A Letter to Those Who Are Wrestling

Dear friend,

Is that you I see in the back row of church? Eyes cast down, mouth hardly moving as everyone else seems to sing joyfully, frown turning the corners of your once happy mouth, tears threatening to spill onto your bulletin. I see your big sigh as you sit down, how you glance around the room as if to size everyone else up to see if anyone could possibly feel like you do—disconnected, disenchanted, confused, heart broken, disappointed. You wonder if the people around you actually are as joyful as they appear.

I know what a fight it was to step into this room. Or maybe you didn’t step into church but maybe you simply opened up your Bible or prayed a simply pray of Help me, Jesus! or told a friend you were struggling. Whatever it was, you took that tiny baby step of faith. You refused to allow a betrayal or death or illness or depression or disappointment or failure or confusion or whatever it was to stop you from taking that little step. You believed in that moment that God’s grace would meet you there. And I know it wasn’t easy—it might have been the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Maybe it took all your strength to mutter those three little words to Jesus.

Maybe you are in your lion’s den and the darkness is palpable. Maybe your act of faith was to open your eyes to look for Light. It sounds simple, but friend, I know how hard that can be. And so does Jesus. He knows, he cares, he loves you, and he prays for you. He is next to you in that den, tears streaming down his own cheeks in love, prayers being raised on your behalf.

This is Holy Week—the week leading up to Easter. Consider Jesus and how he himself wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Message tells it like this

They came to an area called Gethsemane. Jesus told his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him. He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony. He told them, “I feel bad enough right now to die. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out: “Papa, Father, you can—can’t you?—get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want—what do you want?”

Friends, this is a Savior who understands wrestling. Who understands agony and dread and betrayal and disappointment and pain. He understands wanting a different way, a different answer! I imagine Jesus prostrate in the garden, his entire body tense with anxiety, his eyes clenched tight, his heart pounding, never wanting to get up and walk away from the intimacy of prayer to face the brutality of reality. Never wanting to open his eyes to look for the Light. But he also understands that the wrestling is worth it!! The wrestling is what leads to trusting his Father in the grimmest of circumstances, believing that God’s way will ultimately be redemptive and beautiful. He understands taking those steps of faith and being met with Grace—glorious Grace—that somehow makes the wrestling and the agony and dread and betrayal and disappointment and the pain worth it. He understands mourning being turned to dancing.

Friends, this wrestling...well, I know it hurts. I know it might even feel unbearable. But please may I gently remind you that you are not alone in this wrestling? This wrestling is an act of faith, an act of trust. It is what deepens our faith and our understanding of God's love; wrestling puts us face to face with our depravity but also face to face with God's Grace. And God delights to meet you there in your confusion, and God will delight to meet you in Glory when he will make your pain come undone, wiping your tears away for the last time. You are loved. You are cherished. You are his.