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For the past two weeks I have spent much of my time sitting by my wife’s hospital bed.  Her third stroke has left her unable to swallow, very limited in her ability to communicate, and constantly restless.  It is a helpless feeling to watch her, not knowing what she is thinking about all this, and no knowing what she may recover or how long that will take.

It is frightening to think that a loved one may be severely disabled for a very long time.  It is frightening to consider what caring for her for the next 5 months, let alone 50 years may look like, and how much sacrifice that will require.

One of the passages I came to in my regular bible reading a couple days ago was Mark 14.  Verses 32 to 42 describe Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before his betrayal and crucifixion.  I don’t think I have ever appreciated how hard it was for him to pray “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you.  Remove this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  There is real, human fear and anguish in his prayer.  I think it’s safe to say that Jesus’ desire to avoid suffering the full wrath of God for sin was only surpassed by his desire to obey his father’s will.  He was modelling what it means to deny ourselves for the greater joy of fellowship with God.

And so I find myself praying in my own defective way, “Lord, I can’t say how much I want more than to avoid this suffering, but the deepest desire of my heart is to obey you, to know you, and to walk in closer fellowship with you.  If this is the only way that can be accomplished, your will be done.”

Dying to ourselves is never easy, but that is what Christians are called to.  In the small temptations and the major crises, the command is the same: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

So, I find myself sitting by a bed in the hospital, praying for my wife to recover, which would be the easier path for her, for me, and for our whole family.  Yet, I am learning to pray more deeply, “Your will be done.”