There are times in our lives when we go through trials and suffering. It may be an illness. It may be family troubles because of our Christian faith. It may be problems in our ministry. And so we pray for relief.
Sometimes God says yes, and we see him work in a powerful way to transform our situation.
But sometimes, God says no. And we see that in this passage.
Jesus asks three times that the Father would take away the cross from him. He says first,
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)
This was no calm, serene prayer. So troubled was he that he fell to the ground praying to the Father (Mark 14:35). So stressed was he that he sweated blood (Luke 22:44).
So often we think of Jesus as being perfectly calm and collected at all times. This was certainly not true at that moment.
God knew his feelings. God sympathized. God cared for and loved his Son. But God said no.
Knowing this, when Jesus started to pray again, he said,
My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done. (Matthew 26:42)
Still, I have to think that he continued to pray that God would provide another way.
But each time, God said no.
What can we get from this? I think there are several things.
There are people out there, Christian people, who claim that if you just have enough faith, God has to do what you ask.
But if we are going to claim that, then we have to say that Jesus didn’t have enough faith. We are going to condemn the Son of God for not having enough faith? I don’t think any rebuttal to that notion is needed.
The truth is that there are times when our will is not God’s will. God is not a genie that we should make his will bend to ours. Rather, we need to bend our will to his. And that’s exactly what Jesus did. Rather than insisting on his will, he conformed his will to the Father’s. We need to do the same.
And faced with his no, we need to do as Jesus did at the end of this story. Rise up, go, and do the Father’s will.
But when we make that decision, know that you are not alone. You don’t have to face your situation alone. Jesus didn’t. For in the midst of his struggle, in the midst of his agony in the garden, God sent an angel to comfort and strengthen him. And God will do the same for you.
I actually think we can say more than that. Through his Holy Spirit, God himself will comfort us. That in fact, is one of the names of the Holy Spirit: the Comforter (John 14:16 — KJV).
And as I mentioned in an earlier blog, Paul tells us in Romans 8 that when we are weak, he intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will. Because of that, we can have confidence that God will work out everything for our good (Romans 8:26-28).
So what do we do when God says no? Trust him. Trust that his way is better than your way. Trust that he will see you through whatever you’re going through. Then rise up, go, and continue to do the things he has asked of you.