Hope in Our Darkest Places

He found himself in The Garden of Gethsemane.

It is the night before He is going to be crucified. The cross awaits, His torture and punishment for crimes He did not commit. It will be His act of love, carried out through His obedience, even to death. Yet, this night, Jesus wants another way. And He pleads to the Father.

Do you know this place? It is the place where it’s always nighttime and you’re terrified, where the darkness of lies and hopelessness reside. Your soul mourns, “I am overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”

Have you been to Gethsemane?

Maybe it’s an ominous task that lay ahead or possibly a road that you must walk, yet you have no idea why or how. It could be a diagnosis. Maybe it’s the loss of a loved one. Or, it could be rock bottom. This is Gethsemane.

In your anguish, you cry out, “Abba! Father! Take this cup from me.” But like Jesus, once your prayers cease, you return to find your friends sleeping and you’re still holding the cup.

Have you been there?

As I read this account in the Book of Mark, it doesn’t fit. Why did they call it a garden? Gardens are places where things grow, where fruit is born. At first glance, Gethsemane doesn’t seem like that kind of garden at all, does it?

Well, sometimes bearing fruit isn’t as glamorous as it may seem.

Big Al and Lil Cal

Big Al and Lil Cal

My uncle, Allen Sheneman, is a big man. Standing six feet, six inches tall he’s a rather ominous looking fellow. But don’t let his gruff exterior fool you, he has the heart of a teddy bear. And now, he has the kidney of a woman.

Let me explain.

A few years ago, Al was diagnosed with diabetes. In his case, the condition became severe. Last year, he learned that his kidney was only operating at twenty percent of its capacity. The threat of renal failure was a reality and he was to be placed on the kidney transplant list.

Rejected. His body wasn’t in good enough physical shape to even qualify for the list, much less for his name to be called. Allen found himself in Gethsemane. He was tormented, troubled, and depressed. Dialysis was the only option to keep him alive and he hated it. The thought of it made him sick to his stomach and angry.

So he cried out from Gethsemane. And God answered.

It was in that place where God called to him. Through people and circumstances, Al felt confident that he would receive the transplant he needed.

In response, Al made a decision – a decision to rise. With faith that says, “Not my will, but yours be done,” he resolved to get in shape, pass a heart stress test, and get qualified for that list. He would leave the rest up to the Lord. He was astounded at what happened. Fifteen different people volunteered themselves, a living sacrifice of their own internal organ. But, these acts of kindness were met with continued anguish: fifteen rejections.

Still, he sat in Gethsemane responding, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Little did he know that she was in Gethsemane as well.

Although they didn’t know each other, Carrie Anne Lyons attended the same church that Al and his wife, Debbie, visited in December of 2012. It was at that service where Al received his confirmation above. In that very same sanctuary, Carrie Ann felt God say, “I want you to donate your kidney.” Fearing this calling, Carrie Ann fought it. She was in Gethsemane. “God, take this cup from me,” she cried. But she felt its truth in her soul. In a story only the Lord could orchestrate, she learned of Al’s need and knew this is what she was supposed to do. Her response was obedience.

About that same time, Al received the news he’d been waiting on; He was approved for the transplant.

Rise. The time has come.

Due to the uncharacteristic scenario, the doctors tried to fight the transplant suggesting that Carrie Ann and Al’s size was incompatible; that didn’t stop either of them. With a confidence form above, they continued. The two underwent separate operations, a selfless act of life-giving obedience from Carrie Ann; redemption, hope, and answered prayers for Al.

Rise. The time has come.

Al and Carrie Ann ready for surgery

Al and Carrie Ann ready for surgery


It is Jesus’ response from Gethsemane where we find hope and direction:

“Enough! The hour has come. Rise! Let us go.” Mark 14:41-42

Staring death itself in the face, Jesus rises from his knees and hands himself over–an act of obedience.

You see, bearing fruit is the result of obedience. And obedience, oftentimes, looks a lot like sacrifice.

For my family and my uncle, I am forever grateful for Carrie Ann and her willingness to truly empty herself. A woman our family did not know a mere six months ago, will now be forever tied to our legacy. Her kidney is keeping my uncle alive. Her story is beautifully woven into the tapestry of ours, a story that sings of the riches of God’s goodness and mercy, even in Gethsemane.

Here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be a kidney, but have you considered what God is asking of you?

His call is gentle, so we must be intent on listening.

“Follow me,” He says.

The hope we have in our darkest places is that Jesus didn’t stay in Gethsemane. We don’t have to either. It’s His words that empower us and give us direction, even in our despair, “Rise! The time has come.”

A time will come when God asks us to choose. Will we rise?

In our own obedience, we have the power to overcome Gethsemane. And beautifully, our obedience can help others triumph Gethsemane as well.

Carrie Ann and Al are living proof.


Question: What is your Gethsemane?

Encouragement: Please join me in celebrating Al and Carrie Ann below.


It is stories like these that have helped me understand true richness. Stories like these have helped me redefine the meaning of rich. Join the Live Richly Community and share your stories of richness with us.

Thanks for stopping by.


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16 Responses to Hope in Our Darkest Places

  1. Jenny June 30, 2014 at 9:23 am #

    What a wonderful and encouraging story! Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Matt Ham June 30, 2014 at 10:26 am #

      Thanks for sharing Jenny!

  2. Kathy Brinkley Turner June 30, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    Hi Matt, I knew your Mom and Uncle when they lived in Wallace, when we were in elementary school. Through FB, we have re-connected and that’s how I found your blogs. I have prayed for Al and Carrie and I am so happy to read this story. I don’t know, there’s something special about your writings that speak to me. It’s like God knew I was searching, and he led me to your writings through your Mom. I am thankful for you and your family.

    • Matt Ham June 30, 2014 at 10:27 am #

      Your words and prayers are a blessing. Thank you Kathy.

  3. David Sheppard June 30, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    Matt, what an awesome story of God’s greatness. Know Big Al many years and looking forward to many more years of friendship here on this earth and beyond.

    • Matt Ham July 1, 2014 at 6:02 am #

      Amen David!

  4. Isabel Hundt July 1, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Such a beautiful testimonial. I admire her because I don’t know if I’d have followed that voice the way she did. To God be the Glory.

    • Matt Ham July 1, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

      Thank you Isabel! She was a true picture of obedience!

  5. Arlen Miller July 1, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    What a special story of hearing from God, responding in faith—simply love. Thanks so much for sharing the story, Mr. Matt. Wow, what a sacrifice. Very, very special.

    • Matt Ham July 1, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

      Arlen, her obedience is a testimony of God’s power to shine through us when we lay down our agenda. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Laura Robb July 4, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    Wow. It’s amazing how God provides, isn’t it? Praying for their recovery!

    • Matt Ham July 4, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

      Yes it is Laura! Thanks for the prayers.


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