How frightening it is for us to give up control, living by faith instead of by our own wits! But that was God’s desire for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is praying, realizing that he might soon be seized by guards, arrested, subjected to false accusations and an unjust trial, torture and death. He may have also been feeling the heavy weight of rejection, sin and wickedness in the world that was about to overtake him in spite all of his teaching, miracles and good works.
He said to his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He then prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:38-39)
Jesus reveals to us the fullness of his humanity by asking the Father three times to take this cup of anguish and free him from this hour. But then he yields to the will of the Father, giving up control and submitting to his sorrow, anxiety, rejection and every imaginable human emotion of fear and doubt. It was God’s desire for Jesus to accept the cup in order to carry out God’s saving plan for human kind. Jesus was free to reject or accept the cup. Fortunately for us and the history of the world, he accepted it.
Like Jesus, we too, may be given cups that are bitter to drink. Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with an advanced and aggressive form of prostate cancer that had spread outside the prostate to at least one lymph node. It was a cup filled with the initial shock of the diagnosis, a gauntlet of consultations, evaluations of the various treatment options and their varied side effects, the actual surgery, the recovery process and follow-up hormone therapy for three and half years.
The Gospel of Luke reports that after Jesus submitted to God’s will, an angel appeared to him and strengthened him. I too, was attended by angels. My wife was always at my side. Two daughters, who lived in another state, left their families to spend successive weekends with me. Another daughter encouraged me with scripture (Sirach 38:1-13). A good friend who had cancer that made it difficult for him to even walk, showed up in a snow storm to pray with me in the pre-op, leading the attending nurses and surgeons in prayer for what they were about to do. My fellow board members of Christians in Commerce prayed and fasted for 24 hours for me at a meeting just prior to my surgery. Through God’s grace and the expertise he has given my doctors, my PSA has been undetectable for over seven years.
In looking back, I believe that I have rarely experienced God’s love more than during this time through the prayer and actions of my wife, children, extended family, friends from Christians in Commerce, the People of Praise, St. Mark’s Catholic Church and former colleagues from Mobil Corporation.
It is not unusual for most of us to want to be in control, managing and manipulating the events of our lives. However, God does not always give us a road map to our journey of life. If he did, we would likely try to take control, and mess it up. Jesus gives us a better example – seeking the Father’s will in all things.