Take This Cup

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”

-Luke 22:42

On a dark night in a garden, with no doubt a heaviness in the air so thick it clung to everything it touched, He sat, asking for that cup to be removed from His hands. Jesus grieved so openly, so vulnerably. He was so transparent in His request. Yet, in His asking, He emphasized “Not my will, but Yours.” 

I think of the night in the garden of Gethsemane often. I think of how He endured the worst of the worst, the greatest of agonies, for me. I think of how He prayed: honest, vulnerable, and eager to do the will of His Father. I want to be eager to do the will of my Father, to lay down my meager portion of grace-filled faith at His feet. But oh-so often His will feels impossible, and the cups He passes down seem to be overflowing with pain. It seems easier to hide away from it all. Because when I go to pray that this cup be removed, I am reminded of my Jesus in that garden, who wanted to honor His Father’s will above releasing that burden. But I am also reminded of the bloody sweat and the desperate tears He cried on that night.

“Jesus wept,” oh yes, He wept. He wept that we might weep, knowing that our Savior is not a stranger to affliction, not a man unacquainted with the depths of grief and sorrow. Because of this we have hope, that even when our cups seem heavy and our souls feel burdened, He stands beside us and helps us carry the load. 

Perhaps the goal is not to convince God through tear-filled pleas to remove our burdens. 
Perhaps the goal is to find God in those burdens.

“He wept that we might weep, knowing that our Savior is not a stranger to affliction, not a man unacquainted with the depths of grief and sorrow.”

There’s one moment in particular where I held my cup before the Lord. 
It was after having my feeding tube replaced in a torturous 45 minutes of being held down as they attempted over and over again to place it correctly. My nose and throat burned as though acid were filling it. My lungs ached as I sought small gasps of air. I could feel the tube as it looped in my throat. But being unable to speak, I couldn’t tell them that they were literally choking me to death. It was all I could do to tap the nurse’s arm and try with every fiber of my being to communicate “Please stop,” through my eyes. It was, to this day, one of the worst experiences of my life. 

After it was done, I remember so clearly thinking that I wanted to die. I just wanted the pain to stop; I just wanted the certainty of further pain to stop. This was the only time I truly wanted to give up. I thought God must have made a mistake in choosing this path for me because I was not in any way strong enough for this. But the Lord sustained me with unnatural grace that kept me from breaking down every day. 

“…there is little else like the time spent with our everlasting, always-loving, constantly- gracious, overwhelmingly-good God. “

But later that night, as I laid awake, unable to calm my body down enough to sleep, my mind thought of my upcoming surgery.
1,000+ miles away, 3 weeks away from home, 6-inch incision down the middle of my abdomen, and roughly a year-long recovery period.
Suddenly, I became overwhelmed. I looked out the window at the moon as if it held the answer.
My vision blurred with silver streaks of moonlight and tears as I begged God to make it end. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t be held down again. I couldn’t go through something that made me weaker. I couldn’t go through more pain. I couldn’t feel so out of control of the things happening to my body. I just wanted rest. I was too tired to do anything more. This had to be it. This had to be the end of the road. If I had had it my way, the earth would have opened up and swallowed me whole.

I prayed that night that God would take me in my sleep.

I felt hopeless. Terrified. My heart ached for my true home. I longed to be held in the arms of Jesus, in a place of no pain. I begged for that cup to be taken. But I’m not sure I followed up with a “not my will, but Yours,” because His will felt impossible. His way felt traumatic, and painful, and overwhelming.

Throughout my journey of MALS and the physical and emotional pain I endured as a result, I can only point to a handful of moments where I almost gave up, one of them being that moment. There were so many more moments of sustaining grace. A grace that latched onto me, refusing to let me fall into the deep, dark abyss of absolute despair. During that particular moment, on my bedroom floor, I was once again reminded of that grace. My body was emaciated–still recovering from my near-death experience with re-feeding syndrome. My mind overcome with freeze/flight senses. Dark canyons underneath my eyes soon overflowed with rivers of sorrow. My IV pole was next to me, holding the pump that I was connected to. As I sat there on the floor, surrounded by moonlight and heavy dread, I once again remembered Gethsemane. In that moment, I felt just a little bit less alone in knowing that He was right alongside me. Another portion of grace handed down, sustaining me from one moment to the next.

Maybe we’ve been so caught up in staring at our cups of affliction that we’ve missed the Savior sitting right next to us. With a scarred side and hands, He is there to catch our tears; He is there to hold our weak frames, and remind us that we are not alone in our suffering. We spend so much time waiting for dawn to break that we miss the scattered diamonds that light up our darkness here and now. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel known as grief, trauma, physical and emotional pain. It is no easy task to lay those before The Lord and whisper through our sobs, “Not my will, but Yours.” It is a call not easily answered, that we should hand over our ideas of what healing should look like in exchange for the healing He has for us. But it is a call worth fighting for, because there is little else like the time spent with our everlasting, always-loving, constantly-gracious, overwhelmingly-good God. 

There will be nights spent with a still-aching soul, but the same grace.  
The same sustaining melody of promise, a promise to lift us up above the ache, above the hurt, above the late nights spent asking why. 
And because of what He’s done, we can trust in what He’ll do. 
Because of who He is, we can trust in who we are in Him. 

I’m thankful He held onto me that night. 
I’m thankful He didn’t grant my wish to cease in existence. 
Because even though life was dark and scary, and it seemed as though I would never see light again, I made it. I survived. He sustained me.
And now, I’m surrounded by an army of people I love.
Now, I’m still around to write, to lead worship on Sundays, to spend time with people that make my soul glad. I’m here to hold my baby niece, be in my friend’s wedding, and trace the constellations from the shores of a beach with friends who are more like family. I’m here to eat homemade Oreo Blizzards, have midnight snowball fights, and snuggle my baby sister at night.
I’m still here to pass on my story, no matter how messy, no matter how uncomfortable–and goodness knows that the part of the story where I wanted to die is more than a little uncomfortable.
I’m here to string together words in an attempt to offer a little bit of hope to someone in that dark place tonight. To use the affliction I have endured to lift up others in theirs.

I don’t know what cup you’re holding before the Lord today. Maybe it is one of physical pain, a body that betrays you at every turn. Perhaps it is emotional, mental–I am well acquainted with the valleys of mental health struggles. Maybe it is a broken relationship, a wayward child, a job loss, an overwhelming workload, a heartbreak, grief. Maybe you’re just tired. Whatever it is, He is right there in it with you. Right alongside you in your ache. There to wrap His hands around yours and that cracked, overflowing cup. We do not carry them alone, we never have. And because of Him, because of what He did, because of the cup He drank, we never have to.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction”

-2 Corinthians 1:3-4

-AC.

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