Can I Find Peace in Pain?

in acceptance lies peace+

 

Turning the page of an old scrapbook, I am immediately flooded with emotion. At the top of Katie’s handmade card from preschool is the question: “What is your mother’s favorite hobby?” The answer: “Making meals for people with new babies.”

 

As I read those words, I feel my throat tighten. I’m not that person anymore. Years ago, I loved to cook and to take meals to people in need. But now I don’t take meals to anyone and even struggle to cook for our family. We order take-out often and my home-cooked meals are exceedingly simple.

 

But why am I crying? I have been dealing with this escalating weakness for years. But as I process what is happening, I realize that I still miss what I used to do. And since I can do less and less each year, I am constantly being forced to redefine myself. And I must find new things to bring me joy.

 

I hold this broken dream before the Lord and silently ask: “Lord, show me what to do with this. I don’t want to let this loss overwhelm me. I want peace.” Immediately, the words ‘in acceptance lies peace’ come to mind. They are strangely familiar.

 

The next day I remember a poem by Amy Carmichael entitled “In Acceptance Lieth Peace” which she wrote after a broken leg left her bedridden for the rest of her life.   I read it carefully, anxious to see what the Lord might be showing me.  In the poem, Carmichael details several ways, most of them futile, to deal with loss.

 

The first approach is to avoid any reminders of the past in an attempt to forget the hurt and move on. The second is to stay so busy that there’s simply no time to think about anything else. The third approach is to pretend that there never was any pain, and hope that in distancing ourselves from the hurt we can keep up that façade. The fourth is to accept defeat and resign ourselves to a life of unceasing pain and misery. The fifth and final approach is to accept this new way of living, knowing that God will walk us through.

 

Though the first four options sound depressing, I confess I have tried them all. While they promised relief from the pain, they instead left me numb, strangling any hope for healing and joy. Life was reduced to mere existence as I plodded along from day to day, hoping that the dull ache would go away.

 

But acceptance is different. It stops the turmoil. And leads to peace.

 

Elisabeth Elliot would agree. In a letter to her parents, shortly after her husband Jim was murdered in 1956, she wrote:

 

“I know you are all wondering how I am getting along. I can only say that the peace I have literally passes all possible understanding. . .  ‘The Lord Jehovah is my strength and song.’ I have learned, I believe, the lesson which Amy Carmichael speaks of in her poem — ‘In acceptance lieth peace.’ How true. I accept, gratefully, from the hand of God, this experience. . .  I think again of the lovely prayer of Phillips Brooks, given me by Grandpa years ago, ‘Lord, by all Thy dealings with us, whether of joy or pain (and this is both), of light or darkness, let us be brought to Thee.’”

 

Gratefully accepting everything from God’s hand, including your husband’s murder, makes no sense apart from Christ. But because of her faith in a sovereign God, Elliot was able to experience God’s peace in tragedy. And almost 50 years later in her book, Be Still My Soul, she wrote,God included the hardships of my life in His original plan. Nothing takes Him by surprise. Nothing is for nothing. His plan is to make me holy, and hardship is indispensable for that as long as I live in this hard old world. All I have to do is accept it.”

 

All I have to do is accept it. It sounds simple. And in many ways it is. But this acceptance is not fatalistic surrender. The kind of acceptance that leads to peace requires faith and trust in God. It involves looking at my life through the eyes of faith, faith in an all-powerful, extravagantly loving and incomprehensibly wise God who is engineering every detail of my life.

 

Our powerful, loving and wise God doesn’t make mistakes. So if He has allowed something into my life, it is the very best thing for me. It will maximize my joy and deepen my faith. And because of that assurance, I can accept whatever comes with joy.

 

In the allegory Hinds Feet on High Places, the main character, Much Afraid, wants to go to the High Places with the Shepherd. When she discovers the beautiful flower, Acceptance-with-Joy, she takes that name for herself and is able to make great progress on her journey, cheerfully accepting whatever God brings. But when she starts doubting the Shepherd’s words, He comes to her saying:

 

“You forgot for a while that you were my little handmaiden Acceptance-with-Joy and were beginning to tell yourself it really was time that I lead you back to the mountains and up to the High Places. When you wear the weed of impatience in your heart instead of the flower Acceptance-with-Joy, you will always find your enemies get an advantage over you.”

 

When I wear the weed of impatience in my heart instead of joyfully accepting what God brings me, I give in to doubt and discouragement. At the beginning of a trial, I often feel buoyed by God’s Spirit and able to face the struggle ahead. But after a while, I grow weary and impatient. I forget that the Lord is IN my suffering and that one day I will rejoice because of it.

 

I must constantly remind myself of the beauty and peace in joyful acceptance. But God is ever patient with me, lovingly showing me over and over that He is in all of my circumstances and is using them to change me into the likeness of Christ.

