Go with me to Gethsemane.

There are twisted olive trees with trunks bigger than you can wrap your arms around. Magical, mythical looking things with branches that reach out into the calmest shade of green. Sprinkles of plants and flowers can be found throughout. Then out past the roots begin a path covered in dust and stone stretching out between each section of trees, dividing them into their own rectangles.

To us today, the path is cut. Yet, imagine Jesus here all that time ago – accepting the reality of His own murder. He’s ‘overwhelmed with sorrow’ as He stops in the garden. He begins to pray to God. He asks that this fate be taken from Him. But He ends saying, ‘not as I will, but as You will’.

During His most vulnerable moments before His death, the disciples are sleeping. Not only is He trying to embrace the next horrific moments of His life – He’s doing it alone. His dearest friends cannot even stay awake to comfort Him. Jesus prayed His same prayer three times,

“Your will be done.”

I kept thinking of this scene listening to “Illuminate” by Zabbai. I envisioned Jesus sitting in this quiet garden with chaos gripping His chest. I thought of how He must have been so overtaken with the darkness of what He was going to do. I imagined how silent the response of God must have felt to Him in prayer and how everyone around seemed to peacefully find rest. He must have felt like He was stumbling without a path, with no light. Yet, He still trusted God with His life instead of Himself.

He needed God to illuminate His path. His actions rested and trusted in that fact. We know what happens, but we shouldn’t skip over the garden and the three days where everything was still.

God sends us nowhere without His Holy Spirit. He also sends us nowhere He hasn’t been. So, even in your own type of Gethsemane – He sits hidden around the broadness of the olive tree.

Listen to Zabbai Below:

“If I stumble if I fall
If I ever lose it all
When my back hits the wall please keep me standing
When I’ve cried until I’m numb
Whispering Your will be done
When my lights go out
I pray You
Illuminate, illuminate
Illuminate illuminate
I pray You illuminate”

This is the prayer that begins “Illuminate.” It’s striking, isn’t it? I hear: When I’ve lost everything when I can’t anymore – please keep me strong. I’ll still ask for Your will. Even when I’m gone, I’ll trust Your work isn’t done. I pray You will bring light to what I cannot see. I pray You bring light to the places where I am powerless. I pray You are the Light at the end. This prayer is studded with trust.

Let me digress for a moment, I want to take a second to talk about this song sonically. I usually stick to the lyrics because that’s what appeals to me, but the sound of this song is such a big part of its impact.

I’ll go over a few observations. Jhislani’s delivery is angelic and captures your attention and transports you to a place of reflection – it’s gorgeous. The producer on this track is TellingBeatzz. They helped Zabbai create something special with this song. I get lost in this beat. It draws you in, it’s welcoming, pensive. It makes you listen.

Okay back to the lyrics. In the first verse, the lyricists are caught between the fact that God is ever-present, yet so are the troubles of life. In the first section, they acknowledge God, yet lament His mystery,

“And knowing you’re closer than all of my breath
Why are you speaking in parables?”

Zabbai

God’s mystery can be such a point of contention in our places of sorrow. Why does He ask me to “count it all joy” when something terrible is happening? How can I be like those described in Hebrews who lived faithfully but did not receive their reward in their lifetime? How do we find rest in the truth that “outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly being renewed day by day”? These things require me to accept and trust an outcome I can’t see. They aren’t clear to me with my limited view, but I can keep walking by these words.

The lyricists continue explaining the endurance that has been tested in their lives and how this trial is more than they can face. They’re trying to finish the race, but it’s a lot to keep going.

“You say to, carry My shield and My sword
But I have no strength in my arms
But all the strength I was on
Was really mine wasn’t Yours
And I repent for that
I know You were sent for that but lately
I’ve been feeling like You come and You go
You’re there when I’m up, disappear when I’m low
Can I be honest cause when I’m in private
I feel like Your silent but listening close
Dang, I can’t take no more
I’m broken down I can’t break no more
Speak to me now, open Your mouth
I need a joy that’ll never run out
If I look anywhere else
Might as well save me from myself
And I can’t do it, I need You now and I’m not moving
So respond to me, as I sing to You”

God sends us into dark places sometimes, but He sends us with proper armor. However, so often as I’m suiting up I become so burdened by the shield and sword He’s given I can hardly stand. Like this verse says I have no strength in my arms because all the time I had God to protect me – I was working to protect myself instead. I love the layers behind that.

