22 Jan The Third Cry
As I stepped out of our office complex and headed to my car that day, the warmth of Spring in Portugal couldn’t relieve the cold sense of dread seizing my heart.
It was 2008 and we were only a few years into rebuilding our business following a devastating accident, when we were blindsided by the crash on Wall Street that sent ripples across the globe. Many of our clients halted their projects and returned to their homes in Northern Europe to stabilize their financial footing. Consequently, our business and our family were thrust, again, into scarcity.
On that day, we had been feeling the profound weariness that surviving produces – but also a cautious optimism that receivables from new clients might provide a reprieve. A meeting with our accountant, however, confirmed that we would likely miss the deadline for paying quarterly sales tax and, consequently, have heavy fines levied against us.
Faced with the imminent possibility of our financial situation worsening, I could hardly breathe. God had certainly kept us going during those previous years, but the emotional strain of the accident, a criminal court case, and our business closing had left me weak and exhausted. I could hardly fathom taking on more.
As I started to pray, my thoughts drifted to the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was tormented in prayer, pleading with the Father He be spared the cup. Although my trials in no way could compare with those of the Christ, I realized God wanted to teach me something.
In Matthew 26, Jesus agonizes before the Father three times in prayer. The first cry was, “Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” The second and third cries were different. In these, there is a slight alteration, a full acquiescence. “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done.”
The first cry, for me, contained a beseeching not dissimilar to David’s cry for God to save his firstborn with Bathsheba. If God chose to, He could intervene at the last minute and provide deliverance. The second and third cries, however, reveal the process of One who had decided to yield to the sovereign will of the Father. There was an ultimate surrendering of self with full awareness that the path chosen for Him would be dark, mysterious and painful. His own death and obscurity were embraced even before they became reality.
His response following the third cry was an external representation of an internal shift. He arose, went back to the sleeping disciples, roused them and resolutely walked into the darkness toward His destiny.
It had already been made clear, while He was prostrate before the Father, that the cup would not be taken from Him. By faith, He would walk a path He had never before trod. Each step, each confrontation, each wound, each loss would be faced with determination. Not that He did not feel it all and wish it wasn’t so, but His heart was resolute because He had chosen to fulfill what the Father had ordained.
As the Son of God, He could have avoided the whole thing, called down a legion of angels, and been done with it. However, as Hebrew 12 reveals, it was for the joy set before Him that He walked the path marked for Him. He saw “the more” of mystery and chose to stride into the trial instead of avoiding it.
I can’t fully explain what happened to me in that instant. Maybe a breakthrough, maybe a revelation. Whatever it was, I felt an alignment in my soul with God where I realized I could say “not my will, but yours be done”, even when faced with the prospect of more suffering.
In my mind’s eye, I envisioned a dark labyrinth before me that I was being asked to enter by faith. I had a choice, though. If I wanted to, I could go around or over it to avoid the pain and the unknown. However, I perceived that if I made my own way, I would miss whatever upgrade or plan God wanted to accomplish. In the end, faith prevailed.
Upon entering the darkened portal, I caught a glimpse of the Lord, illuminated in the distance, beckoning. As I moved forward, light would periodically stream in from windows opened from the outside. Through these apertures, arms of friends would reach in offering food, gifts, words of encouragement, embraces. Enough came through to sustain me each day and keep me advancing. Eventually, I came out on the other end and into the light.
With this new hope settled in my soul, I was mentally prepared to face the challenge of working out a payment plan with the Ministry of Finance, even though I knew we lacked the means to pay their fines or meet our other obligations. However, just before I could set an appointment, my husband called saying receivables had come in and we would be able to meet the deadline. God had decided, this time, to take the cup from us.
Since then, however, there have been other labyrinths we have been asked to enter, and God has proven Himself faithful. In those dark places when it has been impossible to see the way clearly, at just the right time, God has met us and kept us going. His faithfulness has birthed in us hope that, through the help of His people, His Spirit and His Word, we will not only survive, but also thrive, as we look forward to our Eternal Home.
And now, when we see others faced with a dark path, we want to be among the first to extend a hand of encouragement so they can keep advancing until they emerge from the shadows into the light.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal; but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:10-13
January 22, 2017