“Hope and sorrow in it all, there’s rescue and there’s not.”
The first time I heard these words, I couldn’t shake them. They followed me around the forlorn streets during a New York winter that never seemed to end. The thought that I may never find rescue pelted me like the falling icicles. Caught in the midst of my own freefall since arriving to the city eight months prior, these words appeared a cruel joke. I’d just begun putting pen to paper about my struggle with anxiety and depression.
Joining a few women over poached eggs and toast at Le Pain in Midtown, our conversation turned toward what “living fully” might look like for women in the city. Someone posed a question in my direction expecting a response. Eyes brimming, I sat and stared in silence until I broke down in front of all of them. I admitted to these new friends I’d been wrestling with God, overwhelmed and undone by the magnitude of this topic. If I’m not living a full life myself, how can I offer anything worth hearing?
Embarrassed by the emotional outburst, I quickly finished the meal, realizing a dam was breaking that required retreat. I scurried toward Central Park with heaviness in my chest, ready to burst. I wanted to scream with no one looking—to yell into the desolate winter air among the bare trees, to ask God where He was in the midst of it all. I fought back steamy hot tears dripping down my checks as my pace quickened. At one point, I shook my fists to the heavens,
“Why, oh why, oh why, is there rescue and there’s not?”
I collapsed on a bench overlooking the baseball fields just past Heckscher Playground. Salty tears drying on my cheeks. Exhausted and depleted. I heard it gently:
Confused, I thought of Jesus. And what must have been a horrific night in the Garden of Gethsemane the eve before he was to be killed, when he prayed on his face for hours. Perhaps Jesus sought intercession in a cold and barren garden like this Central Park setting. Perhaps he shook his own fists at God while his disciples kept nodding off a few yards away.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me,” He ordered them. Then he fell with his face to the ground, praying, “Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Luke continues the account: “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
Stay. Stay in the freefall.
Jesus knew rescue wouldn’t come in the way he might have wanted it. It would not come that night in the garden. That wouldn’t be the story of rescue to be told through the ages. No, this story required him to stay and yield to the pain. To stay in the place that broke his heart, because everyone around him had no idea what kind of rescue would happen three days later. Jesus conceded to his Father’s will. Not his own.
Sooner or later, we all experience a moment in our lives when everything changes. When we realize life doesn’t look the way we expected it to. Or what we dreamed it would be. Suddenly we are faced with a moment of crisis. When our painful season becomes indefinite, we lament, questioning how long we must wait for rescue to come. Everything in us wants to run, to escape the pain we are experiencing, to look for ways to numb when it becomes too much to bear.
We wonder if God has forsaken us.
But God responds differently, “Turn your face to Me, focus on Me, because I have exceeding and abundant plans above all you could ever ask or think.”
Dare we believe it?
I’ve grieved with friends who have walked through fear and loss. Loss of love and marriage vows. Loss of sanity and peace. Loss of life, in the womb and out. I’ve watched those same folks handed dying day grace—when they experience a death of their own will and embrace something greater.
Stay in the freefall. You think you know, but you have no idea.
Isn’t that what faith is all about? To surrender our will to the One who sees it all? Because we trust he is working something out so beautiful and beyond our wildest imagination. Jesus, in the flesh, joined our sufferings in life and death. But on that third morning at dawn, He gave us an example of what that exceeding abundance looks like. A promise of hope for all who believe.