The painting captivated me the moment I laid eyes on it that spring day over forty years ago. It was the central focus in the window of a small art gallery; a testimony without words ~ quiet, powerful and passionate. It was scripture on canvass; Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. There was something about this painting that called to my young heart, for in the artist’s brush strokes there emerged the love of my Savior.
Inspiration for this art can be found in Matthew 26:39: “Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (NIV)
With the unfolding of time, this scriptural portrait has been a sentinel of love and mercy in my home and a revelation of its depth when suffering has come. Presented with circumstances that seemed more than I could bear, I have known those hours of agonizing face down before God, pleading that my lesser “cup” would somehow be taken from me.
Suffering is a hard thing to wrap our thoughts around because it contends with our understanding of God’s love and mercy. Oh, we know about sin, we have an awareness of its impact, but we don’t come to real terms with how painful it’s influence until we suffer; whether from our own choices or that of another. That is when the scope of it has our full attention and we begin to comprehend a fraction of the price Jesus paid to conquer it.
The emotional agony of Gethsemane had to be as excruciating as the physical agony of Calvary. Think about it. Jesus knew before the first lash of the whip, or penetration of the nails, what he was facing. He knew the magnitude of sin that was about to be laid on Him, though He was sinless. He had come as the spotless sacrificial Lamb of God on our behalf and His love compelled Him to see His mission through ~ willingly. It is beyond amazing and it is also our model of courage.
Christ is the example of bearing the unbearable in the power of God. He, who overcame the worst suffering, promised to strengthen and sustain us when we feel depleted and fearful. 1 Peter 4:12-14 speaks of suffering with these words: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings; that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (NKJV)
To the believer in Jesus Christ, suffering has limited power and is never endured without the presence of the One who suffered for us. We have been promised that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. In Gethsemane, Jesus showed us how to face suffering with power and it hinged on a prayer “Father, not as I will, but as You will.” Though it led to a cross, it did not end there. It ripped the curtain between heaven and earth, it shook the ground and opened the grave and death was defeated as Christ stepped from the tomb.
Is there a cup the Lord is entrusting to you this hour? Hold on. There is hope beyond this temporary moment … His glory is on the way!