Worse case scenarios. “What ifs” fall around us as smoothly as snow on a Denver Christmas morning. Instead of looking forward to the time in the water, the camping trip, or the airplane flight, we wonder “what if?” We can’t enjoy today because of our fear of what might happen tomorrow.
It’s no wonder that Scrooge’s last visiting ghost wore black. The Ghost of Christmas Future’s face is unseen. Only an outstretched hand is visible. He shows Scrooge the future where people are glad that someone has passed on. He then finds the deceased man is himself. Upon seeing his own tombstone, he pleads with the ghost to give him a chance to “sponge away the writing on this stone.”
Does the future terrify you? You’re not alone. Jesus knows the feeling. Surprised? Visit the Garden of Gethsemane just hours before Jesus will experience the cross and you will see it. Mark writes: “He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.” The Greek word for “distressed” means “to throw into terror” or “to alarm thoroughly, to terrify.”
What could possibly terrify Jesus? We find the answer in his prayer to the Father. “And he said, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me.” Throughout scripture “cup” refers to God’s judgment, his anger, and punishment.
Ask John what the worst case scenario is and he would define it as facing death without Christ. And for Jesus, it was enduring this “cup” himself. He had always been one with the Father. He deserved no judgment as he was perfectly obedient, “even to death on a cross.” He had never experienced physical death: he was immortal from the beginning of time.
Jesus was born on that Christmas Day for this very purpose, that is, to drink the cup that was ours to drink so that we would not have to. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
And he was born on that Christmas day so that we could watch him live this life and learn from him how to live ours. “Disciple” means a “learner.” We are to learn to live the life Jesus would live if he were in our shoes in our family, in our workplace, in our neighborhood. We can learn how to face our fears by looking at how Jesus faced his. He prayed.
When I face the fear of my future, what do I do? I can worry, grow anxious, or panic. Those come naturally. We have to learn to pray. And to learn to pray we need to watch Jesus when he is struck with “terror.” Jesus faced his worst-case scenario with prayer.
Pay attention to how he prays. He addresses God as “Abba.” It was the word a child would use for her father. It was close and intimate. His prayer is that of one with supreme confidence that his father would take care of him.
Then he makes an honest request: “…if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” Name what it is that frightens you. Here’s a secret you may not be aware of: God already knows. And he can do more for you when you acknowledge that you know too.
Are you fearful of the economy? Tell him. Your health? Tell him. What will happen to your family? Tell him. And ask him, if possible, to take it away. It’s OK to tell the Father what you are afraid of. When fears are exposed they can be deposed.
Then be sure to not miss what Jesus does at the end of his prayer. He verbalizes his trust in God. “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will.” God does not will evil in our lives. But he does will that our character is transformed into the character of Christ. What was born into the world on that Christmas Day he wants to be born in us. Jesus trusted that whatever happened God would work his will in him.
Death is our worst case scenario. And death is where Jesus makes all the difference. He’s been there. He’s walked through it. And he’ll walk you through it too. With Jesus you don’t have to fear your future. You can leave your fears behind and start living today.
Question: What fear can you pray about today?