Luke 22:43-44 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
Under some circumstances, prayer can be really hard work. Most of the time it is refreshing, releasing burdens completely to the Lord, but sometimes that’s not the case. It is significant that an angel was sent to strengthen the very human Jesus, but even so the stress level was so high as to cause rupture of the capillaries around His sweat glands. (I wonder what His blood pressure was?) Something can be very difficult and still be God’s very best for us. We don’t like even to think about that, much less accept it, but if, for example, Paul had not been stoned and then drug out of the city as dead, (Acts 14:19) he probably would not have had the taste of heaven that so impacted his ministry. (2 Corinthians 12:1-6) Jesus knew what was coming, and every cell in His body rebelled at the idea, but He also knew that was why He had been born into the world. (John 12:27) The conflict nearly did Him in before He ever got to the cross! However, as both our Example and our Redeemer, He pressed through to the victory, though there was indescribably suffering along the way. We are all too prone to “wimp out,” not accepting the help God offers so that we may endure, but rather ducking tail and running. Running can be appropriate in the case of temptation, (1 Corinthians 10:13) but not in the case of suffering. This is why suicide is a denial of faith that God can act redemptively in suffering. When we are focused on the pain of the moment we lose sight of the God who is above and beyond it all, and forget that He can and will use the most horrible things for good, if we will release them to Him. (Romans 8:28)
I remember when my mother was terminal with metastatic cancer. She was in Kentucky and I was in Japan so I didn’t see it first-hand, but we were told that her body was visibly bumpy from all the tumors, and those in her brain were robbing her of her memories. I wept and asked God to take her home, but it was some time before He did. After He did, though, I heard that the nurses in the terminal care facility talked about how she blessed them, smiling and being kind to them even in the middle of her own suffering. We worry our heads over “why bad things happen to good people,” writing books on the subject, even, when two facts cover the whole situation: we live in a fallen world, and God can and does use everything that is yielded to Him for good. I couldn’t count how many times I’ve quoted John 13:33. “In this world you will have trouble, but rejoice! I have overcome the world.” He said that just before He experienced today’s passage, but as it says in Hebrews, He “endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) We need to trust and follow Him.
Father, this isn’t a very “happy” Word, but it’s an important one. I have no idea what lies ahead of me, or of anyone, but I know that the final end result will be glorious for all who are in Christ Jesus. Help me be faithful in every detail, whether it seems easy or difficult, so that all of Your purposes for me may be fulfilled, on Your schedule and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!