Luke 22:42-43 (NASB)- “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.
At all cost, I was resolutely determined to see her get out of bed, walk to her favorite pew and sing her favorite hymn, and all for the glory of Lord Jesus Christ.
Wesley was a good man who had served his country gallantly during the Korean conflict and was respected by all his friends. He loved the Lord and never missed a Bible study. Once during a Bible study, Wesley asked me a question that had nothing to do with the day’s topic: “Pastor, why haven’t you visited Mary?” I was thrown a-back…and wondered for a moment if Wesley was also suffering of dementia.
“Wes…” I paused making sure that my tone of voice was sweet. “I visit Mary twice a week.” “No you don’t.” My heart thumped with the sudden ambush in front of the whole class. “Wes, I don’t understand what you’re saying.” Wes was a good man but was as unrefined as brown sugar. “Pastor, you go to the nursing home but you don’t visit Mary, and I want to know why.” I almost collapsed of embarrassment as I felt my blood pressure dropping in shame. I ended the class early that day in order to fix the misunderstanding.
As it turned out, Wes was right after all. I had been visiting a Mary with a different last name. When our secretary had informed me about “Wesley’s wife” I had assumed that the church called him by his last name. Until that moment I had only heard of “Wesley” as a last name such as Methodism’s founder John Wesley. As it turns out, I had been visiting a lovely woman called Mary Wesley who because of her senility would always smile at me and say “yes dear” to everything I said.
When I met Mary Hutchins I found her to also be a sweet lady. Even though her mind and body had been eroding for a long time, whenever I entered her ever-enclosing “circle of reason,” she would recognize me and lovingly say as if surprised: “Pastor! So nice of you to be here!” I will never forget her loving eyes, her sweet voice, and her gentle demeanor. On the days when she wasn’t as confused, she would tell me about the days of her childhood as a Presbyterian. Sometimes she would tell me stories of how she met Wes in the Marines. When Wes and Mary met, she served as an assistant to the Chaplains and as a chapel organist.
As time passed I became increasingly attached with Mary and Wes, especially since their children seemed to have abandoned the elderly couple. When Mary’s condition worsened, I became very distraught and made the decision to “cash in” my heavenly bank account of devotion to God for a miracle. I became exasperated with what seemed to be a providential injustice against an elderly couple who from my vantage point deserved better.
So, I began to intentionally pray for Mary…night and day…literally. I fasted for days without telling anyone. I would wake up at 5am to pray, only to advocate before God on behalf of Mary. In the evenings and late at night, all I did was pray for Mary’s recuperation… at times even demanding from Lord Jesus that He fulfill his promise that we would receive whatever we asked the Father in His Name. (John 14:13) For more than two weeks I prayed for nothing else besides Mary. Sometimes I agonized in prayer with tears and sweat…even to the point of scaring Liz with my obsession in trying to twist God’s arm into performing a miracle.
One day as Liz and I sat in our living room, I criticized God for not fulfilling his promise that He would give us everything that we asked in the Name of Jesus. At that moment, I felt an inner voice that resonated within me like the clang of a bell. I looked at Liz and said: “Mary will die today.” That evening I received the phone call from Wesley.
On the day of Mary’s memorial service it rained profusely. Since those in charge of such duties had not arrived, and for the sake of the people’s safety, I began to soak up the water that the visitors were dragging in with an old mop. Tears poured profusely from my eyes as an inner voice overwhelmed me with the same clanging resonance as before.
First, I was reminded by God that I was (and am) only a slave. I am only a steward of God’s gifts for His people and for His glory. I serve God by serving His people and my job consists only of pleasing Him, regardless of how difficult or tenuous the task.
Second, I was wrong in demanding from God to change Mary’s circumstances, especially since I was not acquainted with the transcendental reasons for her trials. Nothing happens in this world without God’s license and permission… Oftentimes God’s reasons for allowing tragedies transcend our understanding. (Isaiah 55:8-9) Perhaps these trials were exactly what Wes and Mary needed in order to bring them closer to God. If this was so, then who was I to judge God?
Third, in spite of my annoyingly insistent nagging and disrespectful demands in ignorance, God appreciated my intentions and honored me by sending unusual mystical messages in order to bring me to the point of surrender, while holding a mop.
Most of us live all of our lives focusing on fulfilling our desires. Even most of our prayers consist of “asking” for the things we do not have, or for the things that other people do not have, or for the way we wish things were, rather than spending our day thanking God for everything He has already given us and in seeking for God’s will to be done.
Lord Jesus gave us the supreme example of surrendering to the Father’s will. He prayed that if it were possible, that the “cup” of His sufferings would be taken away. But regardless of how much He desired to bypass the Cross, a lifetime of practicing a disciplined submission led Him to say: “…yet not My will, but Yours.”
There are things in life that MUST happen and that we cannot change for reasons we do not understand. Sometimes these things seem unfair, and perhaps God would agree with us. But nevertheless, the more we dwell in the pains and sufferings we must endure, the more we put off the blessings that come about as a result of our complete surrender to God’s will. In fact, the quicker we learn to surrender to Providence, the faster God will recompense us with unimaginable bliss.
Nothing is more difficult than to relinquish our wills to God and learning to accept the uncomfortable lots given to us. Yet, once we mature in our walk with God, we come to realize that surrender is the price that must be paid so that love can win the day. Most of the things we agonize about are temporary…including the miracles we pray for. But the love that we feel for one another, the care and concerns, the sincere affections and patience endures forever. Love is the only thing that truly matters…the only thing that endures forever…the only thing that is divine.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)