“Couldn’t you stay awake for one hour?”
I would’ve shaken the sleepy disciple’s shoulders until he woke up, but I’m not Jesus. Yet even as our Savior, the ultimate example of patience and love, asks Peter this question, his wording is loud with pain. (See Mark 14:37, NET)
Peter, James, and John were supposed to keep watch as Jesus prayed in the hours leading up to His arrest. Instead, seated in the dark garden, they fall asleep not once or twice, but three times.
The next hours and days will be the worst and greatest of the disciples’ lives. This sleepy band of men will be tempted, they will fail, they will grieve, they will huddle together in locked rooms, they will run to the tomb, they will see the risen Savior.
To prepare, a night of watchful prayer would do them good right about now, but they can’t keep their eyes open.
As easy as it is to judge them, in Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting, Kris reminds us Jesus has commanded us all to stay awake in no uncertain or abstract terms:
“And what I say I say to all: Stay awake.” Mark 13:37
Like the disciples in the garden and like you, I’m waiting for many things; for God to use the gift of writing He’s given me; for the Bible study I lead to make a difference; for emotional and spiritual breakthroughs for myself and others.
As I wait, I work, but the apparent lack of forward movement leaves me waiting in a dark garden full of twisted roots and mysteriously rustling leaves. Writing rejections pile up. As soon as the Bible study gains one attendee, another loses interest. Though I long for revivals, failures abound—in me and in others.
A night of watchful prayer would do me good right about now, but all I long to do is curl up in one of these inky alcoves. Quit writing. Cancel Bible study. Forget about seeking answers. Sleep.
Instead of looking for Jesus’s kingdom come, my eyes grow heavy because I’ve focused on goals I crafted myself. Praise, numbers, recognition, fortune, respect.
These things are easier to see than the advancement of an invisible, spiritual kingdom. They are easier to correlate to my everyday than the end of the world and the eternity to follow. They are easier to quantify than the spiritual snowball effect of influencing one who will influence another and on and on until someone I have never heard of—someone who might not even be born yet—is bowled over by God’s unstoppable love.
The beauty of Come, Lord Jesus is that it reminds us we have not been called to a life of focusing on easier things, which would lull us from our callings and to unfruitful sleep.
What are we really waiting for? Not our own dreams come true, but God’s.Tweet This
We must remain awake, faithful, focused, even when the temptation to hibernate presses in. Wakefulness requires a conscious effort to be present, even in our distraction and weariness. Advent invites us to hold on. We cannot afford to sleep through our lives. Stay awake, He urges. Pay attention. Be present. He is coming again.” (p. 20)
This—Jesus and his second coming—is what we’re truly waiting for. Because eternity is in the balance, Jesus does not call any of us to trivial work, though we cannot always know the impact or importance of the tasks before us.
For me, staying awake means I must write through rejections unless I’m directed to focus elsewhere. I must lead though only one or two attend. I must continue to grow closer to my Savior and seek those breakthroughs.
For all of us this Advent, staying awake will mean resisting the easy, sleep-inducing glitter of commercialism.Tweet This
It will mean rising in the night, running outside, and letting the white flurry of God’s mercy and goodness melt into our open mouths.
Long after we pack up our decorations and begin the new year (and the next and the next), staying awake will mean listening to our Savior’s call to persevere, even when we must wait indefinitely for the events we hope for.
Instead of depending on easy, visible results, let us keep watch for Jesus and His kingdom come. A night of watchful prayer would do us good right about now. Let us wait awake.
Merciful Father, pry my drooping eyes open and give them sight. May I not only wait awake, but may I wait awake and really see what you are doing around and through me expecting your return. Give me the perseverance to spend this dark season of night watchful in prayer with your Son. In His name I pray, AMEN.
Share Your Heart
What does waiting awake mean to you? Join the conversation in the comments.
Advent Book Club
During Advent, we’re reading Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting by Kris Camealy. Don’t have a copy? Grab one for yourself and a couple of friends here. (Use code: HOLIDAYBOOK to get $10 off a $25 purchase through Nov. 28.)
Week 1: Days 1-7
Week 2: Days 8-14
Week 3: Days 15-21
Week 4: Days 22-25