The Last Word

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Adoniram Judson was one of the first missionaries from America to be sent overseas. He entered what is now Brown University at the age of sixteen and graduated as valedictorian of his class at the age of nineteen. During his final year at Andover Theological Seminary, he dedicated himself to God and decided on a missionary career.

In 1812, just a few months after marrying his wife, Ann Hasseltine, he was sent to Burma, where he served as a Christian missionary for almost forty years.

img blg CUPOldCup1Ann and three of their children died while Adoniram was serving in Burma. When a fellow missionary, Sarah Boardman, lost her husband, Adoniram penned a letter to her in which he wrote: “You are now drinking the bitter cup whose dregs I am somewhat acquainted with. . . . I can assure you that months and months of heart-rending anguish are before you. . . . Yet take the bitter cup with both hands. You will soon learn a secret, that there is sweetness at the bottom.”

Some of the sweetness at the bottom of the cup surfaced years later when Sarah and Adoniram married and continued serving together in Burma.

I found such hope in that tender story. And I love the image of sweetness at the bottom of a bitter cup, waiting for the faithful to discover it.

But I love even more the image of the Savior filling a bitter cup with sweetness—transforming the entire cup from one that was bitter into one that testifies of His power and goodness. Creating a cup that overflows—every drop of it sweet. To read more, click below.

img blg CUPNoSolaceSome of the cups we are called on to drink in this life are not sweet. Are, in very fact, bitter beyond anything we could imagine. The Savior is uniquely qualified to know every drop of the most bitter cup. After all, He held the bitterest cup ever known as He pressed against the soil of Gethsemane in the most important prayer ever offered. 

The dregs of that cup were so excruciatingly bitter, according to the Gospel writer Matthew, that Jesus cried, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from  me” (Matthew 26:39).

But Jesus didn’t simply know how bitter the cup was. He also knew the work He had been sent to do—and He knew that finishing that work entailed draining every drop of that bitter cup. So, after the heartfelt plea hoping for release, the Savior told His Father, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). He drank the bitter cup. He did it for you. For me. For all of us who would ever live.

Isaiah promised that the Lord would give us “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3).

I love the promise of beauty for ashes. I’ve sorrowed in heaps of ashes, wondering if all I held dear was destined to destruction. I’ve also rejoiced as, much to my astonishment, the Savior has given me beauty for those ashes—taken them all on Himself and stretched out His hand to give me hope in their place.

Our cups pale in comparison to that of the Savior. But they are very real—and very bitter—to us. The cancer diagnosis. The earthquake or flood or tornado that wipes out a lifetime of effort. Infertility. The imploding of a marriage. A missionary who dies in the field. Debt that threatens to overwhelm. A family member taken without warning. The loss of a job. Betrayal. Pain. Hopelessness and helplessness.

img blg CUPWheelchairGraveIn our darkest moments, we might understandably cry out to our Father as the Savior did, pleading for Him to take the cup from us. Supplicating Him to spare us the anguish.

Sometimes He does exactly that. On those occasions, we are left weak and breathless from an intervening miracle that sets us on our feet again, our faces to the warmth of the Light.

But probably more often, His is a more measured response, designed in accordance with His will for us. He who knows the beginning from the end knows exactly what will move us more surely toward an end in His presence. And more often than we would like to acknowledge, that process involves a bitter cup. A cup He won’t always remove. But a cup that He will give us strength to drink. A cup He will eventually fill to overflowing with sweet.

When the bitter cup is yours, remember the promise. He will give us beauty for ashes—on His terms, according to His timing, always with our greatest good in mind. He will fill with sweet the bitter cup in the way most measured to bring you to Him.

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