A friend recently posted this on Facebook from the devotional, Once-A-Day: Walk with Jesus in the NIV:
TO TAKE THE CUP AND DRINK IT
And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. ~ Luke 22:44 NIV
Aside from the crucifixion itself, Gethsemane was the darkest hour of Christ’s life. Friends misunderstood Him; armed soldiers came to arrest Him; one of His own followers betrayed Him; He agonized in the garden alone. And while three of His trusted disciples slept, He went to His Father in prayer. Jonathan Edwards describes the prayer that showed the full extent of Jesus’ love.
WALK WITH JONATHAN EDWARDS
“When the dreadful cup was before Christ, He did not say ‘Why should I go to plunge myself into such torments for worthless, wretched worms that deserve to be hated by me?’
“ ‘Why should I who have been living from all eternity in the enjoyment of the Father’s love, cast myself into such a furnace for those who never can pay me for it?’
“ ‘Why should I yield myself to be crushed by the divine wrath for those who have no love for me, and are my enemies? They do not deserve any union with me, and never did, and never will.’
“Such, however, was not the language of Christ’s heart in these circumstances.
“On the contrary, He resolved even then, in the midst of His agony, to yield Himself up to the will of God, and to take the cup and drink it.”
WALK CLOSER TO GOD
A real battle was fought and won in the agony of Gethsemane.
If anyone had the right to sidestep undeserved suffering, Jesus had that right. Yet He prayed above all for God’s will to be done.
To die an undeserved death for undeserving men and women—no one can fully comprehend such love.
But any grateful heart can respond in praise and adoration. A heart, for example, like yours.
As I read this devotion for March 28 one line, in particular, grabbed my attention:
“A real battle was fought and won in the agony of Gethsemane.”
When tied together with Luke 22:24, “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”, it’s easy to recognize the battle referred to was internal and desperate.
The Garden of Gethsemane represents the intense struggle between the old man (a life driven by selfish desires) and the new man (a life committed to Christ). It’s the place where our most difficult battles are fought.
In all my losses I have never had a chance to petition the Lord for the cup to pass from me—to surrender to God’s will over mine. At least that’s the way I always looked at it. But I’ve found that’s not strictly true. While it’s true in regards to Cole, Bethany & Katie, it’s not true of Gracen.
I’ve made the trek to Gethsemane on more occasions than I’m comfortable with. I wish I could brag and say that I have always chosen—or been sanctified enough—to have not only surrendered myself to God’s will but to be able to actually speak those words aloud. To mean them in the depths of my being. But so far I remain “undercooked” (not sufficiently sanctified to make the choice Christ made in the midst of my own individual agonies).
I have wrestled mightily and I continue to do so as life, and Gracen’s progressive disease, force me forward. And if the purpose of allowing death and disease to consume me was designed to move me to the same plane of spirituality Jesus attained, in His humanity—NOT His Deity, then that goal is yet to be achieved.
Shudder . . .
Not yet achieved means I will probably cycle through many more agonizing garden visits.
I have found acceptance and resignation through trials but they are very different from surrender. They are more an acknowledgment of the inability to change things. In most cases, a bad attitude rides shotgun with surrender. After all, letting go, quitting and giving up are associated with losing and nobody wants to feel like, or be considered a loser by others.
But that simple phrase,”Thy will be done” carries a much fuller meaning than quitting the fight or giving up because the war appears to be lost.
“Thy will be done”, when spoken from the garden of Gethsemane, represents supernatural, courageous, and sacrificial surrender. It’s the ultimate form of trust. It’s intentionally dropping all your self-protective shields knowing that horrendous pain will follow.
“Let this cup pass” is a desperate plea to avoid pain. “Thy will be done” on the other hand, is willingly submitting to the inevitability of pain if God’s plans require it of you.
There are many good and faithful Christians who trust that if God allows their worst nightmare to come to pass—if He allows their hearts to be utterly shattered—He can and will gather all the broken pieces and reassemble them and, in His time, perform a work of redemption. Yet praying for God’s will over their own desperate desires eludes them.
Praying, “Thy will be done” is an active choice, not passive resignation. It’s a step beyond faith in God’s character, power, and faithfulness. It’s a step that requires that we resolve to move forward in spite of our fears (courage), in spite of the personal cost (sacrifice). And because we know God to be good and reliable, we consider it reasonable to believe He will keep His promises, therefore, our faith in Him allows us to surrender ourselves to His plans.
Thy will be done is:
- Dying to self – our wants, hopes, desires, dreams, expectations and the things and people we love.
- Choosing the cross, choosing the pain, just like Christ did.
- Knowing that we will feel forsaken, abandoned, broken and bruised. Lonely. Very, very lonely.
- Freely offered not grudgingly accepted.
- Intentionally laying down our very lives.
Out of the heart, the mouth speaks. . .
can you hear the whispered words?
“Thy will be done.”
And what is the heart if not the true essence of our identity?
Praying “Thy will be done” is an act of courageous, sacrificial, surrender but most importantly, it is supernatural in nature. It’s more than an act of the will. It requires the transformative work of the Holy Spirit within before those words can be spoken with complete sincerity. It’s the manifestation of fear overcome and faith solidified.
There are a lot of thy will be done’s offered in prayer out of obedience, resignation, acceptance, defeat, anger, and bitterness.
Giving up, not offering up.
It feels utterly shameful to the committed follower of Jesus Christ when they find themselves unable to speak those words in the direst of situations. They can’t say it because they are “undercooked”, so to speak. I know this truth all too well. . .
There I found myself at the side of the road, destruction all around me, knowing two of my three daughters were gone and one lay on the brink of death.
And I choked.
First, I didn’t know what was best for her with her already compromised health, but ultimately I didn’t want to let her go too. I didn’t pray at all. I guess you could say that by failing to pray I was letting God’s will play out, but, even if that’s true, I couldn’t willingly seek His will over mine.
There’s a big difference between submitting to God because you have no choice and submitting to God freely on a basis of trust.
Every believer is called to a life of progressive sanctification. If I accept Cole, Bethany & Katie’s deaths, if I am resigned to the relentless deterioration of Gracen’s nerves and muscles while simultaneously growing in and working out my faith, then the Holy Spirit is actively transforming me—but maybe not to the point of ultimate trust—yet.
Resignation and acceptance are stopping points on the path of progressive sanctification.
My previous blog posts make it clear that I trust God with my eternal future, to keep His promises and to be and behave as the Bible tells me He will. But right now, I still don’t fully trust Him with my heart. In this world, there are legitimate reasons to fear. Pain reinforces fear, and nowhere does God promise me a pain-free life. Instead, He promises me trials, suffering, persecution—and to be with me through it all.
While I can’t guarantee you that one day I will be able to pray, “Thy will be done” with absolute sincerity, I can pretty much guarantee that Gracen’s ARSACS will result in several opportunities for the Holy Spirit to continue to transform me—to greater degrees of sanctification.
One of these days I hope to find myself departing the garden of Gethsemane, bravely resolute to willingly offer sacrificial surrender in the face of my greatest fear. . . solely because of the Holy Spirit’s supernatural power at work within me. And when He extends the cup I have so desperately tried to avoid, I will take hold of it with quivering hands, and drink every last drop knowing two crowns await me.