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Jesus Could Have Run
Jesus knew the crushing heart feeling. He felt it. He carried it. He wrestled with it.
And there was a moment when He could have run.
The night was heavy with grief for Him. Jesus ate with the disciples for the very last time. He’d tried to prepare them for what was about to happen, but they didn’t really understand.
Judas had left the supper to commit an unthinkable betrayal against his friend, his teacher, his Lord. His feet were still freshly clean from the Lord of heaven and earth bending low to touch his humanity and rinse off the dirt. But the warmth of the best kind of love was soon traded for a handful of cold coins.
And then it was time for Jesus to walk with the other disciples to the place where they’d met so many times. Their gathering place would soon become their scattering place. John 18:1-2:
After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. Judas, the betrayer, knew this place, because Jesus had often gone there with His disciples. — NLT
Judas was on his way with money clinking in his pocket and steps heavy with malicious intent.
Though Jesus had some of the disciples close by, He knew He was utterly alone. Alone in His understanding of the seriousness of the night. Alone in His pain. Alone in His assignment. Jesus said to Peter, James, and John,
My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death… Stay here and keep watch. — Mark 14:34
And His only companions fell asleep.
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…’ — Mark 14:35-36
And right there is the point at which Jesus could have run. He stared at what it meant to press through the events of the cross, and every bit of His humanity cried out, “Take this cup from Me.”
An interesting fact about the Garden of Gethsemane is that it sits at the base of a known escape route from the city over the Mount of Olives toward the Judean desert. This is the route David took when running from his son Absalom.
Jesus would have known this. But instead of running, He turned to His Father and said nine hell-shattering, demon-shaking, Devil-killing words:
Yet not what I will, but what You will. — Mark 14:36
The first time I stood in the Garden of Gethsemane, tears ran down my face. It is rare for me to let my emotions flow so freely. But it felt holy to let my tears fall and become part of the soil cradling these trees. As if it was the only way that some part of me could be personally invested in this place, I willed myself to cry it all out.
And of all the memories that pricked the tears to come, it was the ones with my dad’s face that hurt most of all. I saw myself looking at my dad with pleading eyes to write the opening scenes of my life with the theme of love. He chose rejection instead.
That’s where I shifted what I then expected from all of life.
Instead of looking at life with the hope of receiving love, I started expecting rejection.
Even if life handed me love, I suspiciously waited for it to be snatched away. I knew this had to change.
I couldn’t keep letting the rejection of my dad taint my relationship potential today.
I couldn’t keep trying to outrun the hurt.
I couldn’t keep asking God to take this cup from me.
I couldn’t keep thinking that everything about my life would have been better if only my dad would have loved me.
The dark funk that kept cycling in and out of my life was hopelessness.
Steal a girl’s hope and you stomp the life out of her sweetest desires.
Maybe you have that one haunting rejection that lingers in your life as well. Like with me, it could be a parent who walked away. Or, it could be a friend, a sibling, a spouse, a mentor, or one of many others who have walked away while tossing your love aside.
I think you know by now, I very much understand on a deep level. And as long as I kept tying everything back to wishing things with my dad had been different, I would be hurt by him forever. I would be incapable of moving forward. I would be stuck in a reality of my past that I was powerless to change.
But if I really believed that God’s healing is more powerful than any hurt the world could ever hand me, I could trust God. I could trust His plans. I could move forward by saying, “Yet not what I will, but what You will.”
I had to turn to God and say those same nine words as Jesus did. And I couldn’t think of a better time and place than this to do just that. Maybe these pages could be your place to say those same words.
The Middle Eastern sun skipped and danced across the greenish-silver leaves of the olive trees. I breathed in the warm air and started:
Yet not what I will, but what You will.
I trust that in all these things, Your will is good. I can trust You even when I don’t understand. I cannot fully trust You while still holding on to things that made me question You. I have to let those things go.
You so clearly promise when I am blinded by the dark realities, You will guide me. You will guide me to the spiritual help I need. But You will also guide me to the emotional and physical help I need. Help me see Your provisions and be humble enough to receive them. You will make the rough places smooth. You will do these things and will never forsake me.
You have said, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16).
You say Your Word is sharper than a double-edged sword. So I cut these ties from my soul with the precise edge of Your truth.
I was abandoned. That is a fact from my past, but it is not the destiny of my future.
I was rejected. That is a fact from my past, but it is not the destiny of my future.
I was hurt. That is a fact from my past, but it is not the destiny of my future.
I was left out. That is a fact from my past, but it is not the destiny of my future.
I was brokenhearted. That is a fact from my past, but it is not the destiny of my future.
