For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. -Hebrews 12:2b
Alesh la? علاش لا؟ Why not? ¿Por que no? It has been one of my favourite phrases in Arabic lessons lately.
Although language learning has been a joy, it has its challenges. I am fascinated by the details of every letter, word, and meaning, and how it all fits together—how the language mimics the dance of the culture itself. Why do we say ‘why not’ (emphasis on second word) to express something that we want to do (positively)? I suppose we rhetorically assume there is no reason why we would not want to do such enjoyable things. While asking the question in Arabic, I begin to question its meaning and whether I am counting the cost every time I ask that question.
“Why not?” I can imagine the Trinity having that discussion. “Look at those treasured creations of ours, and how lost they are. Why not go and save them? Yes, but there will be a cost…” To the point of sweating blood, Jesus struggled considering reasons ‘why not’ but ultimately gave into His Father’s will, shedding all His blood because of the joy set before Him. And the divine exchange was made. Our “why not” of sin, depression, hurt, enmity–all our reasons we have for not coming to God–are replaced with the resounding “Yes,” of acceptance in Christ.
A young girl in our art club wrote a prayer to Jesus this week after hearing the parable of the two men in the temple praying. These men prayed two very different “Why not?” prayers. The first man assumed there was no reason God would not accept him. The second man was aware the reasons why he was NOT enough—he was full of sin, and had nothing to lose. Why not come to Jesus? After writing the prayer, she was shy about Jesus’ name, and folded the paper over to hide it, all but the J. But she shared her need for forgiveness with the group, saying she cried at night whenever she asked. Then she shared about her mother’s illness and allowed me to pray for her healing in Jesus’ name. Fears flooded my thinking—why I should not be so bold in sharing the Word, in sharing prayer. But for some reason, the love of Christ that afternoon filled my eyes with tears after the girls had gone (and I don’t cry often). “Why not pray and share the Word?” I thought. These girls need this same love I enjoy in Christ.
This one girl’s decision has caused me to rethink all my doubts and fears about moving here. “Why not move to Europe to work with North Africans?” I blindly thought, before leaving my art teaching job, before relocating cities, before joining a new team.
Upon arrival, I’ve been counting the cost. Reality hits, and I’m no longer in the same role or have the same friends, and there is no guarantee it will be easy finding ways of interacting with these people. It is not that I have suffered to the point of shedding blood, or experience discouragement deeper than my Saviour can understand and commiserate. I am beginning to fathom the joy and longing reflected in Jesus’ eyes when I consider these treasured girls and their families. I pray for them every time I create a ‘response art piece’ after each art session (lately, I’ve been praying for them while cutting up napkins or pressing my palms into paper towels). There is so much emotion to process.
And so, I continue to count the cost of pursuit—the cost of disappointment and discouragement—though it is the Holy Spirit who does the pursuing. It is a constant battle. The word of God is powerful. He responded “Yes,” to the question “Why not?” And so can I. Thankfully, “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)
I praise the Lord for exchanging my reasons “not” for his “Yes” and “Why not?” in Christ Jesus’s sacrifice. Pray with me that our team and our community would learn to say “Yes” to Jesus, even counting the cost and seeing the joy that far outweighs all sin, doubt, fear, suffering, grief, and loss. The spiritual riches we enjoy in Christ are truly worth it.