 

I look at the scrapbook a second time, this time through the eyes of faith. I am reminded of all that God has done through my pain. Although I may always miss what I have lost, I do not long to have that life back. God is in my present life, and it is only here, in today’s circumstances, that I can meet Him.

 

Thumbing through the pages, I see once again that in acceptance lies peace. And in joyful acceptance I find the Savior Himself, who will one day transform all my suffering into my eternal joy.

 

 

  • September 22, 2016 - 7:02 pm

    Beth Paul - Vaneetha, thank you for sharing these thoughts. I was praying through these very struggles today. Trying to find purpose and value in what seems like empty or useless days since I have become chronically ill. Each of the authors you quoted in this blog are on my top 10 list of favorites! Good to be reminded of these truths by others who are walking through struggles. Blessings ~ BethReplyCancel

    • September 22, 2016 - 8:39 pm

      Vaneetha - So thankful that the Lord used this blog to minister to you today, Beth. Chronic illness is so hard to deal with. The quotes in the blog were such a blessing to me and I’m glad they were to you as well. There is such peace in acceptance, but it often takes me a while to get there…ReplyCancel

  • September 22, 2016 - 8:24 pm

    Shireen Jeyachandran - Dear Vaneetha,
    I am a niece of your Periappa Major Sam Victor. More than that I was your mother’s student in WCC. She was an excellent English teacher. Her love of the English language inspired me to take up teaching the subject though I did not “study” the same. Back home in India I coached students for their IELTS, GMAT and SAT and enjoyed the same. I am now in Auckland NZ with my son’s family. You seem to be able to use the language as well if not better than your mum does, to put down your feelings so forcibly on paper. You may never know how much your sharing impacts the lives of those around you. I am glad you have moved into another season in your life. I am sure the Lord will do mighty things through you and you will be Blessed.

    Love and regards,

    ShireenReplyCancel

    • September 22, 2016 - 8:36 pm

      Vaneetha - How wonderful that you are related to my uncle and you were my mother’s former student! My mom is a terrific teacher and I have learned so much from her. She definitely gave me a love of the language – but I think her ability to express herself is far superior to mine! I am so thankful that this blog has been a blessing to you. Thank you so much for writing!ReplyCancel

  • September 23, 2016 - 6:19 am

    Elaine - This is such a timely written blog for me and others. There is a song by Michael Card with the following lyric: those who know sorrow are closest to His heart. I know that has brought such comfort to me, hope for you as well. Thank you so much for sharing and being honest and open. Blessings to you.ReplyCancel

    • September 27, 2016 - 10:45 am

      Vaneetha - I love those Michael Card lyrics! Thanks for sharing them, Elaine.ReplyCancel

  • September 23, 2016 - 7:30 am

    Linda Swanekamp - This morning, as I was sitting here in pain, unable to sleep, your words are great comfort. I suffer from chronic migraine and muscle pain. Every treatment seems to make things worse. Sometimes it seems as my face is pressed against a brick wall, I do not know what to do next. I keep praying for a clear mind and the ability to do everything in God’s strength. It is hard to hold on sometimes and not despair.ReplyCancel

    • September 27, 2016 - 10:47 am

      Vaneetha - Oh Linda, I’m so sorry for your pain. I am praying as I write this that you will find peace and strength In Jesus even in the midst of debilitating pain.ReplyCancel

  • September 23, 2016 - 12:51 pm

    Trudy - I’m sorry for your pain, Vaneetha. I know by experience the losses we go through with chronic illness. It’s hard to accept that we can’t do what we would like to do. But God. He gives us grace to pour out our troubles to Him and to rest in His plan. And as you say, the Lord is in our suffering and one day we will rejoice. Thank you for this encouragement. Have a hope-filled weekend! Hugs!ReplyCancel

  • September 24, 2016 - 2:33 pm

    Arlene - Good afternoon, dear Vaneetha:
    I spoke this morning at a ladies’ prayer breakfast at my church.
    I titled the message “In the Midst” based on Psalm 46:5, “God is in the midst of His people; she shall not be moved…..” As you had written, God is in your suffering and in your present life. He is indeed “in the midst” of His people. We talked about God being in the midst of our storms, deserts, and darkness. I shared a quote by Joni E. Tada that I would like to share with you in your present situation. Joni says: “In the midst of your own darkness there are treasures, riches, and rubies of wisdom that could never be discovered in the light of ease and peace. Needing God desperately will always make you wealthy.” Thank you for sharing, dear Vaneetha. This is not something you signed up for anymore than I signed up for being a widow. But we know that God is “in the midst” of our suffering, and will redeem it for His glory and our good. Thank you very much for sharing. I know God will continue to pour out His grace and peace to you during this challenging time.

    In Him,
    ArleneReplyCancel

    • September 27, 2016 - 10:50 am

      Vaneetha - LOVE THAT QUOTE, Arlene. