“And [Jesus] said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet
not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36 ESV).
For more reasons than this blog can explain, this is a significant passage of Scripture. Here, Jesus
is in the final hours before the torture of the cross expressing this significant mindset. He,
knowing full-well that the cup he is asking to be removed could not be, willingly accepts God’s
will at the cost of his own life. This is a powerful example for us across a spectrum of aspects of
the Christian life. But the one I desire to highlight today is the significance of Jesus’ “willing
How did I come to consider this? I was reading a secular article 1 on the Psychology Today
website on a related subject, and contained within the article was this equation:
Pain + Resistance = Suffering
As I read the article, I stared at this equation for a long time. I evaluated it against my experience
with various individuals in biblical counseling relationships. I applied it to couples I had
pastorally shepherded. I considered it within my own life, and while I did not agree with the
clear secular humanistic bend of the applications the article derived, the more I stared at and
considered this equation, the more agreement I had with the message it was communicating.
Too often, when pain and trials enter our lives, we are quick to resist. We….
- react in anger at a perceived injustice
- blame-shift to God, Satan, and/or other people
- try and take control of our circumstances
- avoid it, thus prolonging the pain
- allow our emotions to send us into a depressive tailspin
I could go on. The point is that each one of these is an area of resistance that does not make the
pain or trial better. It makes things worse. Before going much further, I want to note that I
recognize the nuance to these responses regarding extraordinary circumstances like significant
health issues, traumatic life experiences, and sudden loss. My point is not to wade into every
nuance, but in almost a proverbial way (a proverb being a general principle that is true most of
the time) make the point that resistance to pain typically results in our compounding the
suffering our pain produces.
This is why the statement of Jesus in Mark 14:36 is of such significance. The pain Jesus was to
endure was just beginning. Instead of resisting it, he accepted the will of his Father, and endured
the pain for the purpose of change on our behalf.
As I prayerfully consider this, in an effort to form a more biblical principle, as well as a solution-
oriented equation for my own future usage, this verse and the example Jesus provides is what I
was looking for. Jesus chose to not resist the pain, which would have resulted in suffering for
himself and all of humankind. He instead chose to accept the will of his Father, accept the pain in
front of him as a part of God’s plan, and created change as a result. The change for him was that
he became the perfect sacrifice for all the sins of humankind for all eternity. The change for us
was a means by which we access eternal life by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Because of Jesus, Christians can consider a new equation for processing the pains of life.
Pain + Acceptance = Change
Pain is inevitable. 1 Peter 4:12-13 reminds us:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial [pain] when it comes upon you to test you,
as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share
Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”
Christians should expect pain. And in that, we share in the realities Jesus experienced in Mark
14:36. This gives us the opportunity to respond in the same way that Jesus did—through
“Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Through acceptance, great change is possible. The first change comes in the form of theological
alignment. You are following the example of Jesus, by not resisting pain but accepting that God
is doing something uncomfortable in your life. And further accepting that while painful,
disheartening, discouraging, and any number of other unpleasant adjectives, God is good, God is
in control, and as Jesus himself accepted—God’s will is better than ours. This theological
alignment breathes needed perspective and hope in the midst of difficulty and pain.
Acceptance of God’s will also results in the opportunity for we who are experiencing the pain to
change. As Peter says above, trial and pain allow us to share in the experience Jesus had, and
with an eternal perspective, that is a call for rejoicing. As such, with the right mindset, accepting
the pain God allows in our lives has the potential to generate significant sanctification within us;
being no more and no less than the process of changing to be more like Jesus. Sanctification, in
terms of human “work,” is the height of what it means to be a Christian.
Finally, accepting the will of God in his allowance of pain in our lives gives us the opportunity to
model the character of Jesus to other people. Our conduct may be the change-agent God uses to
draw other people to him, bring others back to him who have wandered away, or be a significant
seed-sowing effort we are entirely unaware of. But this only comes about if we model this
This post has been a bit more theologically practical than tangibly practical. But I think, too
often, Christians get stuck in the mindset of treating God like a prize machine. We put the
quarter of our good works, right attitude, endurance of pain, “godly” control, or gospel-effort
into the prize machine, and expect God to roll out a prize for us. But the Christian life described
for us by Jesus and Paul does not reflect that mentality.
I would submit to you, dear reader, that we must have the correct theological perspective about
the will of God in an effort for true sanctification, and not just behavior modification, to take
place. Behavior modification is enduring pain, tolerating pain, controlling pain, and avoiding pain, in
addition to a host of other things. Sanctification is accepting that God’s will is better than ours,
and responding and changing accordingly.
The next time you are in pain, remember the equation…
Pain + Acceptance = Change
And strive to do the following:
- Call the pain by name. Naming a thing helps create awareness of what is happening.
- Pray that God gives you the right perspective about what he is doing in and around you, that he gives you the strength to accept the pain, and the wisdom to respond accordingly.
- Change in whatever way the pain requires to not eliminate it, but allow you to think, act, and look like Jesus.
This puts us in the greatest position to understand the experience of Jesus in a small way, reflect
his character, and be an example to others.
1 Pamela S. Willsey, “The Powerful Practice of Accepting Reality,” Psychologytoday.com, November 2, 2020,
Stephen Ganschow, Ph.D.
Biblical Counselor, RGI Training Program Instructor
Stephen Ganschow, Ph.D., has been with Reigning Grace since its inception. While he provides some long-distance counseling, his current role is strategic development, consultation, and teaching within Reigning Grace Institute as an instructor. Additionally, he serves as the Pastor of Counseling at Bethel Church in northwestern Indiana. He is a Level II-certified biblical counselor with the ACBC, is certified by the IABC, and has various specialty certifications in a wide array of counseling disciplines. Additionally, he is pursuing an Ed.D. in Community Care Counseling, with an emphasis on the pastoral counseling and the local church.