Two weeks ago, I woke up in paradise and heard about hell on earth. My wife and I were honeymooning in Hawaii when Micah Johnson gunned down five Dallas Police officers and injured seven more. We found out about the shooting the next morning through some Porch volunteers, and I was shocked and devastated to find out that Sergeant Michael Smith was one of the officers killed. Mike was a friend of mine, and we had a great conversation about marriage the Tuesday before my wedding. I had no idea that would be my last conversation with him on this earth.
It felt surreal to be surrounded by amazing natural beauty while reading stories and watching videos about the ugliness of one man’s anger poured out on those sworn to protect our city. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to feel or what to think. So my wife and I did the only thing we could – we prayed and cried out to Jesus.
Last Tuesday at the Porch, we talked about the Bible’s antidote to losing heart in the middle of chaos. The world feels crazy right now, caught in a spiral of sin and death that began with the Fall in Genesis 3. It seems like some kind of trouble is always around the corner, and it’s increasingly hitting close to home. To people who don’t have a relationship with God, it may seem like all this suffering is proof that an all-powerful and all-loving God does not exist (that is not the case). And even for Christ-followers, those troubles can assault our hearts and rob us of peace and joy, if we don’t handle them according to God’s Word. Hopefully it won’t be a shooting, but some kind of trouble is coming for you – Jesus guaranteed it.
So how should you respond? Jesus gave us a model to follow in Mark 14:32-42, when He went to Gethsemane with a few of His disciples to pray right before He was arrested and crucified. Mark 14:33 says that Jesus was horrified at the prospect of what was to come, overwhelmed to the point of death. He knew what He was about to face, and yet He still kept going. How did He do it? And how can you? Passionate devotion alone won’t keep you going. The disciples were passionately devoted to Jesus, but they still fell asleep in His moment of anguish, and they still deserted Him when He was arrested. If you rely only on your passion, you’ll fall.
But there are two things that Jesus did, and that you can do, that sustained Him in the middle of incredible trouble.
Mark 14:35-36 says that Jesus prayed intensely: Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
I see three important parts in Jesus’ prayer that can be a model for us:
He focused on God the Father, affirming that everything is in His control (“Abba, Father, everything is possible for you”)
He prayed a sincere and honest request (“Take this cup from me.”)
He prayed for God’s will to happen, not His own will, acknowledging that God’s will was more important (“Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
You don’t have to pray those same words, but you can pray the same way. When trouble or tragedy strike you, hit your knees and focus on God, affirm that everything is in His control, pray incredibly honest prayers, and acknowledge that God’s will is perfect and sovereign. The Bible promises that the result will be peace.
When Jesus had finished praying, the people coming to arrest Him were nearby. Trouble was here! Death was close! Jesus’ words to His disciples were simple: “Rise! let us go!” Only instead of fleeing the situation, like His disciples did, Jesus willingly headed straight into the hands of His betrayers, knowing that it would cost Him His life. He humbly obeyed the will of His Father, knowing that it would end in joy, though the sorrow that came first would be incredible.
We can learn from Jesus’ example and do the same. As Hebrew 12:3 puts it, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
When tragedy or trouble come in your life, whatever form they may take, don’t leave Jesus and run off into sin. Don’t be surprised if the world hates you. Don’t be surprised that trials come. Consider it joy when you face trouble, knowing that it is growing your faith and making you more like Jesus. Remember how Jesus responded, and rely on His power in your life to do the same.