When I was a kid, I had lots of nicknames. One friend called me “Monkey” because I always brought bananas to school in my lunch. Another dubbed me “Too Tall Jones” because I towered over everyone else in our grade, while still another preferred to call me “Giraffe” for the same reason.
I didn’t mind any of these monikers, given as they were by classmates who used them affectionately. When I think of them now, I remember those friends fondly.
I did have another childhood nickname that brings up a different set of feelings, though. Prompted by my apparent propensity for fretting about everything, one of my much older brothers called me “Worry Busby.”
I don’t harbor any ill will toward the giver of that nickname. But while it does make me sad to think of my younger self as a consummate worrier, I also can’t help but feel a bit thankful when I reflect on my past tendencies.
That might sound strange, but the thankfulness isn’t due to what I once was. It’s due to the journey that enabled me to be that way no longer.
My worrying ways followed me into adulthood, into my career as a business news reporter, into my struggles with infertility.
And that’s where everything changed.
I shared last week that it was learning to pray the way Jesus prayed in the garden the night before He was crucified that helped me the most during that difficult season of my life. It helped me release my need to know the outcome and start trusting the God of the outcome—maybe for the first time in my life.
But it did far more than that, which is why I’m reluctant to leave this topic just yet. So, for this week and next, I’m going to peel back the layers of that garden prayer a little more and explore the ramifications—for Jesus and for us today.
The story from the gospel of Luke is a familiar one, of course. Deeply sorrowful about the trial He was about to endure, Jesus asked His three closest disciples to keep watch while He prayed. Luke 22 tells us He went a little ways away, fell with His face to the ground, and uttered one of the most profound prayers ever recorded: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
What exactly was Jesus asking God for in that prayer? I’m no theologian, but it seems to me that as He contemplated the horrible pain His body was about to go through, not to mention the excruciating agony of being separated from His heavenly Father, His humanity longed for another option.
He knew He had come to earth to die on the cross, but as the hour of darkness loomed, He prayed for some kind of divinely approved release from that responsibility.
Knowing that Jesus was fully human, just as we are, it’s easy to see why He asked God for another alternative—not once, not twice, but three times as He prayed in the garden. To me, the remarkable aspect of His prayer was the way it ended.
As a red-blooded human being, Jesus may have preferred not to go through an agonizing death on the cross. But even as He prayed for deliverance, He reaffirmed His submission to His Father’s will. While His body screamed for another way, His soul and spirit were willing to accept the path He knew was before Him.
Christ’s interaction with God in Gethsemane is far more mysterious than I could ever hope to comprehend. The theological implications boggle my mind. In that hour, did Jesus—fully man and fully God as He was—really not want to die?
Is it possible that God could have said yes to Jesus and rolled out what we might think of as Plan B, much like He did with Abraham when He was about to sacrifice His only son Isaac on Mount Moriah? (See Genesis 22 for this account.)
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I only know how our elementary understanding of Christ’s experience in the garden helped Randy and me pray for a baby.
As I explained last week, whenever we prayed, we told God of our desire for a child, but always followed it with, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Basically, what we were really saying was this: If God’s plan for us didn’t include a biological child, then we didn’t want one.
For me, that prayer started out more as an intellectual exercise than a true heartfelt desire. I really did want to get pregnant, after all. But for some reason, the thought that I might miss out on God’s best if I insisted on my own way made me stick with it.
And, as month after month passed without a pregnancy, an interesting thing began to happen. The more we prayed that prayer, the more it worked its way from my mind to my heart, until it truly did become my heart’s desire.
After awhile, I really started to mean it.
We never did get pregnant. But praying this way opened door to God’s peace like I had never experienced it before.
As I prayed for God’s will to be done and learned to trust Him for something over which I had no control, an amazing thing began to happen.
I began to worry less—about everything. It didn’t happen overnight, but gradually, the stranglehold that worry had on my life began to loosen, until it broke entirely.
I still experienced all the trauma of infertility, of course. But I knew I was praying for God’s will to be done, and I knew He was hearing those prayers. So the only logical conclusion I could come to was that no matter what happened, God’s will was being done—even if I wasn’t getting pregnant.
And as odd as it may seem, I found tremendous comfort in that.
P.S. When strongholds break, it doesn’t mean the enemy never comes back. Next week, I’ll conclude this little series by sharing a more recent experience with worry, and how the power of Jesus’s prayer continues to work in my heart today.
Another note: Parts of this post were adapted from my book Infertility: Finding God’s Peace in the Journey (Harvest House, 2003), available here.
Finally, this week I’m joining in with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Lyli Dunbar at #ThoughtProvokingThursday, Crystal Twaddell at #FreshMarketFridays and Dawn Klinge at Grace and Truth.