night as I purposed to forge on in His grace:

Ephesians 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm…”