They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (NLT)
None of us can ever experience what Jesus went through in Gethsemane. But his experience and his prayer in that olive grove can teach us a thing or two about our own journey of faith.
First, the sinless and perfect Jesus is deeply troubled, distressed, crushed. That must mean that if we experience similar feelings, they are not sinful. It is right and proper to grieve. It is natural to be troubled. It is part of the human condition to feel crushed at times. No point beating ourselves over the head for feeling this way. Jesus did.
And then we note from Jesus’ prayer that it was both a request to be spared the anticipated suffering and a submission to the will of his Father. Jesus didn’t want to be crucified and told his Father that. A reminder we are free to express our heartfelt desires to God and not simply have our prayers be fatalistic assumptions that God will have his way come what may. It is natural and right to pray we avoid suffering. Faith is not masochism.
But Jesus didn’t just demand avoidance of suffering. He ultimately surrendered to God’s will. Having shared his heart and his desire to not suffer, he accepted that he was in his Father’s hands. And that meant suffering.
We are people who want to avoid pain and yet who experience pain. We are people who pray for our heart’s desire, and yet who do not always get our heart’s desire.