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Founders Journal · Spring 2004 · pp. 1-10

The Aching Struggles Of Being a Christian Father

Lee Tankersley

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

It is a difficult thing to find yourself in a time of great struggle, suffering and heartache, without the ability to change anything. I think that is just basic to life. However, it is easy to hear and agree with that statement and not feel the weight of it, like one nodding in agreement that Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane was difficult without coming close to feeling the gravity of the situation that drove Jesus to say, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38). So what do you do in those moments when no one has to tell you to feel the weight of the situation because it is pressing on your heart with such mass that you cannot utter a sound, and the aching in your soul longs for that which it cannot accomplish? That is the question I am asking this morning.

The reason I am asking the question is because, in some sense, I am there. My normal morning routine is to get up, put some tea on to brew, get showered and ready, fix my tea, go out to my front porch, and read the Scripture and pray. Within that, part of my prayer everyday is for my son, Michael, that he will one day come to know the Lord. I love my son. At times I feel like I cannot hold him close enough and tight enough. My heart aches with love for him. Therefore, I do not have to convince myself to pray for his soul, that one day the Lord will call him to Himself, for that prayer bursts forth from the longing of my heart every day. However, the fulfillment of that desire is not within my power. I cannot save my son.

This reality of my inability and complete dependence on God for the salvation of my son I confess each morning. For some reason it seems that this reminder is something I need to speak. Thus, my prayer often begins with a realization before God that he has been immeasurably gracious to my wife, Lili, and me in saving us and for giving us a son. It is then followed by my stating of the reality that just because God has decided to be so gracious to us does not mandate that God show the same kind of saving grace to my son. There is simply no such guarantee in Scripture that the children of believers will be born again. Yet, then, I plead for God to save him. In fact, ‘pleading’ may not be strong enough of a word, but my vocabulary is limited. My heart aches and longs, and I feel that if I were to attempt to open my mouth to speak that I would be sick because the yearning in the depth of my soul is too great.

Now, this yearning is not something that happens every day. I wish it were. There are some days, though, when my heart is calloused toward eternal matters. But this morning the aching of my heart was there, and it was deep. And I began to ask myself, “What do you do when the gravity of a situation is pressing upon you so deeply, and you can do nothing to bring about your desired end or change your circumstances? What do I do to leave the front porch, get into the car, go to work, and live to the glory to God the rest of the day?”

As I asked that question this morning, my mind instantly walked back to Christ in the garden, for we do not have a great High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who has been tempted in every way that we are. Therefore, I believe I can conclude that He was tempted to long to have the control that only His Father had, for that was my temptation today. He might have been tempted in the garden to want the control that said, “Even if there is no other way, I will not drink this cup.” So what did He do?

Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:23, “When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.” Jesus lived His life continually deciding that He would entrust Himself to a just Father. He simply trusted His Father. In the same way, Peter calls his readers a couple of chapters later to do the same, writing, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (4:19). Here, I think is my answer.

In the garden, Jesus desired and even prayed for a different end than drinking down His Father’s wrath on the cross, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 27:39). And again as His soul was aching, He prayed, “Father, glorify Your name” (John 12:27-28). He entrusted His soul to one whom He knew, one whom He loved, one whom He trusted, one whom He longed to see glorified before all men.

Today I feel that my soul is in a similar position. I ache; I hurt; my soul is sorrowful. I long for one outcome over which I have no ultimate control. So how do I go on and live this day to the glory of God? I think I must entrust my soul and (maybe even more so) the soul of my son, to my Father, whom I know, whom I love, whom I trust, whom I long to see glorified before all men.

Father, if it be possible, hear and answer the aching cry of my heart. I trust you.To you be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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