By Anne Harsh
7 Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 68 Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Peter?!? Why do you do this!? Once again you show a flash of brilliance just to disappoint me in the next breath? Do you only stay with Jesus because you want eternal life? Why can’t it be just because you love Him? Is it for Him or what He can give you? But I turn my finger and point it away from Peter and at myself. Isn’t that what I do? Don’t we all?
Since my youngest daughter’s birth and multiple diagnoses, I have spent the past three and a half years in the denial and bargaining stages of the grief process. Denial because there has always been ‘one other treatment we can try’. Bargaining because with each treatment that doesn’t work I’ve just lowered the bar of what I’m asking for. “Ok, I’ll give up on wanting our daughter to walk. Alright so maybe not talking either, so now I guess I’ll give up the hope of her eating food orally. But please, please, please Jesus, don’t let us lose the joy of our child showing us she knows us. Don’t let us lose her laugh and her smile when we give her love and the feeling of her hands reaching around our necks when she reciprocates that love and hugs us. That’s all I ask now. Let us keep that.” There is no promise we will even keep that. And I’m not sure what it might take for Jesus to gently pry THIS prayer out of my clenched fists. I’m terrified of finding out.
After hiding in the relative comforts of denial and bargaining the past several years, I’m moving further into the grief process and toward the stage of anger. Today it started with a cheerful Christian radio personality announcing in her bubbly voice that “God answers prayers, just ask 21 year old [so and so] who lost his job and then lost everything else………” With knee jerk speed I turned that station off, choking on the bitter pill I didn’t want to swallow. He doesn’t answer MY prayers. Those tears building up behind that dam I built in 2013 pressed harder and threatened the stability of my flood gates. It held…but I felt the compromise in protection. I’m another day closer to the day it’s going to burst.
“Why do I even believe in you?” I yelled out. There. There it is. And as usual my favorite verse from John 6 came to my heart. Because where else would I go? My love/hate relationship with this verse is because I want it to stop there. Peter’s next words reveal the weakness of the love we humans do have for Jesus. He says, “You have the words of eternal life”. A.K.A. “you have something that I want. A reward, eternal life, the answer I want to my prayers.” It takes something away from the brilliance of Peter’s answer. But it is the truth. I love Jesus because of what He can give me. I stay with Jesus for a reward. Gradually the hope of that reward being a healing for my daughter is slipping away. But as I let go little by little of hopes for that reward I gain the reward of comfort that I can find nowhere else.
I stay with Jesus because nothing else can comfort me here, in this non eternal life. Trust me, I’ve tried other sources of comfort. I’m here to tell you that comfort is not at the bottom of an empty wine bottle. I’ve checked there….more than once. And while a to-do list can make for great diversions from dealing with grief, meaning is not found in the completion of tasks written on it. There is no peace in the likes of a Facebook page or the “you’re so strong” comments from family and friends. There is no comfort in this world. There isn’t. Except for the companionship of the Trinity. It’s the only true peace. So like Peter says…”To whom shall we go?” Truly, there is nowhere else. And I’ll be the first to admit that on many days that is the only reason I trust.
So I know why I believe in you Jesus. Because without you there is nothing and no one that can comfort me. I trust you in this darkness not because I’m afraid I won’t go to heaven if I don’t…..I trust you in this darkness because when I get there, and I look you in the eyes, I don’t want to see reflected in them the sorrow you felt when I stopped trusting you. When I stopped allowing you to comfort me. When I ceased letting you be in charge of the outcome of my prayers.
I have found Jesus’ heart touching mine through a song lately. It’s called Even If You Don’t by Mercy Me. One of the lines in this song says “I know you’re able and I know you can, save through this fire with your mighty hand, but even if you don’t my hope is you alone.” I am moved by the words because they don’t say “my hope is IN you.” Rather it says “my hope IS you” There is a big difference there. Three and a half years ago my hope was IN Jesus. Hope for a miraculous healing, hope for a moderate healing, hope for a minimum healing. But through this dark valley my hope has changed. My hope isn’t so much IN Jesus as it IS Jesus. Not because I’m special or holy, but because it is my only choice. Just like it was Peter’s only choice. It’s Jesus or nothing because there is nothing else. Once Peter knew Jesus, when things got dicey he couldn’t walk away from the comfort he had found. Or better stated, the comfort that had found Him
That weakening dam inside of me is inevitably going to burst one of these days. I don’t know exactly when, but I feel it coming. When it does it isn’t going to be pretty. But I trust Jesus will be there with me in that big mess. Being what He IS.. my only comfort. That is my hope.