“And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by Your truth; teach them Your word, which is truth. Just as You sent Me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by Your truth.” – John 17:14-19 (NLT)
Don’t pray for an easy life—Pray to be strong.
I saw the rustic wood sign with the saying above painted on it hanging in shop where I was browsing. I wanted to rip it off the wall and stomp on it—but since I didn’t want to buy the sign I ignored it and left it hanging. I couldn’t really ignore it—the message burned in my mind. The thoughts swirled in my head—I’m strong enough—I’d rather simply have a break.
My first husband was terminally ill physically, with an added layer of mental illness that made my life painful and stressful. The words I would use to describe my life during those years: exhausting, frightening, emotional and hopeless. I prayed a lot. I got to the point that I stopped praying for Ron’s physical healing. I got to the place of just asking God to calm the emotional storm that raged in Ron’s mind and emotions.
It was a long decade. It seemed longer than 10 years. After Ron died, for a while I wondered what the purpose of all that suffering was, both for Ron and me. My spirit was exhausted. My heart was calloused. I was stronger but I was in need of some ease.
Jesus prays for His friends. It’s clear, Jesus is not offering them an easy life. Frankly, if I were in the upper room listening to this prayer, I’d be nervous. While I was here I protected them, but I’m leaving and I’m not asking for deliverance—just protection is what Jesus prays. It’s important to remember, the disciples didn’t have a Bible to read. They didn’t know how the story was going to end. Jesus’ words strike fear and dread in my heart. I can’t imagine what the disciples were thinking.
Jesus puts it out in the open—there is a distinct dichotomy in this world. The believer lives sandwiched between the world that is—one filled with insufficiency, fear and selfishness and the world God intended—one of plenty, peace and unity. Jesus knows the ache. Jesus understands the uneasiness of such a predicament. Jesus asks the Father to protect and for the strength to endure, but not for deliverance.
Why would an omnipotent God not simply deliver us from evil? It’s the same reason your teachers made you struggle to learn how to do math without a calculator. It’s the reason your parents struggled with you as you learned to tie your own shoes. It’s the reason athletes and musicians practice and rehearse—struggling leads to endurance and endurance leads to glory—if you don’t give up. There is an “other side” to struggles and suffering. Peter, who heard this prayer first hand, would later write about suffering, choice and endurance.
The Lord’s Protection
Jesus prays for protection for those He loves. Superficially, it’s scary, until you realize who is praying for you—and how far He’s willing to go to make sure you’re protected. Jesus sacrificed Himself so we can be made holy.
That’s strength. That’s protection. Now, endure.
Father, thank You for Your loving compassion. Jesus, thank You for Your sacrificial example. When I’m tired of living the life You’ve called me to help me endure. When it’s difficult to be Your follower, help me endure. When I’d rather give up or give in, help me endure. Thank You for the sacrifice that gives me protection and power.