Can You Drink This Cup?


Drinking our cup is not simply adapting ourselves to a bad situation and trying to use it as well as we can. It's a hopeful, courageous, and self-confident way of living.

After a hard-fought battle with cancer, my husband died on March 10th. On a particularly dark day, a friend sent me a copy of Can You Drink This Cup? by Henri J.M. Nouwen. I had not reflected on the question that Jesus asked James and John, and I certainly had not considered the question for my own life. When Jesus asked the two disciples, "Can you drink this cup I am going to drink," their response was, "We can." We can seem so sure of ourselves when we know so little. But when that cup is filled with the unexpected—challenges in our leadership, hard-to-deal with people, divorce, illness, death, and circumstances beyond our imagination—we can be stripped of our illusions quickly.

Nouwen says: "Drinking our cup is not simply adapting ourselves to a bad situation and trying to use it as well as we can. Drinking our cup is a hopeful, courageous, and self-confident way of living. It is standing in the world with head erect, solidly rooted in the knowledge of who we are, facing the reality that surrounds us and responding to it from our hearts." Drinking the cup of life means that we understand whose we are and that our confidence is grounded in our Father. Jesus was the perfect model of this.

My heart was impacted as I read the chapter entitled "The Cup of Sorrow." Here the author relayed the sorrow of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus said, "My soul is sorrowful to the point of death." He knew what He was meant to do, but He asked if there was another way because He knew everything was possible with the Father. How did He accept this cup of sorrow, bearing the sin and suffering for the whole world? It was unimaginable and unbearable, yet Jesus said, "Not what I will, but what you will." His trust in the Father and His surrender to Him was complete.

As Jesus stood to face the soldiers, He confessed immediately that He was the One they had come to find. When Peter drew his sword and struck the high priest's servant, Jesus said, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" (John 18:11). As Jesus stood with courage in front of His enemies, He faced them without anguish and in the complete freedom of finding the joy of doing His Father's will. The cup of sorrow met the cup of joy!

Will you bring your cup of life to the cross with me, trusting our Father and surrendering like Jesus did? My prayer for us both is that our cup of sorrow will one day meet our cup of joy. As Nouwen says, "We can drink our cup of life to the bottom, and as we drink it we realize that the One who has called us "the Beloved," even before we were born, is filling it with everlasting life.

Written by Phyllis Hendry

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