“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.
Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Matthew 26:39 (NIV)
Anyone who has been a parent will know what I mean when I speak of the battle of the wills. Children, it seems, are born with some degree of defiance programmed into their psyche.
Even as adults we make decisions that sometimes oppose the will of our spouse, our neighbour, or even at times our medical advisor. We may not wish to move house and so argue with our spouse about that. Our neighbour may wish to put up a privacy fence along the property line and we choose a chain link fence instead. The doctor may tell us to stop smoking or get regular exercise and we ignore the good advice.
So in many ways we use our wills even as adults to go contrary to the wills of others. We cannot look at children and think they are the only stubborn ones in the world.
Yet, at times in life, circumstances can overcome our wills. For example we may choose to live a healthy and sensible lifestyle but cancer or some other serious disease invades our situation. A well known Canadian man who lived a very healthy lifestyle and founded an exercise gym for the public to use died suddenly at age 60 of a heart attack.
Yes, our wills are not sovereign in life. Situations come along that may win the war of the will with us and we succumb to its superior strength. It is the same in our relationship or lack of such with our Creator. God gives us a lot of slack in various areas of life. For example we all freely choose to ignore Him as we start to grow up.
However, His will is always there, often behind the scenes, and His will ultimately prevails over ours. As we see Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in the shadow of the cross He was greatly distressed about the horrors that would descend upon Him in a few hours. As He prayed for strength He expressed His revulsion at the suffering ahead. His words in our verse are not a hint of rebellion against God, rather a way to indicate how completely He loathed the anguish ahead.
So when Jesus “asked” for the cup of suffering to pass and He not drink it, He was seeking to express how dreadful the whole matter seemed at that moment. Jesus sought the will of the Father as He prayed with “loud cries and tears” Hebrews 5:7 (NIV). He touched the Father’s heart by addressing Him as “My Father”. Jesus’ true humanity is seen in this request. However, He immediately follows the request with the statement that He desired the Father’s will rather than His to be done.
Perhaps you are praying today and asking your Father in heaven for some relief from the sorrow that burdens you or a change in the situation that has brought grief. That is an acceptable prayer to offer.
Remember that it says Jesus was heard in this prayer and an angel came and strengthened Him. (Luke 22:43). The statement of Jesus was not a word of resignation but of faith. You too may find that the Lord meets you with strength and courage to submit to His will and triumph just as Jesus did in Gethsemane.