Acceptance: consent to receive, answer affirmatively, favourable reception, regard with favour, approval of, submission to, toleration. Oxford Dictionary
You have heard of having a ‘low pain threshold’? It means you feel pain more easily. Well, these days I think I have a low ‘don’t care anymore’ threshold! It sounds bad… and it could be taken the wrong way, as a rather pathetic excuse to refuse compassion and shrug things off. But for me, coming from a history of anxiety, taking false responsibility and being something of a control freak, it is actually a great relief! I have learned to let go, chill out and walk away from things and people that are not mine to carry. I am learning to draw my boundary lines ‘in pleasant places’ (Psalm 16v6) and rather than worry like a dog with a bone, hand over difficult situations to others, or ultimately to God. These days I know my capacity and limits better – and anyway, I no longer have the energy to try to ‘save the world’ in the way I once tried to do! I have learned the secret of acceptance.
However, acceptance is not about resignation but about submission. To say something is ‘just how it is’ – to accept the things I cannot change and have no control over – demands great trust in the omnipotence of a loving Father and His heart for my good. It requires choice and discipline.
You might wonder how I can possibly ‘accept’ our situation with Sam – that our son has a brain tumour threatening to kill him in a few short years time. But I have to, because there is nothing I can do: I am not in control! To reject the news, to push the awful truth away, to fight reality, is to live in denial and the pain of disbelief, inviting anger and bitterness. This IS how it is – not just for us, but for many others who are suffering in similar and diverse ways. Acceptance that ‘this is how it is’ is the first step to peace, the beginning of coming to terms with it and finding the daily grace to walk forward.
If we believe in a God who knows the number of hairs on our heads and gives us every breath, we have to acknowledge too that He knows this is happening. So He must have a plan and reason in it. That is often almost impossible to see. So many terrible things happen in the world – how can He be good if He allows such things? There are times we have to say, ‘I just don’t know’. But I believe He is as hurt by the mess in our fallen world as we are – and that ultimately when ‘death is swallowed up in victory’, all these things will be as clear as day, including the role of the enemy and what God was doing through it all to work redemption and a greater good. Meanwhile we suffer – and He suffers with us: a good reminder on Armistice Day…
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Although He was a son He learned obedience from what He suffered, and once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” Hebrews 5v7-9
I quoted this Scripture and wrote about Jesus’ attitude before, in the post Active or Passive. It was His submission, His acceptance of the Father’s will, that was the key. He did not put up a fight or resist, but entrusted Himself to God (1 Peter 2v23). Maybe in the light of this we can read Jesus’ words in Matthew 11v29 with a different emphasis: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls.” There is rest as we share in the yoke of the Lamb of God.
This is not a weak and wimpy option! It requires courage and obedience not to shrink back from the path the Lord puts in front of us: Gethsemene demonstrates that! Another good example is found in the story of Daniel’s friends who would not submit to the king, but only to the Lord. At the point of death, their submission to God – and full acceptance of the consequences of their defiant stance! – is paramount: “Our God is able to save us from the fiery furnace – but even if He does not… we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3v17-18.
As it happened it was not the ones who were thrown into the fire that died, but the ones who threw them in! (v22). So lets not fear the fire of submission – there is life and power there! And there is rest in surrender.