“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:42
What happens when God doesn’t save you from suffering? What if in life you have always experienced suffering? Is that just the cup that you have to bear, the life that you just have to live? Does that then, make God any less good? After all that praying, all that crying, all that time spent hoping and believing, that bad thing still happens. Exactly the thing that you did not want to happen, happens. While I cannot tell you why this happens, I can tell you how Jesus himself dealt with a suffering, that you or I could never imagine having to bear.
The 7 verses before Jesus is arrested, there is a striking passage that goes deep into the heart of Jesus and how He felt about dying on the cross. He has a very human reaction to what God called Him to do, yet in that terror of the kind of suffering He was to face, He still prayed for God’s will to be done. From experience I can tell you that, that is a scary prayer to pray. Earlier this month I had to pray the same prayer, and while other times it has worked in my favor, sad to say I did end up loosing the things I wanted to keep. I remember being so reluctant to pray that prayer, but deep inside I knew it had to be done if I was truly wanting to be in God’s will.
In Luke 22:39-46, we see 4 ways we can go through the suffering in a way that is beneficial to us, as easy as it is to kick our feet up and throw a tantrum at God, what if we instead applied scripture to our difficult situations?
1. KEEP WATCH
The disciples had accompanied Jesus to Gethsemane where He was to pray, and when He left them, He specifically told them to “Pray that you will not give in to temptation” (v. 40). Now what temptation could there possible be in a garden, at the foot of a mountain, in the middle of the night? Temptation here is not lust, greed or a delicious, rich chocolate cake. It is the temptation to doubt who Jesus really was, who God himself was. See, Jesus knew that He was going to be arrested and hung on a cross to die. He also knew that this meant many of His followers, especially His disciples could fall into the trap of “Well, maybe He isn’t the Son of God after all”. Can you see yourself in that statement? I sure can. When things take a turn, our first thought is “Well maybe God isn’t good. Maybe His promises aren’t true.” The disciples had been told that He would rise again on the third day, yet in their grief they chose confusion over the truth.
When Jesus went back up to pray and came and found them a second time, He finds them asleep, “exhausted from grief”. I’m sure many of us know, exactly what this feels like, to have lost something and feel like you absolutely cannot go on, that you would rather just sleep instead of face reality. Combined with questions about who God is, and the grief of having to loose something close to us, can make us vulnerable to the lies and attacks of the enemy. We can either choose to believe that we’ve been deceived by God or that maybe there is a greater purpose in all this suffering. That is where the next step comes in.
Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. – 1 Corinthians 16:13
2. PRAY TO GOD
If you have ever watched the movie War Room, I so encourage you to do so because it describes the very essence of the power of prayer in our lives. Jesus must have been in so much grief, so much pain because He knew what was coming. Sometimes we too know what’s coming and it’s easy to sit in our anxiety, tapping our fingers on the table, breathing heavily and going through all the different possibilities in our head. But none, of that can give us the strength to face suffering, like prayer can. In Matthew 26: 36-44 it says “His soul was crushed with grief to the point of death”, His spirit was in agony and His sweat fell to the ground like blood. I can only imagine how hard that must have been.
But it also says “Then the angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently….” The more we pray, the more we are strengthened. Reading of the page it doesn’t sound so convincing, but when you actually, wholeheartedly look to the Lord and speak you heart to Him, He can and will give you strength. It even says that the Lord is closed to the broken hearted and he rescues people who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). How much strength is that? The God who created the entire universe, He is close to you in your suffering and wants to give you His strength. It’s easy to throw prayer out of the pram because you have started doubting God’s goodness in your situation, but even if you feel like God is not near ask Him to send support your way.
Prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan. ~ John Bunyan
3. SEEK SUPPORT
When one is weak, the other is strong. Jesus didn’t go alone to pray, He took His disciples with Him for support. We don’t have to go through suffering alone, and I’m afraid many of the metal health problems that are growing are due to the fact that many of us refuse to seek support. Whether that is because of saving face, family constraints or just plain shame. Whenever I have gone through something, God has always sent me people in my life that I can turn too, even though at times it can feel very lonely. Support isn’t their to take the pain away, although it might for a while. It is there to help you through it. Remember that Jesus is our greatest support. He went through so much suffering and probably knows exactly how you feel, plus you can reach out to Him at any time and He is constantly there.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. – Psalm 46:1
4.FOCUS ON PURPOSE
Every suffering, every pain has a purpose. I’ve come to learn this more than once in my life and live by it. God doesn’t waste anything, even if it feels like you have wondered off the path. He can use that too. In times of great pain, seek out purpose. Go into the depths of yourself, read scripture and talk to God constantly to dig out your purpose in life. God sent Jesus to take on the sin of the world. This was a mission only He could accomplish, so it makes sense that God didn’t take the cup of suffering away from Him. Imagine what would be the state of mankind if Jesus didn’t accomplish His purpose, however painful it was. We would have all been drowning in our sins, with no saving grace.
That is the same for our lives. I truly believe that each of us has a purpose, has a calling, that is specific to our talents, desires and experiences. Sometimes it takes suffering for us to seek it out and recognize it. There is something that only you can do, so don’t loose heart when you suffer because there is purpose in your pain. Instead of focusing on what is past, instead of focusing on the ugliness of pain, there is so much forward movement that happens when we choose instead to focus on what we can do from here on in. How many times have we heard it said “When I look back I can see why God did that, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for that”.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2