That request, made by Jesus on the Mount of Olives the night before his crucifixion, was no serene or stoic prayer. Luke tells us Jesus prayed “in agony… and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.”
In his plea, Jesus confesses three things:
First, he has a Father to whom he can speak and make requests.
Second, he does not want to experience the suffering set before him. (We know this “cup” to be his death on the cross, suffering beneath his Father’s wrath.)
Third, his Father is sovereign over this suffering. “If you are willing” communicates that the Father can, if he desires, prevent Jesus from experiencing this suffering.
To this request, Jesus adds another, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” In this, Jesus communicates another important truth—it is right to yield to what the Father wills to be done. The Father is trustworthy, in even the darkest of hours.
In the face of excruciating suffering, being cursed and dying, Jesus reminds us that we have a Father who is simultaneously sovereign over suffering and worthy of our faith.
Like Jesus, we all are called to face suffering that we wish to avoid. It is not wrong to ask God to remove it. Jesus, who was sinless, asked the same. Nevertheless, we can face our hours of darkness with the same prayer as Jesus — “not my will, but yours, be done” — because we know that in God we have a good Father, one worthy of our trust.
We know that the Father is seeking our good, even in suffering, precisely because he decreed the suffering of his Son on our behalf. In Romans 8:31-32, Paul writes, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
This week’s song—When Sorrow Comes (song page)—meditates on the truth that God is not only in control of our suffering, but is actively working through it to do us good. May the Lord use it to stir your faith in him, even through painful providences.