Praying in the Garden of Pain

In Psalm 16, we find a saint who is suffering greatly. Does this sound familiar? Can we identify this day, this month, or this year? However, despite David’s current lot in life, this hurting worshiper finds himself rejoicing, enjoying, and glorify God. Friends, this sort of “unreasonable” joy has been experienced by saints in the Old and New Testaments. Persecuted disciples find themselves thriving in Babylon and singing in prison. They write of learning contentment in the school of Christ, and this can be our testimony as well if the Holy Spirit falls afresh upon us. Today, we too can have a strange and “unreasonable” joy welling up within if the Spirit is willing. Therefore, let that be our communal prayer. Let us ask God that as we meditate together on David’s divinely inspired words, the same Holy Spirit might encourage, strengthen, and cause us to rejoice even if he chooses not to adjust our “lot” in life. The following plea is made by David in Psalm 16. It also happens to be the words of Jesus Christ as found in Acts 2:25-27 and Acts 13:35.

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. The Lordis my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lordwho gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lordalways before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.    (Psalm 16 ESV)

David’s Prayer

David is experiencing great pain, and in the midst of it he runs to his Prophet, Priest, King, Father, Good Shepherd, God and Lord. Jehovah is David’s fortress and refuge, and when David thinks of the “greatest good” he can imagine, he can only think of his Heavenly Father. Nothing else can compare.

David knows his place. He is fully aware of his sin and depravity. However, he also knows he is a beloved saint in the eyes of his adoring Father. Though he be a totally fallen and horrendous sinner, he is one of the “excellent ones” in whom God delights. How can this be? How can God, who is holy and vehemently hates sin, find delight in a rebellious sinner? It is certainly not due to any religious or moral works that David has done. No, God’s undeserved favor towards this saint is only based upon the future performance of Jesus Christ. You see, David’s Greater Son would come several centuries later. Jesus would live for David, die for David, and then in accordance with God’s plan, he would swap resumes with David. Jesus would be treated as if he were a totally fallen and horrendous sinner, while David would hear every single day, “You are my beloved son, and in you I am well pleased.” David knows his undeserved place before the eyes of the Great Judge. David is an excellent one who is delightful before his Dad.

Troubles, trials, and tribulations come to all, but all do not respond in a godly manner. David’s peers from god to god, from idol to idol, from one vain solution to another seeking relief. Panting for health, wealth, and prosperity, they engage in traditional rites, make cultic sacrifices, and offer forth passionate prayers. However, with each plea before their false deities, they further inflame Jehovah and make matters worse for themselves. Their sorrows are not subtracted. Their sorrows are not added. No, the sorrows of those who run after other gods are “multiplied.” In contrast, David’s response is not like his neighbors. He runs from false gods and towards the one, true God. This is what we see him doing in Psalm 16. David knows God has loved and chosen him, therefore David loves and chooses God. He knows he fierst belongs to God. Therefore, he is not bashful to declare God belongs to him. And regardless of the less-than-ideal cup and lot ordained by his Father, David trusts in him for the present, and keeps his eyes on trhe future. David keeps in mind his eternal inheritance. The sovereign lines of election have fallen upon him. Goodness and mercy are following him all the days of his life, and his future is beautiful. David knows that even though he is currently walking through the valley of the shadow of death and not found in a pleasant place, pleasant places are right around the corner and forever in his future.

But David is still struggling, so what does he do? David runs to his Good Father for counsel, comfort, and strengthening. He does so in the morning, throughout the day, and in the evening time. And this is his testimony – quite often, upon the night-watches, David enjoys mystic sweet communion with his Wonderful Counselor. As David lies awake at night, God consistently comforts his beloved son. God is at David’s right hand. God is David’s personal Teacher and Mentor. And what is the result of David’s communion with the Lord? David finds himself emboldened even in his current day of trouble. Despite the ongoing winds of tribulation, his knees are not shaking. His circumstances have not changed. He still needs God to preserve him. However, he is strengthened within and without.

