If you’ve walked with Jesus very long you may have experienced it. If you’ve not walked with Him very long, expect it! DISMAY: to cause (someone) to feel worried, disappointed, or upset. To cause to lose courage or resolution (as because of alarm or fear).
Today’s lesson in My Utmost For His Highest was from Mark 10:32, “As they followed they were afraid.” This seemed odd, so I read the full passage in context. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and His followers are behind him, fearful for what’s ahead–Jesus has been leaving a wake of dismay behind him, especially with the church leaders. Eventually, Jesus pulls them aside and says he’s going to be persecuted and die, but in three days He will rise. (Wow! I hope that I’d been sitting there stunned from this comment.) Then it gets really interesting and this is where I think we can relate, or at least I can. James and John come along and ask if they can sit at Jesus’ right and left side! In response, Jesus says, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (remember the context here–he’s just told them he’s going to go to Jerusalem, be tortured and DIE) Their response, “WE ARE ABLE.” (really?)
You can read the rest, I want to focus on this. Often, as new Christians and experienced Christians, we have grandiose ideas of what we will do for Jesus. We are madly in love. He’s rescued us from ourselves or something. We live in an intimate relationship with Him, talking to Him and walking with Him. Then one day we notice that He’s way far ahead of us. The road seems long and winding between us and it feels like we’ve lost our way–we are dismayed. We’ve announced that WE CAN DO IT but now we begin to doubt. Why? Like James and John, as Christ followers we feel special, ‘entitled’–“I know Christ so life will be all good, I’ll just hang out here at His right hand.” Dismay is our reality check–It wasn’t easy for Christ Jesus, so why should it be for us? We want all the benefits without the sacrifice.
I read an old Irish proverb last night that somehow seems to fit here, at least the intent of it. “A man who marries for money earns it.” This reminds me of another saying that rings true, “Be careful what you wish for.” James and John wanted the prize at the end and had the “balls”, for lack of a better analogy, to naively say, “We can do what you do!” They got what they wished for, the opportunity to drink the cup they said they could drink–they died cruel deaths. But the prize? Jesus said, “It’s not Mine to give…I came to serve and give my life.” In essence, if you say you want greatness, you WILL be brought down, to serve.
Recap: Like the disciples, our relationship starts intimate…we start learning who we really are…we fear we’ve lost our sight…we fall into dismay. Jesus invites you to keep your focus on Him, not your abilities or the reward…keep following! As Oswald Chambers put it,
But when the darkness of dismay comes, endure until it is over, because out of it will come the ability to follow Jesus truly, which brings inexpressibly wonderful joy.