God gives us what we need to be bold and protected, but we can’t even use it because we’ve exhausted ourselves trying to do it ourselves with lesser things. (I’ve been using homemade larping gear when I could have gone through with impenetrable, Mandalorianesque armor.) I’ve chosen myself and in doing so, I’ve shouldered the damage God set out to protect me from. That’s heavy. I repent for that, too.

Next, the lyricists touch on experiencing God’s quietness. I truly think this is one of the most painful experiences. As someone who struggles in prayer, I identify with wrestling with God’s silence. But just as the lyrics say, He can be silent, but still listening close.

This is powerful. Often that silence can be hurtful, it can feel like God doesn’t care. Experiencing long seasons of it can feel very personal. Yet, God is not inflicting pain on us in the moments of quiet, He’s giving us space. He’s giving us space to grow in patience, trust, or He’s giving us relationships that can speak into our unknown, or He’s preparing and setting up all the paths and roads that lead us to His will. He’s listening still. Silence is not a lack of presence, it is a gentle void waiting to be filled with the gifts of His hand.

Zabbai

The second verse presses into God being there in the midst of hardship. It explains that maybe if we had full knowledge we’d give God more credit in how he provides for our needs, and how despite the ways we misuse our relationship with Him, He’s faithful.

“I’ll take the risk
Either I’ll trust my eyes or trust my
Maker’s lips
I’ll take the risk
Either I’ll receive you, or receive Satan’s gifts
I’ll take the risk
Either I’ll trust in You or trust what they suggest
Lies gon’ tell me God ain’t moving
Cause I’m not His favorite yet
No that ain’t it either
Right in middle of doubt and believing
Stuck in between to be still or be screaming
You hung on the cross but wasn’t complaining
I don’t understand
How is this part of Your plan
You tell the ocean to never pass over the sand
Everything fits in Your hand
So where do I go from here”

Being a Christian is a risk, and I appreciate the honesty in this verse to recognize that. Yes, we lean on faith and faith is an assurance of things unseen, but practically speaking faith involves the risk of something being false or falling short. There are two choices when we chisel it down: pick ourselves, or pick Christ. One is easier, one seeks to make us feel good, one is what the world encourages us to seek after. The risk of denying this choice is choosing what often requires more work, picking the heartbreak, and giving God control to slowly reveal to us our next steps. Living like that is a risk. It’s the best risk you can take.

I feel so strongly the lines, “Stuck in the middle of doubt and believing, Stuck in between to be still or be screaming.” It is a fight to believe. It’s a fight to year after year pursue something you can’t hold or see. It’s a fight to deconstruct all the analytical circles your mind goes through trying to fit something cosmic within the confines of your brain. It’s a fight to reject Satan and his subtle but
dangerous advances. It’s a fight, and I think it’s important to call it that.

Having this perspective doesn’t mean God isn’t true. It means that He is the truth. The truth is never easy. It hurts, it’s messy, and it makes us accountable. I appreciate being able to identify with that fight within these lyrics. Perhaps God has granted you strength in this area, maybe you haven’t reached this season, or maybe you are like me and you feel like sitting in the middle of these polarizing thoughts is the place where your faith resides most. There is a way to battle it out and still call God mighty – this song is an example.

Do you find yourself in a type of Gethsemane? Do these lyrics stir up the stagnant part of your spirt?

Do you desire God to be the Light you chase, but feel like you walked so long without so much as a path that the idea of shadows vanishing from your life is a dream you’ve never dared to dream? I invite you to remember this prayer and make it your own:

“If I stumble if I fall
If I ever lose it all
When my back hits the wall please keep me standing
When I’ve cried until I’m numb
Whispering your will be done
When my lights go out
I pray you
Illuminate, illuminate”