It was an exciting day. I loved to wrestle. We were at a Regional Tournament and I had pinned my first opponent. I was preparing for my next match against a wrestler from McFarland (I had no idea where that was, and he probably didn’t know where Thorp was 😊). I saw him walking over to the mat and my draw dropped. Coach asked me what was wrong, and I said: “Coach, look at that guy!” “You will do fine, you’re a good wrestler!” “But Coach, he is like a Greek god or like a sculpture, there is no fat anywhere and he has muscles on top of muscles!” “Get focused, Budzinski, you will do fine!” “You’re right Coach!” I was back 47 seconds later. To this day, I still don’t know what hit me!
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible, the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:32-36)
“It is troubling for some to imagine Jesus being afraid. He’s the Son of God, so how can he be afraid? But in his time on earth, while Jesus was the Son of God, he was also, the creeds tell us, fully human. To be human is to experience fear. He has the same defense mechanisms as we do, the same fundamental drive to stay alive. On that Thursday evening of Holy Week, after the supper, Jesus led the disciples to the Mount of Olives, to a place where the olives were pressed. There Jesus went to pray, knowing that at any moment Judas, his betrayer, would arrive with the temple guard to arrest him. The next morning, he would be tortured to death by the Roman soldiers.
But Jesus didn’t run, and he didn’t plan to fight. Instead, ‘he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible, the hour might pass from him.’ He had anticipated his death, from the beginning of his public ministry. Here as he wrestled with the path of suffering that lay before him, Jesus prayed, ‘Take this cup – this cup of pain and suffering – away from me!’ Yet, though it was God’s own Son who prayed this prayer, God did not take the cup away from Him. He strengthened Jesus, walked with him, no doubt agonized with and for him. But Jesus still endured the cross. Ultimately, God did deliver him from death at Easter, using the suffering of Jesus for his saving purposes.
In our lives, too, suffering comes. And we, like Jesus, pray for the cup to pass from us. God strengthens us, walks with us, agonizes with and for us, and ultimately delivers us. And, if we allow him, God will use our suffering, redemptively, in our lives. Jesus’s prayer – ‘Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will’ – is a pattern of prayer for such moments in our lives. We lay our petition before God, and we yield our will to God’s will.
Was it God’s will that Jesus be betrayed, arrested, humiliated, and then tortured to death? No! God doesn’t will cruelty and inhumanity. God’s will was to redeem and save the human race; to unveil on the cross the depth of humanity’s moral depravity; to reveal the greatness of God’s extravagant mercy; to demonstrate ‘love’s width and length, height and depth’ (Ephesians 3:18); and, coupled with the resurrection, to proclaim God’s decisive victory over evil, hate, sin, and death. The suffering and death of Christ were the means by which God hoped to save the world, a world that includes me and you.
Suffering will sometimes come in life. Our brains are designed to protect us from it – fear is the mechanism intended to lead us to fight or flee. Sometimes we can’t run from suffering or fight it but can only endure it. And when that is the case, we pray for God’s will to be done through it. He may not have willed the suffering, but he wills to use it redemptively – too force good to come from it.” (Adam Hamilton, Living Unafraid)
I guess I could have run that day, but I chose to fight (to wrestle). I probably prayed that I would make it back alive or at least endure it. Seriously though, the point that I would like to make is that I was afraid. Fear had taken control of me and I had lost that match before I even went on that mat. Do not let fear control you and do not be afraid. Jesus too was afraid, but he prayed for endurance and we should too. We can pray for it to pass also. I close with the prayer from Adam Hamilton:
Father, my suffering is nothing compared with that of your Son. But like him, I pray for the cup to pass from me. If I must endure it, please strengthen me and walk with me. Use the suffering I pass through for your good purposes. I trust that, ultimately, you will deliver me from evil. And may my prayer always be this: Not my will, but thy will be done. Amen.
God bless and God’s got this!