Any idea that God was obligated to respond positively to our prayers must be immediately dismissed on account of our sinfulness. Any idea that God would be obligated to respond positively to our prayers if only we were more holy must likewise be immediately dismissed after considering the cross. For in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus (the most holy man ever to walk the face of the earth) asked God, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Yet God denied that request. Jesus didn’t just pray that once, either. He prayed it three times, and He prayed it earnestly and ferverently. Luke records, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
One must think then; that if God the Son asked, and then repeated so, and prayed so earnestly and in such great anguish of soul that He literally sweat blood about it – that God the Father would surely grant that request. Especially because it was a request to avoid extreme suffering, and a request made by the Son. But he did not. It was in fact as Isaiah had foretold, “it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.”
Of course we have the New Testament’s testimony of the fruitfulness of that effort. And that testimony lends us the necessary courage to read the harsh reality of Christ’s suffering without feeling like God is the most uncaring of Fathers.
Speaking on the day of Pentacost, Peter noted that Christ was “not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.” Instead, “God has raised this Jesus to life…Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” The whole of the rest of Scripture details how Jesus’ suffering bought untold numbers of redeemed souls for God’s great glory. His suffering gives every Christ-follower eternal life and purpose. It gives us the peace, presence and power to act as God’s people. Moreover, it set in place a chain of events that will ultimately result in the restoration of all things. So was it all worth it? All that sweat and anguish, all that pain and suffering? Of course it was worth it. Was it easy? Absolutely not. Not at all.
This is truth; God’s will is always to our ultimate great benefit, but it is not always to our immediate comfort. To pray as Jesus instructed us, “your will be done” is therefore not an easy thing to do, because it risks discomfort – even great discomfort leading to death. Yet Christ asked us to pray it all the same, just as He prayed it all the same. Even knowing that the Father had sent Him to that precise point in time for the very purpose of suffering and dying the cruelest of deaths. Still, Christ prayed, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Not because He was unaware of what lay ahead, but because he was keenly aware of it. His was a total surrender to God and to God’s purposes.
Ours should be too. For Jesus, looking forward to the suffering before Him, also looked up to the Father He knew so well. He knew that the Father loved Him. He knew how much the Father loved Him. So He chose – in spite of what must have been the greatest anxiety – to trust His Father implicitly. He chose surrender to the Father’s will, knowing that the Father would not abandon Him forever. Even if it felt exactly like that.
Jesus could do that because He knew this thing we can and should all know; God is good – all the time. And God, who is good, cannot be out-given. All we offer to Him He blesses and hands back to our tremendous and overwhelming joy. Even and perhaps especially, our suffering for His glory. Amen.
Grace enables us to suffer without complaining, and even to use that suffering for God’s glory.Warren Wiersbe
Praise God that our suffering as His followers is never in vain. He yet will redeem every dime spent for His honor and every tear shed in His service.