Gethsemane Sorrow and Faith

I come back so often to the Garden of Gethsemane. To the picture of Jesus, collapsed on the ground, distressed, troubled, heart aching with sorrow. To Jesus saying, “Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.” (Mark 14:36) Here we see Jesus, the God-man, the perfect picture of humanity, the one in complete unity with the Father, praying for another way, praying to be spared his suffering. 

When I read the words used to describe Jesus’ state of mind, I think of that feeling I get when I’m stressed and distressed—my stomach churning, making me feel like I could be sick, my heart rate elevated, pounding in my head, my mind unable to think of anything else, my palms sweaty, hands shaking, the tears prickling the corners of my eyes. 

When I hear his prayer, I recognize it, for it’s one I hear myself praying in this state: “God, please, can’t you do this another way? You can do anything you want. Does it really have to be this painful? You have the power to do anything—won’t you please remove ‘this cup’ from me?”

"Christ in the Garden at Gethsemane," Vasily Perov

"Christ in the Garden at Gethsemane," Vasily Perov

There is my Savior, in the Garden, caught in the struggle of sorrow and fear. He knew exactly why He must drink fully the bitter “cup” of suffering. He was going to it willingly, out of love. He even knew that his death wouldn’t be the end of the story—that He would be raised to new life. And still—he was distressed, he was troubled, he wept, he asked for another way. 

“Yet not what I will, but what You will.” The words Jesus fully embraced, and the ones I repeat to myself as I struggle to fully mean them. As Jesus prepares for the Cross, he holds his sorrowing heart in one hand and complete unreserved trust in the other. He shows us how they co-exist. He shows us what true faith looks like. He stares down the greatest suffering the world has ever known and still embraces obedience and trust in His Father, even while He feels He could die from sorrow. 

His faith did not negate his pain. His trust didn’t dull the ache of sorrow. His submission to the Father’s will didn’t eliminate his suffering—it enabled him to walk through it. 

When I think of Jesus in the Garden, I see a Savior who has become like us. I see a Savior in the tension between sorrow and faith. I see a Savior who offers a paradigm of suffering and death before we see victory.

I also see a Savior who teaches us how to become like him—to wrestle with our pain in prayer, to put our grief before the Father, to conclude our questions with the simple trust of “not what I will, but what You will.”