Thursday, January 21, 2016

Watch and Pray

Sometimes (and I hate to admit this), but sometimes I doubt the goodness of God.

I know that God is good, and believe it on an intellectual level. But at a heart level, I can be overwhelmed by the suffering, the evil, and the insurmountble challenges that we face as a society. I can start to wonder why a good God would allow such tragedies to unfold, seemingly silent.

And when I look at my own life, small and insignificant as it is, I also have deep disappointments with God. Hopes have been dashed, questions unanswered, desires unmet. I'm not talking about my desire for a Porsche. I'm talking about my desire to see people come to faith, to be healed, and to grow in grace. Why would a good God let those desires languish?

Then, as if to give the lie to my own sentiments, this God in question throws me a lifeline.

One of my professors from George Fox (MaryKate Morse) was a speaker at Urbana this year, and because I appreciate her wisdom and spiritual insights, I watched her message on YouTube. She was speaking to this very idea, and she based her insights on the story of Jesus and his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.

There, on the eve of what must have been the discples most disappointing day ever, Jesus gives them these instructions:
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
 In the face of questions, doubts, and general bewliderment, the discples were told to do two things. Watch and pray.

As I listened to MaryKate and considered these instructions, I realized that when I watch, I am not trying to fix or control, but I am expectant. I watch because I believe the story isn't finished. I watch because I think something is going to happen. Watching is a way of hoping, and hope is the opposite of despair.

Next I realized that when I pray I am not turning a blind eye to the problems of this world, but I am engaging them. I pray because I believe Someone will answer. I pray because I know a God who is able. Praying is a way of choosing faith, and faith is the opposite of doubt.

The reason that Jesus asks his disciples to watch and pray is NOT so that their circumstances change. The reason Jesus asks his disciples to watch and pray is so that they will not fall into temptation.

And what is that temptation?

MaryKate suggested that it is the temptation the believe that God is not good.

The things that the disciples would witness over the next few hours were going to put them to the test. They were going to question everything they thought they knew about God. And in that dark and desperate place, they would face the same temptation that I face when evil and suffering abound. They would be tempted to question the goodness of God.

Watching and praying...putting hope and faith into action, are antidotes against such a temptation.

And so this is my new routine, my firm decision, my resolution. I actually made a list of the places in my life where I long to see the goodness of God. And as those things creep into my mind, usually in the form of disappointment or doubt, I choose to watch and pray. I do not know what God will do, or how he will answer. I'm sure that Friday night, as Jesus hung on the cross, the disciples probably felt like their watching and praying had been for naught.

But did they keep watching and praying anyway? Even when all seemed lost? Did they hold on to the two final instructions that Jesus had given?

I want to hold on, even when all seems lost. And I think I can, because I know something that the disciples didn't know.

I know what happened on Sunday.

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