John 12:27 – Now my heart 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. (NIV)
I was bullied at elementary school by an ugly-looking kid who just loved to terrorize me. I hated going to school because I knew that at some point in the day, he was going to get in my face and scare the living daylights out of me. What made matters worse was that he was in a grade below me and his friends really got a kick out of watching me squirm.
It got so bad that I came up with different ways of going to school. I volunteered to help put milk in crates early in the morning, so that I could come in by the teachers' entrance and avoid the playground bully. I stayed late in school helping my teacher clear up the classroom, so that I could avoid meeting the bully at the school gates. I even started to remain in class during breaks to get away from any confrontation or trouble. I was isolating myself because of my fear. I was making myself ill with worry, too.
One day, my teacher noticed that I was in the classroom during a break when the sun was shining outside. She told me to get out and play with the other kids. I reluctantly headed to the playground, but before I could meet up with my friends, I bumped into the bully. He started his usual name-calling and pushing, and his friends were laughing all around me. And then something flipped inside of me and I shouted out those dreaded words of challenge, "Your fight's on at four!" Everyone was silent, and then, the bully sniggered as he walked away.
I was sick for the rest of the day. I knew that at 4.00 p.m., my life was over as I knew it. Hardly anyone in the class would talk to me and I felt a bit like Gary Cooper in High Noon. When the final bell rang, I headed out to the playground, feeling as though I was doomed for my execution. And then, something wonderful happened.
The bully was nowhere to be seen. He was gone. Someone said that he had run out of school as fast as he could when the four o'clock bell rang. No one had ever challenged him before, so I guess I had called him out and discovered that he was a coward, just like me. After that day, he never bothered me again. I had faced my fear and overcame my trouble.
When Jesus faces His troubles in today's Scripture, He has all the power in the universe at His disposal. He could easily have defeated His enemies and overcome His troubles with His almighty strength. But instead, He chooses to confront His affliction by remaining obedient to God. It was not the easy way out. It was the hardest test of His character that He had experienced up till that point.
We all have different ways of dealing with our troubles. If we avoid them, then we will probably undergo more misery. However, if we confront those hard issues and events in our lives by relying upon our faith in Jesus, He will give us the ability to endure all things and the strength to overcome our fears.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, our lives are complicated by the troubles we experience and the hardships we endure. We are hurt by other people and we fear confrontation. Grant us the will to be assertive without being aggressive, and the power to be righteous without becoming self-righteous. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.