You can probably recall some difficult nights in your life that seemed like they would never end: waiting up for a teenager to return home, tossing and turning in bed unable to sleep because of a fear that had seized control of your thoughts, or sitting by the hospital bed of a family member who was about to enter into eternity. The Psalmist said “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).” There is something about the darkness that intensifies our struggles.
Our study of the life of Jesus has brought us to the account of the longest night of Jesus life – a night in which He experienced temptation (Luke 22:39-46), betrayal (Luke 22:47-53), and abandonment by His most trusted friend (Luke 22:55-62). Yet through all of this, Jesus’ faith in God never wavered. There are several principles from the Lord’s experience during this longest night that we can apply to our own lives.
1. Don’t be surprised when people disappoint you.
In a short span of time, Jesus was betrayed by Judas. But maybe that was an anomaly. Then Peter, the one Jesus had hand-picked to be the leader of the apostles, denied Him. “Jesus, never heard of Him.” And finally in Matthew 26:56, this entire group of apostles He had spent three years investing in deserted Him.
I’m sure Jesus was hurt – He was human – but He refused to allow His disappointment to defeat Him. His hope was in God, not in people. And ours should be as well.
As D. L. Moody said, “Trust in yourself, and you are doomed to disappointment; trust in your friends, and they will die and leave you; trust in reputation, and some slanderous tongue may blast it; but trust in God, and you are never to be confounded in time or eternity.”
2. Strengthen your relationship with God before the battle begins.
A baseball player who waits until the World Series to learn how to swing a bat or a soldier who waits until he is in the heat of battle to learn how to use gun have both waited too long. The time to develop an important skill is before the contest or before the battle begins.
The same is true in our relationship with God.
This part of the story begins with Jesus going to the Mount of Olives “as was His custom (Luke 22:39).” Communicating with His heavenly Father was not something Jesus did just in the crisis times. It was a way of life. It was as natural and necessary as breathing.
The same is true for you and me. If you wait until a crisis ambushes you to start a relationship with God, you’ve waited too long. Make spending time with God every day a “custom,” a discipline in your life.
3. Failure is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be final.
After Judas betrayed the Lord, his despair led him to hang himself and spend eternity separated from God. Peter’s denial of Christ was just as serious as Judas’ sin, but the difference is Peter refused to allow his failure to be the final act of his life. Instead, he turned, he repented, and found Christ’s forgiveness just as Jesus predicted He would in Luke 22:32.
And seven weeks later this cowardly disciple became a courageous evangelist, standing on the southern steps of the Temple on the Day of Pentecost and proclaiming to the crowd that had crucified Christ that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. And until the day he himself was crucified, Peter followed Christ faithfully.
At some point in your life you are going to fail and fail miserably. But you do have a choice about how to respond to that failure. You can choose to allow your failure to be the final word about your life and drive you away from God, or you can choose to confess your failure and allow that failure to drive you toward the God who loves you.