“She’ll have an incredible testimony when she’s on the other side of this.”
I was eating dinner with some friends who had attended a Christian women’s event, and they were sharing about the tremendous impact it had on all of them. They spoke of a mutual friend (I’ll call her “Jane”) who also attended the event. Jane was doing the difficult work of recovery at that time and was dealing with issues the recovery process brought to light. Reflecting on the inspiring testimonies they heard that weekend, my friends looked forward to the day when Jane would be able to inspire others at future events with her testimony of victory, healing, and hope.
Does she not have a testimony now? I thought to myself. Is her work only valid or worthwhile if she gets to ‘the other side of this’? What if she doesn’t make it to the other side? Or she gets to the other side, lives an inspiring life in her personal Promised Land, but finds herself traveling the road of recovery again? Are God’s help, provision, love, and redemption only worth celebrating if a person’s journey ends where we want it to?
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Have you ever thought that you knew where God was leading you, only to find yourself in a completely unexpected place—a place you wouldn’t have chosen if you had any say in the matter? It’s confusing, bewildering, and disorienting. It can be painful. Jesus’ first disciples found themselves in this predicament as they shared their final Passover feast with Jesus in Jerusalem.
I don’t know what their expectations were when they first began traveling with this rabbi from Galilee; it seems that the longer they listened to Jesus’ teachings and experienced the power of his miracles, the more clearly they saw their path with Jesus leading to a place where Jesus would be crowned king of David’s re-established dynasty. They would live as court officials in this new Golden Age of Israel. And this was an understandable belief given the prophesies about the Messiah and the wisdom and power that Jesus demonstrated. But after Peter’s bold declaration that Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son the living God,” Jesus made an abrupt departure from the expected path by saying he must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things at the hands of the Jewish leaders, die, and on the third day be raised to life. Despite a triumphal entry into Jerusalem with massive crowds of Passover pilgrims all but proclaiming Jesus as their king, the disciples found themselves sitting in stunned silence one evening as Jesus announced that one of them would betray him to death.
In the aftermath of this bombshell, Jesus says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him” (John 13:31). Now? In the midst of the tension and confusion of this night? Now? In the pain and horror of the coming day? It’s easy to see how God is glorified “on the other side of this”, but how is God glorified in the painful, messy middle of it all? Apparently it’s in our obedience to him and our love for one another (John 13:33-34).
The disciples are further distressed when Jesus predicts that Peter will disown him before the night is over. Yet Jesus immediately says to them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1) So again, it’s not when they could see light at the end of the tunnel, but now. Now, when they are fumbling painfully in the dark, they are told to quell the fear rising in their hearts by confidently holding onto God and relying on Jesus.
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Someone recently asked me, “Can a person be a prayer warrior and an alcoholic?”
“Yes,” I replied.
I think that earlier in my journey, I would have given a different answer. Back then I was results focused. I judged myself, other people, and my circumstances by the end results. I thought God was glorified in the results. But a few years ago, God extended an invitation, “Come with me to this new place.” I eagerly followed, but the path to get there became extremely difficult. The results of walking it did not seem good to me at all. Upon reaching the promised destination, I felt less elation to have reached the goal and more relief to have survived. I had a puzzled sense of “What was the point of all that?” I had reached “the other side”, but I wasn’t entirely sure it was worth it. I certainly didn’t know what my testimony about it was. Sometimes the end results don’t seem to be enough.
Maybe God is more glorified in us following him regardless of the results. Maybe God is most glorified when we love regardless of the results. Maybe it doesn’t matter whether we think the results are “good” or “bad”. (As the Woodcutter says in Max Lucado’s book In the Eye of the Storm, “Who can say whether what happened is good or bad? We can only say that it happened.”)
One of my favorite lines from the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is “It will be alright in the end; if it is not alright, then it is not the end.” I have comforted myself with this thought at various times. But sometimes, merely waiting for the end is not sufficient, especially if it is not alright for a long time. In this season, I am drawn to what Jesus said can happen now. Now we can glorify God by loving one another. Now we can hold onto God and rely on Jesus to keep going whether we can see the end or not. I want to experience the freedom of letting go of the end results and focusing on Now.