“Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, ‘My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?’” -Matt. 26:39 (The Message)
Fresh from celebrating Easter, I continue to ponder what it meant for Jesus to surrender to the Father and die for me. As I look at Passion Week I meditate on the events of the Last Supper, Good Friday and then ultimately the Resurrection on Sunday. At times, however, I overlook Thursday evening– a glimpse into the anguish Jesus faced in the Garden of Gethsemane that long night. Jesus wrestled alone with what He was going to endure to save the world. He knew the cost and made an appeal to His Father. I hear him saying: “Father, I’ll do whatever you ask but is there another way? But regardless of your answer, I trust you completely. You are perfect and you know what is best.” Matthew’s account tells us He made this appeal three times.
While we will never have to face what Jesus had to, we are given opportunities to share in the sufferings of Christ when we go through painful trials (Phil. 3:10). In these moments we, like Christ, have a choice: to surrender to the divine plan of God or struggle to keep our heads above water in our own strength. The glory of Christ was His determination to submit to the Father’s will without having all the answers. That’s true surrender–not knowing how everything is going to turn out and how you are going to get through, but trusting fully in God’s perfect plan.
The greatest moments of surrender in my Christian life have been those seasons when I haven’t known when the Lord would answer a prayer or how He would accomplish the seemingly impossible. These were long weeks which stretched into months and evolved into years. It has been said that the hardest ingredient in suffering is often time.
At one especially painful time in my journey with infertility a mental picture was brought to my mind. I saw myself hiking alone in a dark, barren valley. As I trudged along I kept looking all around me desperately searching for a trail to lead me out to green pastures. I was so weary and lonely.
Over time, the Lord graciously began to change my perspective. He showed me that the valley had a purpose. Part of His good plan for me at that time was keeping me in a hard place. He hadn’t forgotten about me. While it felt miserable, it was there where He showed me more of Himself. I was stumbling and He became my strength. I learned to stop searching for a way out and surrender. So, I stopped on the trail and adjusted my gear. I tightened my hiking boots, strapped my backpack on better and refocused. I trusted God and believed in His timing to find the right trail, leading me out. But in the meantime, I needed to hike the trail in front of me and focus ahead on the Lord like Peter did on the water with Jesus (Matt. 14:22-23).
As I surrendered, something wonderful happened. My joy returned. My eyes were opened and I learned to wait with expectation and focus. I still wanted out but I had a different perspective.
What would’ve happened if Jesus had said no? What if He said, “I can’t do it. I won’t do it.” I can hardly think about that. Jesus changed the world forever when He surrendered. I pray we can have the same courage to say, “But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”