Heartbreaking seasons can certainly grow me but were never meant to define me. I let go of the hurt and embrace the growth the minute I’m able to say, “Yet not what I will, but what You will.”
Jesus modeled this.
He was betrayed, mocked, abandoned, beaten, crucified, and buried. Those were all facts of His past, but they were not the destiny of His future. His pain in the garden became power in the tomb! His crucifixion on the cross became the defeat of death. His broken body became the resurrection hope for the world.
He did rise!
And so will we.
I stand and I pump my fist! I sing the closing praise song and feel jubilant as this chapter seems to be at a close. But before we stick a bookmark in it and determine we know all there is to know, I want to linger in the garden for just a minute more. There’s something else we must learn. After all, there is often a delay between the rejection of Friday and the resurrection of Sunday.
And I don’t know about you, but I certainly need perspective to hold on to between the rejection and the resurrection. I don’t think it was a coincidence the olive tree was there in those moments of deep sorrow for Jesus.
Yes, the resurrection was coming! Jesus knew that. But in the moment of being overwhelmed with sorrow, He, too, wrestled.
And what was the setting of this most profound moment? A garden full of olive trees. The olive tree is such a picture of perspective. I believe the Creator of all, who does everything with purpose, chose to be in the shade and shadow of the olive trees often. And possibly didn’t just choose to be among the olive trees in His darkest hour, but might He have actually created them for such a time as this?
Yes, the olive tree was more than just a backdrop for Jesus.
The Crushing Times Are Necessary Times
First, in order to be fruitful, the olive tree has to have both the east wind and the west wind. The east wind is the dry, hot wind from the desert. This is a harsh wind. So harsh that it can blow over green grass and make it completely wither in one day. (The east wind is also the one that blew over Job’s house.)
The west wind, on the other hand, comes from the Mediterranean. It brings rain and life.
The olive tree needs both of these winds to produce fruit… and so do we. We need both the winds of hardship and the winds of relief to sweep across our lives if we are to be truly fruitful.
The Crushing Times Are Processing Times
Another thing to consider about the olive tree is how naturally bitter the olive is and what it must go through to be useful. If you were to pick an olive from the tree and try to eat it, its bitterness would make you sick.
For the olive to be edible, it has to go through a lengthy process, which includes…
It is a lengthy process to be cured of bitterness and prepared for usefulness. If we are to escape the natural bitterness of the human heart, we have to go through a long process as well… the process of being cured.
The Crushing Times Are Preservation Times
The final thing I want to consider about the olive is the best way to preserve it for the long run. It must be crushed in order to extract the oil. The same is true for us. The biblical way to be preserved is to be pressed. And being pressed can certainly feel like being crushed.
But what about 2 Corinthians 4:8, where it says, “we are… pressed… but not crushed”? Let’s read verses 8 and 9 in the King James Version:
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.
This was one of the biggest aha moments for me while standing in the shadow of the olive tree: crushing isn’t the olive’s end. Crushing, rather, is the way of preservation. It’s also the way to get what’s most valuable, the oil, out of the olive. Keeping this perspective is how we can be troubled on every side yet not distressed… pressed to the point of being crushed but not crushed and destroyed.
I think I need to revisit these truths often:
When the sorrowful winds of the east blow, I forget they are necessary.
When I’m being processed, I forget it’s for the sake of ridding me of bitterness.
And when I’m being crushed, I forget it’s for the sake of my preservation.
I forget all these things so easily. I wrestle and cry and honestly want to resist and run from every bit of this. Oh, how I forget.
Maybe God knew we all would. And so, He created the olive tree.
The olive tree is such a beautiful reminder that this isn’t how it’s going to be forever. On the other side of the harsh wind is fruit. On the other side of the process of being broken and waiting is a useful heart free of bitterness. On the other side of being pressed and crushed is oil… the most valuable part of me set free to emerge.
We must believe that what God has said He will do will be done. Don’t focus on the problems. Instead, have the resurrection mind-set that holds fast to God’s promises. Good is coming!
On the other side of every hardship is a resurrection.
This was true for Jesus. It’s true for the olive tree. And it’s certainly true for you and me as well. Though my circumstances may not change today, my outlook surely can. I will not run. I will rise above. I will trust God’s will above my desires. I will let truth free my soul from ties to past hurts. I will step into today’s destiny. And in the doing of this, I see His flicker of light, and a pulse of divine hope courses through my heart.
Excerpted with permission from Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst, copyright TerKeurst Foundation.
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Are you being crushed right now? Are you facing betrayal, rejection, heartbreak? Jesus has been there and He is with you as you endure this crushing time. I feel it right now. Do you? Today, let’s remember that God Himself will bring good out of this crushing. Good is coming! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear your story! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full