Certainly Gethsemane was a place of struggle for Jesus. But just what was He struggling with? Was it the weight of the world and its sin? Most definitely. But there was something else.
A careful and honest reading of the text shows that His struggle was also with the will of God.
"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me" (Mt. 26:39).
Couldn't there be another way? How many times in life have you asked God that same question? I have, countless times. Take comfort in the fact that Jesus did also.
For you and for me, Gethsemane is a place of coming to terms with the will of God. It is a place where we face God's will, head-on. At Gethsemane, we look honestly and clearly at what God has called us to do. We consider the call and we count the cost. And at Gethsemane we discover that any uncertainty about God's will is not in His mind. Rather it is in ours. Though we may try to change Him and His will in order to remove the stress, we soon find that His will is fixed and His purpose set.
We go into our Gethsemanes with a plea, hoping for a Plan B. But we go in looking through the wrong lens. We are missing the true colors. We eventually find that Gethsemane is not about changing the will of God to fit our lifestyle, whims, and wishes; it is about changing our minds, our expectations, our lifestyles, and our plans to fit His will.
Gethsemane is not the Cross. It is not the place where we die. Rather, it is the place where we are told we are going to die—die to self, that we might live for God; die to our ways, that we might live in His.
Gethsemane for Jesus was the place where He collected himself and set His face firmly in the direction of God's will. Like steel refined, Gethsemane provided Jesus (as it provides you and me) with a place to pour out His questions and concerns, and to cast all of His cares and anxieties upon a loving Heavenly Father. From Gethsemane, Jesus moved on firmly toward the cross with passion and resolve.
When you have a correct Easter I.D. you will no longer be stuck in the quagmire of questioning why God is allowing you to face various struggles. You will see that if Jesus was strengthened by the struggles He faced, so will you be. Oswald Chambers said it so well: "If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a number of [difficult] experiences that are not meant for you personally at all. They are designed to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what takes place in the lives of others."
Something happened in Jesus' soul at Gethsemane, something He wants us to experience as His followers. At Gethsemane He modeled for us what He wants us to learn to do, and do regularly: "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:7).
The point of the writers of the Gethsemane story is clear: If Jesus can bring His anguish, His stress, and His questions to the Father, then you can do the same. If following God's will involved struggle for Jesus, then you will struggle also at times. But you must remember to struggle toward God and not away from Him.
If you are in a personal Gethsemane, be encouraged. Just as it had a beginning, it too will have an end. And that timetable will depend upon you and your acceptance of the will of God. Remember, every Gethsemane leads to a resurrection, but not before it leads to a cross.
When you find your Easter I.D., you will know that in your struggle you are never alone. You'll see your life in the bright light of Christ's. For your Savior, Jesus, not only knows how to struggle for you, but He also struggles with you. The same Jesus who reigns, heals, and saves also wept. Take comfort. He is right by your side in each of life's struggles, pointing toward a coming resurrection.
The second part of this three-part series, "Crucified with Christ," will run in my next column at "Catch the Current."