March 22, 2019

Between the Gardens

Written by: Kylie Chapman

This year has been hard.

I have an autoimmune disease called Ulcerative Colitis. And this year has been harder than I ever imagined.

An autoimmune disease is a disease in which the body’s immune system is overactive or deficit, causing the body to attack itself or the latter, become vulnerable to fight infection. There are over one hundred autoimmune diseases known to modern medical science; causing millions of people to sufferer daily. Besides the constant array of symptoms that can occur, one of the major difficulties of many autoimmune diseases is that when you are diagnosed you are told there is no cure–that you will suffer like this forever. You will live between the sickness and the stages when you are blessed with remission. Sounds hopeless, doesn’t it?

Have you ever thought this: How am I supposed to get through this? How I am I supposed to be happy?

I have. You may not have a chronic illness, but fill in the blank however you see fit. Life is just hard sometimes, isn’t it? Poverty, broken relationships, unemployment, death of a loved one, you name it. No one goes through life without hardship. In fact, God promised it. It’s okay to think that this seems odd. Why would God promise to give me suffering? Doesn’t He promise hope, and love, and goodness?

Yes.

John 16:33 (NIV) says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus has just told His disciples that their grief will turn into joy. He is predicting His death to His closest friends, but telling them that their sadness will be a good thing. How is this possible? Sadness is not good. But, you see, it is–because it is necessary. The joy that Jesus speaks of is His resurrection. He will rise again! But first, He has to die. The miracle could not come without the grief.

What if we thought of it this way? My suffering is an opportunity–God can perform a miracle! If there was nothing to fix, how could there be a miracle to come out of it? How can I grow in my trust if I knew everything that was going to happen? (Romans 8:28) How will I see God constantly show His power and His faithfulness to me if there isn’t an opportunity to see it? (Philippians 4:12-13)

Perspective is one way to deal with suffering or why bad things happen. However, I believe there is another vital aspect of dealing with suffering–grief.

Grief is an essential part of accepting our suffering. Jesus didn’t just know He was about to experience one of the most painful forms of execution known to man (not to mention the sins of the entire world) and didn’t have any upset feelings about it. Read Matthew 26:36-44 (NIV), this is right before Jesus was betrayed and arrested.

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called [the Garden of] Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’

He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So, he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.”

Luke’s account says this: “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44 NIV) Jesus was distraught–begging in anguish for the Father to take this misery from him. He’s basically saying to God, “This isn’t what I want! Don’t let this happen!”

Right now, I am reading perhaps the most powerful book I have ever read: It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst. The first chapter wrecked me. Lisa says that there is “the distance between what you thought would be and what is.” She writes of disappointment, “the feeling that things should be better than they are.” And you know what? You’re right! Things should be better! God designed a perfect world. In the beginning, the Garden of Eden was God’s design. It was what He wanted, what we wanted.

But we don’t live there anymore.

We live between the two gardens– between the perfect garden of Eden and the coming restored garden of Eden where Jesus reigns on Earth in the end (Revelation 22:1-4 NLT).

So, there has to be the Garden of Gethsemane–the suffering while we live in the middle of the uncomfortable longing for the perfect design that God has created.

Jesus prayed and prayed and grieved and grieved for God to take His suffering away from Him. I remember when I let disappointment sink in and penetrate me. It felt like a deep gasp for air, and then weight that I didn’t even realized that I carried began to melt off of my shoulders. “God, I’m so disappointed. Why is this so hard? I don’t like this; I don’t want this. It’s not supposed to be like this.” So be disappointed! Grieve for what you wanted–and then let it go.

You see, acceptance comes when you let go. Because then I was able to feel peace. The wrestling and turmoil of my spirit chipped away and was replaced with the trust I have in God’s plan for my life. Remember what Jesus said as He prayed, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Embrace God and embrace His will. In God’s will there is hope! You can feel confident to let go of what you wanted because then–and only then–can you embrace what God wants.

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