Submission in Trial
George Everard, 1868
"Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given Me?" John 18:11
It is very instructive to compare these words of our Lord with those spoken by Him in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. There, bowed down beneath the weight of our transgressions, His soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death. There He prayed fervently, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will."
Twice again does He pray the same words yet not altogether the same. There is a shade of difference, though still the human will of our Lord shrinks from that which lies before Him. Now it is, "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, may Your will be done."
But now after the thrice-offered prayer, after the strength imparted by the angel, the victory is fully won. There is no more shrinking. The human will of the Son is lost in the Divine will of the Father.
Then come the crowd of soldiers and servants, with swords and staves, lanterns and torches. Jesus rebukes the rashness of Peter in drawing the sword, and declares His perfect willingness to suffer and to die: "Put up your sword into the sheath! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given Me?"
O let us consider the CONTENTS of that cup of which Jesus drank.
Every bitter ingredient was there, none was lacking. What bodily suffering and extreme weariness through pain did He endure! No limb of His sacred body, but had a share in the agony He bore.
Beyond this, what soul grief did He endure in the base ingratitude of a people whose every need and sorrow He had been ready to relieve!
What desolation of heart did He experience through . . .
the treachery of Judas,
the denial of Peter,
the desertion of the rest of His disciples!
What pangs must have rent His spirit when upon the cross He heard the reproaches that were cast upon Him!
What darkness of soul did He pass through when He uttered the cry, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
Who can express, who can fathom one of these depths of untold woe?
Let us consider also, the OBJECT of our Lord in drinking this cup.
The object of our Lord in drinking this cup, was that He might empty at one draught that cup of wrath, which His people must forever have been drinking and yet never have exhausted!
O blessed Jesus, in Your wondrous love You have taken the poison that You may give to me the cup of salvation. You have drained to the very dregs that cup in which was the curse due to my sin that You may give to me the cup of blessing, of peace, of everlasting life.
To my lips, You now hold the cup which is full to the brim of everlasting consolation! You give me Your Word so rich in promise and in hope. You grant to me in overflowing abundance pardoning mercy which can cover all my iniquity. You hold out to me the assurance that my strength shall be equal to my day, and that Your Spirit shall prepare me for Your presence in glory. Oh, how can I thank You enough for all this love of Yours!
And now what is my cup of sorrow or suffering compared to Yours? You, the sinless one for me did drink the cup which was all bitterness. I, the sinful one, have my cup of trial mingled with so many mercies, so many alleviations. If I have pain and weariness to bear have I not seasons of rest? have I not the aid of medicine, and skillful advice to promote my recovery or to lessen my sufferings? Have I not those about me who love to minister to my needs? Have I not kind affection to be as a gleam of sunshine in the darkness? Or at least have I not His presence with me, who has promised that He will be my Eternal refuge, and underneath shall be His everlasting arms? And is it not a Father's hand that gives the cup? And may I not thus know that love has prepared it? "Whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives."
And surely I need it, as the draught of healing to cure the deep-rooted maladies of my soul.
Is there no pride in me that needs to be subdued that I may be as a little child, content to be led by a Father's hand?
Is there not too much readiness to hearken to the siren voice of man's praise, that needs to be cast out that I may seek only the praise that comes from above?
Is there not too much carefulness as to this world's business and duties, that requires so to be brought under control, that I may realize continually that one thing is needful to walk with God and to seek first His kingdom and righteousness?
Is there not too frequent forgetfulness of the Best Friend that must be so overcome that Jesus must be all my salvation and all my desire? And what will teach me these precious lessons if it is not the days of adversity and trial? These cheerless and desolate days, these hours of bitter tears come not by chance but are sent to us in divine faithfulness and love.
They come to lay us lowly, and humbled in the dust,
All self-deception swept away, all creature-hope and trust;
Our helplessness, our vileness, our guiltiness to own,
And flee for hope and refuge to Christ, and Christ alone!
They come to draw us nearer to our Father and our Lord,
More earnestly to seek His face, to listen to His Word,
And to feel, if now around us a desert land we see,
Without the star of promise, what would its darkness be!
