Henri Nouwen was a Dutch priest, professor, and world-renowned author of thirty-nine books that have sold over eight million copies. In Can You Drink the Cup, he focuses on the question Jesus asked his friends, James and John, in response to their mother asking Him to give them places of honor in His kingdom: “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”1
“When the moment to drink that cup came for Jesus, He said: ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death.’ His agony was so intense that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. James and John were there with Him but fell fast asleep, unable to stay awake with Him in His sorrow. In His immense loneliness, Jesus fell on His face and cried out: ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass by Me.’ Jesus didn’t throw the cup away in despair. No, He kept it in His hands, willing to drink it to the dregs.
“We need to remind each other that the cup of sorrow is also the cup of joy, that precisely what causes us sadness can become the fertile ground for gladness...we have to hold the cup in our hands and look carefully to see the joys hidden in our sorrows.
“We have to live our life, not someone else’s. We have to hold our own cup. We have to dare to say: ‘This is my life, the life that is given to me, and it is this life that I have to live as well as I can.”
Nouwen’s book was a powerful catalyst in Betty Walthour Skinner’s journey to deep acceptance and finally to joy. These are her words from the book, The Hidden Life Awakened:
“It is to Christ, the Lover of our wounded heart, we address our flaming yes. The yes of our hearts is our full response to the faithfulness at the heart of all things. In saying this yes, we release all our conditions and fears into the arms of Love. If we will embrace our suffering, whether mental or bodily, seeing it as the grace of sharing in the suffering of our Beloved, helping to bear His cross, telling Him of our love for Him over and over, we will find joy, and our fearsome journey will finally open onto a great, wide plateau of love—a safe place—that abiding place within God.
“I had to learn to trust the darkness of new birth and the darkness of death’s desolation. I didn’t always see it, but new life was being birthed; it was underneath the darkness and the pain.
“This process can be severe but it is also merciful because it brings us finally to a place of deep love and acceptance. Our pain and our cross can and will speak to the wounded hearts of others in God’s time and in His way. This is fertile suffering. Transformation happens if we are willing to walk the way of the cross.”