Consequenlty, he who started out supplicating for preservation, ends with joyful song. His heart has been made glad. His whole being now rejoices, and this is true even though his sitution has not been adjusted. He may still go down. God may allow him to suffer and perish. However, despite God’s lot, David is not distraught. He knows that after pain comes paradise. He knows his soul and body are secure in the hands of his Sovereign Savior. Resurrection is promised and sure to happen, and David will be forever blessed. How does he know such? It is because God has led him down the “path of life.” David’s future inheritance includes God’s presence and fullness of joy. Unspeakable pleasures await him at the right hand of God forevermore.

Jesus’ Prayer

Several times in the Gospels, Jesus is found communing with his Heavenly Father. None is more intimate and gut-wrenching than the conversation held between the Three-Persons of the Godhead in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus is experiencing intense spiritual and emotional pain, and he knows greater pain is around the bend. As a man, he knows he needs help to follow the Father’s will and drink the Father’s cup. Recognizing the cup before him, he entreats his Father to consider another path. He knew the lot assigned to him was one of betrayal, mockery, slander, injustice, beating, humiliation, torture, death … and worse than all some sort of relational separation from Abba. Therefore, like David, Jesus cries out in the night:

Preserve me! You are My Father. You are My Greatest Good. I know I am your saint, your excellent one, the one in whom you delight. Father, you are my chosen portion and my cup. Father, you hold my lot in life. I know the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places … ultimately.  I know I will have a beautiful inheritance … these souls you have given me. Now, I bless you Father and Spirit; give me counsel and strength this night. I have set you always before me. You are my right hand. I shall not be shaken. Now … somehow … my heart is glad; my whole being rejoices; my flesh dwells secure. How can I say this? You will not abandon my soul to the grave. You will not let me, your holy one, see corruption. In your presence there is fullness of joy, and I will be there again soon.   (Psalm 16 Paraphrased)

What happened as Jesus prayed? Following the blood, sweat, tears, and anguishing soul, Jesus was aided by the Spirit and touched by an angel. God provided strength for the Precious Lamb of God found crying in the garden. Following his intercession, Jesus collected himself, stood up, awakened and gathered his sleeping friends, and marched boldly into the lion’s den. Satan, Judas, and many armed men were coming his way. Jesus marched toward them, with his knees not shaking and his heart rejoicing. The Spirit of God had fallen fresh on him.

Our Prayer

Suffering friend, I cannot promise us immediate rescue from the tribulation at hand. In addition, I cannot promise we will find health, wealth, and prosperity in this temporal and temporary life. Like David, we might have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death for a time before our exaltation and vindication. Or it might be that we will suffer as did Jesus and his Apostles. It very well might be that we will experience betrayal, mockery, slander, injustice, beating, humiliation, torture, ending in death.

However, like both David and Jesus, I can promise us this. After our Friday hell, Sunday paradise is coming. Our current cup may be brutal but our eternal cup is blessed. Our current lot in life may be filled with pain, but heaven is over the horizon. God has loved us. God has chosen us, and he will not allow us to eternally perish in body or soul. We are his, and He is ours. Because of our union and identity with Christ, we are his excellent ones in whom he delights.

Therefore, know this — even as we suffer today, God is at our right hand. He is there to provide divine counsel and supernatural sabbath in the midst of our lot and tribulation. So let us not heed Satan’s thoughts or follow Satan’s temptations. Let us not run to other gods which are not gods at all. Instead, like David, Jesus, and a multitude of saints who have gone before us, let us run to Abba. Let us talk to him, touch him, scream to him, respectfully complain to him, and wrestle. He longs to hear. He waits to respond. He promises not to turn away his loved ones who come calling. He has power to supernaturally encourage and strengthen by means of his Spirit. And who knows, we might even be able to sing “It is Well” with truth and gusto if he sovereignly showers us with his “peace that passes understanding.” Oh friends, where else can we go. He is at hand. He is at our right hand. Let’s storm the throne of grace with boldness that in the end we may be bold … regardless of our lot in life.

 

 


Hymn from Horatio Spafford

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

 

 


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