The spiritual disciplines of acceptance and gratitude are easy to practice when all is going well—when the sun is shining and our relationships are fulfilling, when work is going great and the sermon on Sunday touched our hearts. But when all is not well, discontent can rear its ugly head. All of a sudden we’re no longer satisfied with our appearance, our friendships, our lives. When we’re suffering, acceptance and gratitude can seem impossible.
This series of posts will follow my inward thoughts as I go through the book Acceptance & Gratitude chapter by chapter working through the ideas listed above.
I personally have done all of the above.
We all have times in our lives where we wish we could just lay down and sleep for the rest of eternity. The dark blanket of dreams and slumber sounds so comforting compared to the looming coldness of reality. There have been times when I was so desperate and lonely that I would sit upright in my bed at an obscene hour of the night and declare to myself that I didn’t believe God was real.
But the next morning, I would get up, go about my daily routine, and feel somewhat rested and comforted. My faith would naturally restore itself again, the roots of God’s love remaining too deep in my heart to remove.
As I reflect on those times and inspect my fragmented heart, I have noticed that there is one response to sorrowful situations that has held my heart together and actually started to mend it in a healthy manner: complete and utter reliance upon the Lord.
This idea was first planted in my heart through a friend. I think that the best piece of advice I’ve ever received was the following, said to me by a close friend of mine in a scary time: “First, I want you to cry. I want you to cry until you can’t cry anymore. Then, I want you to pray. Pray for a very, very long time. And if you cry while you pray, that’s okay. Just keep praying. Finally, after you’ve done all those things, think of all the positives of the situation. Remind yourself that the world isn’t ending by looking for the silver lining.”
I love the core of that piece of advice: just keep praying.
I think that if we want to keep our heads out of the water and keep swimming during a difficult time, that idea should be our mantra. Keeping our eyes on God and not letting go of him is the best life vest that we could ever capitalize on.
As we float along, holding on to the Lord and his Word, the blessing of acceptance usually follows our release of control. The more we can unclench our stubborn fists to the Lord’s will, the more quickly and willingly we will accept the Lord’s plan. It is so relieving to just open my hands and say to God, “It’s all yours now. I have no control. Do what you will, I trust you completely and know that you will lead me through this. You will turn this situation into something truly beautiful.” In saying those words (repetitively—it takes a couple times before my heart actually begins to believe it), we can truly offer our hearts and lives to God and accept his plans for our lives, no matter how painful or mysterious they may currently be.
For those currently in the midst of difficult trials: These verses in Jeremiah I find to be very reassuring and uplifting in times of trouble: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you’” (Jeremiah 29:11-14). Marshall Shelley reflects powerfully on this verse in the Everyday Matters Bible for Women, saying, “Clinging to that promise, even when the weight of sorrow makes our knees buckle, makes faith intentional and, I trust, unshakable.”