What About Suffering?

In the final hours before Jesus is arrested, He goes with eleven of His twelve disciples to the Mount of Olives. As they arrive, Jesus leaves the eight to set camp and takes Peter, James, and John with Him a little further to find a place to pray.

Jesus says in Matthew 26:38 …“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”

The word translated sorrowful from Greek means “deeply grieved.”Having faith doesn’t nullify how we feel. Your emotions are a natural response to your environment or circumstances. Furthermore, having faith does not eliminate sorrow or even depression.

But having faith enables you to not surrender to your emotions and trust God for an outcome He has declared.

After instructing the disciples to watch with Him, he walks a little further and collapses to the ground in prayer. This begins a series of three prayers where He asks if it’s possible for this cup to pass all the while affirming His submission to the will of God.

The key to effective prayer is submission to God’s will.

Prayer is never a matter of “if” God can, but what is His will in the matter. Submission positions us to see what God is up to when His answers are different from ours.

Ironically, this location Jesus is in is known as Gethsemane, which is defined as “oil press.” And it’s in this moment that the gospel of John comments how, as Jesus is praying that He begins to sweat droplets of blood.

This is a rare but known condition called hematidrosis. This happens when the sweat glands in the forehead which are surrounded by tiny blood vessels, constrict, and then dilate to the point of rupture, causing blood to flow from the sweat glands. This can occur when someone is under a tremendous amount of stress.

The excruciating death He will die is so horrific that the prophet Isaiah said He would be “disfigured beyond that of any man” and “beyond human likeness,” Isaiah 52:14. The word “excruciating” literally means “from the cross.”

Jesus prays if it’s possible for this “cup to pass” from Him. In the Old Testament, the illustration of a cup is almost always associated with wrath or suffering.

The reality is that suffering is a part of this life. Suffering is a direct result of sin corrupting all that God created. Salvation does not prevent us from suffering, but when you belong to God, He redeems suffering in our life.

James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” because God is refining your faith.

“3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,” Romans 5:3-4

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

The pain you are asking God to subdue may be His process of preparing you for what is ahead and unveiling His glory in your life. Instead of asking God to remove our suffering, we need to ask God to give us the strength to endure.

And know that your pain does not have the final word, God does! So don’t resist the process. By avoiding the process, the destination remains a dream.

The gospels tell us how Jesus catches the disciples snoozing three times as He is languishing in prayer. He says to them “The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” What he means by the flesh is weak is that it is powerless to do what is right.

As long as we are in the flesh, there will be a tug of war between the will of our spirit and the desires of our flesh. There is no way we can overcome the desire of our flesh except by feeding our spirit. What we give time and attention to is going to win the battle.

If you’re feeling the unrelenting pull of the flesh towards sin, rebellion, and unrighteousness, you have to stop feeding the flesh and feed your spirit.

As Jesus felt the draw of His flesh to evade the suffering set before Him, He turned to prayer, and fed His spirit, and overcame the desire of His flesh. Prayer keeps us focused on and centered in God’s will.

If you find yourself dealing with uncomfortable circumstances, and you’ve prayed for God to alleviate them, but He hasn’t, this may indicate that He is using your suffering to refine you and transform you.

Remember this, suffering in the will of God will not destroy you but develop you. Therefore, pray for God to give you the strength to endure.

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