We might take a very homely illustration of God's purpose in chastening His people. In agricultural districts it is very common after harvest to hear the burring sound of the threshing machine, and in passing by the allotment or cottage garden, to see the corn spread out and the laborer beating out the grain.
Remember that affliction is God's flail it is God's threshing season. The very word "tribulation" has this meaning. It is taken from a word signifying the wagon or roller with which the ancients beat out their corn.
But does the gardener hate his corn, or wish to destroy it because he violently inflicts upon it blow after blow, or cast it into the machine where the beaters act upon it with like effect? Nothing of the kind. It is very precious in his eyes. It is that for which he has toiled many an hour. Then why does he thus act? It is to separate the precious from the vile; it is to cleanse the grain from all that encumbers it.
And is it not thus in God's dealings with His precious wheat? He will not by chastening inflict injury, but benefit. He does not hate His people because He chastises them for they are very dear to Him. He declares that those whom He loves, He rebukes and chastens. And all the fruit of His work upon them is . . .
to take away their sin,
to purify them from all that is evil, and
to make them fit for the heavenly garner.
And it is well for us to bear in mind that in no way is God more glorified, and the souls of others benefitted than by the patient endurance of His people in trial.
Perhaps you may be ready to repine at a period of apparent uselessness being allotted to you. Were you able actively to labor in the vineyard, you may imagine that you might do far more good than it is possible for you to do now. You may say to yourself, "The cup of suffering which Christ drank brought great blessings to the world but what good to any one can come about through my affliction?" Now it is certain that we can judge very little indeed about a matter like this. God's ways are not our ways. By the most likely means, a very small amount of good may be effected while by means we have never thought of, He may bring great glory to Himself and good to man.
An aged clergyman was accustomed for many years to visit a long confirmed invalid, who patiently bore up under great suffering. "I wonder why God keeps me here," she would say. "I can do no good to anyone."
"Yes, God has a work for you to do."
"Impossible! I never see any one."
"Yes, God uses the weakest instrument, and you may be able to teach me."
"Well, then," she replied, "I am willing to suffer as long as God pleases." And so it happened as her pastor had said. During the long illness which preceded his death, he remarked that he knew not how he could have borne the pain, had it not been for the remembrance of the meekness and submission which that Christian woman had displayed.
A similar example might be found in the account that has been given of the farewell counsels of an eminent French pastor. During his last illness he assembled a few Christian people in his chamber from Sunday to Sunday, and, in the midst of extreme weakness and suffering, gave them the fruits of his own ripened experience. Perhaps never during his whole ministry did his words make so deep an impression, and "The Farewells of Adolphe Monod" have likewise brought a message of consolation to many a one in our own land.
Besides, however, the way in which God often employs the weakness and suffering of His servants to effect a work for His name it is to be remembered also that He often uses it as a preparation, that when the season of affliction has passed, His servant may be able the better to teach and comfort others.
Lessons practically learned for the first time in the day of sorrow may be intended for the benefit not only of the sufferer himself, but also for very many besides in future years. It is not too much to say that the ministry which has often been most richly blessed, has received its tone and character from trials which seemed at the time almost unbearable.
Hence, reader, in every trying hour strive in the strength of Jesus, in the might of His Spirit; meekly to bow beneath your Father's hand, yes, even to kiss the hand that presents the bitter cup.
Even if bending over the grave that contains the earthly tabernacle of the one dearest to you in the world,
even though mourning the loss of all that makes life pleasant or desirable to you,
even though passing through weeks or months of agonizing pain,
even though all your plans have failed, all your prospects blighted, all you once possessed lost beyond recovery yet even then,
think of Calvary;
think of the merciful love of your Father;
think of the gracious purpose of these afflictions;
think of that pearl of great price, of which none can rob you;
think of that Home where an hour with your God will make up for it all.
Then try, try again and again, from your heart to utter the words, "May Your will be done!" The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?"
Whatever Your sovereign will denies,
I calmly would resign;
For You are good, and just, and wise:
O bend my will to Thine.
Whatever Your sacred will ordains,
O give me strength to bear;
Still let me know my Father reigns,
And trust a Father's care.