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Virtues of Paradise: The Gethsemane Secret: Trusting God during difficult times

Saturday 2 March 2024 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion, Virtues in Paradise


Virtues of Paradise: The Gethsemane Secret: Trusting God during difficult times

The Lenten period is here now. A perfect time to reflect on our lives. The world’s sacred texts contain great wisdom on the virtues, which are the very purpose of our lives. By Linda Kavelin-Popov, co-founder of The Virtues Project.

They tell us that to reap the most joy and meaning from this short life, we need an attitude of openness and even gratitude during periods of hardship or grief. Our testing times are not meant to be merely endured, but understood as teachable moments, and virtues are the lesson plans. So, when life seems impossibly painful, how can we trust God? Think of yourself as a spiritual champion whose Coach is pushing you to your very limits – not to make you suffer, but to train you in strength, and to stretch your capacity for greatness. Everything that comes to you us is a gift. Baha’u’llah wrote: “(I) have ordained for thy training every atom in existence.” Proverbs 3: 5 to 6 says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”

A young woman recently discovered that she has breast cancer. After an initial reaction of shock and grief, she opened herself to what she calls “my healing journey” with courage and hope, “eager to see what teachable moments are in store for me and my husband”.

This approach to life is not denial or some Pollyanna, “make nice” approach. It is honouring God’s will. We face and accept our feelings – the tears, the rage, the confusion – with deep compassion for ourselves. Then, through reflection, prayer, journaling or talking to a good spiritual companion, we open to the Grace of the situation – the learning that is our soul work. Jesus’s experience in Gethsemane is a powerful example for all of us. I think of it as “The Gethsemane Secret”. Jesus knew he was going to be killed, and all he asked was that his disciples “keep watch” with him in the garden, to face the battle with him, that he might not be alone. And what did they do? They fell asleep – twice.

When do we fall asleep to the mission God has put before us, including His tests for us, above all the lesson of submitting heart and soul to His will? Alone with God, Christ discovered the most profound courage and strength possible, through an act of total surrender to the Divine will: (Mathew 26: 36 – 56) “… he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not watch with me one hour?’ He prayed again, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’” 

First, Jesus admitted he was sorrowful to death. He felt the sorrow. He suffered the betrayal of his closest companions. He realised he could rely only on God. Then, after asking to be relieved of his fate, he asked that God’s will, not his own, be done.

In our own Gethsemane times, we must know what we feel, acknowledge our fear, yet be open to our destiny. Above all, do not presume that God will do your will and let this cup pass from your lips. He is not our servant. We are His. To trust even in the darkest times, that the Divine has a greater plan for us than we have for ourselves, is our true soul work. Trust is transformational. It leads to resurrection, the fulfillment of our purpose and our joy IF we submit. “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings as eagles; they shall run and not grow weary, walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)