It’s sunny, very windy and 80 degrees in Fayetteville, Arkansas today. But 7 years 8 months and 3 weeks ago, it was a different story. A severe ice storm had just hit. Trees were down and power was out all across Northwest Arkansas. Lots of trees were lost in that storm. Trees that did survive lost branches.
This morning, as I sat on our patio, I heard a loud rustling sound and then a tree branch fell on the driveway about fifteen feet from where I was sitting.
It’s not uncommon to find branches like this after thunderstorms or just a strong wind like we have today. These branches are the result of the ice storm in January of 2009 when they broke off from the trunk and died. It’s inevitable they’ll crash to the ground. It’s just a matter of a time. All it takes is some agitation from the wind. And yet the same wind that agitates the dead branches has no effect on the healthy ones.
In the moments leading up to His arrest, the gospel writers tell us Jesus was “troubled” and “overwhelmed with sorrow.” The same Greek word is used in both instances, it literally means:
to agitate, trouble a thing by the movement of its parts to and fro, to cause one inward commotion, take away calmness of mind, to disquiet, make restless, to strike one’s spirit with fear and dread, to render anxious or distressed
Do you ever feel that way?
Jesus did. The difference is that Jesus didn’t remain in that state. Many of us do though. But is it possible to not get stuck in a state of inward commotion, restlessness, fear and dread? If so, how did Jesus move through it? And how can we?
John 12:27-28 says…
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
And Mark 14:34-36 says…
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Jesus lived on earth in a human body, but the material realm was not His focus. He had His eyes fixed on what is unseen, not what is seen. His priority was God’s will and God’s glory. He was operating in the realm of God’s Kingdom. And so can we.
When I have my eyes fixed on my circumstances, the latest bad news, an election poll or the amount of money in my checking account, then it’s inevitable I will become agitated and anxious. A spirit of fear and dread will consume me. And it’s very likely I will crash (emotionally) just like the dead branches I find in my yard.
The solution is to choose to operate in the realm of God’s Kingdom where God’s will and His glory take priority over everything else. Then when the winds of bad news and difficult circumstances blow through my soul, I can remain strong and secure in the knowledge that God’s Kingdom will never be defeated. And as a citizen of His Kingdom, I cannot be defeated either.
Right before He was arrested, Jesus said to His disciples…
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
That branch in my driveway will make great kindling wood in another month or so. It’s not good for anything else. It will never bear fruit or provide shade. It has no life left in it. But that’s not how we’re meant to live.
When we stay connected to Jesus, His life and peace and power flow through us. Our lives bear fruit that lasts. We make a difference in the lives of those around us. That’s what it means to live in God’s Kingdom.
The only way I know to do that is to continually fill my mind with truth by spending time in God’s Word and living in community with others who are doing the same. If all I allow into my mind are the ideas, information and perspectives coming from the realm of this world, then I’m slowly drying up and the coming crash is only a matter of time.