When Life Doesn’t Go How You Expect
There have been plenty of times in my life when life didn’t go as I had expected.
When I was ten years old, I wrote a letter to a missionary in India, expressing my desire to become a missionary myself. He had recently preached at our church and lit a fire in my little spirit. To my surprise, he wrote me a letter back that included some photos from India. He commended my heart’s desire and encouraged me to pursue that dream.
Fast forward sixteen years later, and I was rocking my baby in the dark at a hostel in Germany when the clock struck midnight and fireworks started going off. I cried as I contemplated the year ahead of me. I had spent the last couple years in Eastern Europe, loving life and living my ten-year-old self’s dream. Life changes had directed my family back to America and into the unknown. We didn’t know where our next ministry was, but we did know that it was in our home country, not as overseas missionaries. The next couple of years, I wandered in disappointment, doubt in God’s goodness, and constant questioning of why my dream hadn’t been realized for a longer time frame.
When was the last time that life disappointed you?
We have all experienced changed plans, broken relationships, the tug and pull of selfish desires, the lie of sin. Perhaps you are walking in pain right now as you look back on 2020 and the grief that it has brought you, the anxiety and fear that is exposed.
When our expectations are broken, especially plans and ideas that are near to our hearts, it is so tempting to walk in doubt and constant introspection. Why do I have to walk this road, Lord? What are your plans for me? Light my path, Lord. Show me why this happened! What do you have for me?
In Mark 14:32-42, we find Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. This passage is famous for revealing Jesus’ humanity. It’s at night and he is praying with intensity. Verse 35 says,
“He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.”
Wait, what? This is the same man who told his disciples not too long ago, “The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death. Then they will hand him over to the Gentiles, and they will mock him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him” (Mark 10:33-34).
Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen, but he still asked the Lord to take it away.
When I am confronted by situations that lead to my own personal growth, or that happen to me because of other’s sin, my first response is, “Lord, take it away! Make it go away! Save me from this situation.” It is a natural human response to want to run away from the hard stuff. We would much rather have life as easy as possible and tend to work toward that end throughout our day.
As I watch my children, I know this is a natural human bent. They struggle against my desire for them to learn, to clean, to eat nutritious foods, and to wash their hands after they go to the bathroom. It is natural to want to do what is easy and seems pleasing in the moment.
But we see Jesus, in his humanity, asking the same thing. Jesus says, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me” (Mark 14:36, emphasis added). Even our dear, perfect King asked for the Lord to take away the hard stuff. This tells me that the natural, human reaction to run away is not sinful, but typical. Jesus trusted that if the Father could, he would spare him from what he knew was coming.
But please remember that Jesus does not stop there.
He continued his prayer, “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Jesus’ response, even in the midst of his agony and asking for the pain to be taken away, places his full trust in the Lord’s hands by bowing his own will to the Father’s. Jesus gives us the example of how to rise above the normal, typical response to move into a supernatural response.
There is no shame in expressing our emotions about the hard situation we have experienced or are going through now. I am astounded that Jesus asked the Lord the same question that I have, “Please won’t you take it away?” Even in the midst of agony of a situation that seems impossible to overcome, we can respond the same to the Lord: “Not my will, but thy will be done.”
There is no shame in expressing our emotions about the hard situation we have experienced or are going through now.
How have you experienced agony through a tough situation, wishing that the Lord would just remove the struggle?
What situation do you need to place in the Lord’s hand today, trusting Him with the outcome?
Take some time today to pray to the Lord, expressing your emotions about this tough situation, and ultimately say to Him, “Thy will be done.”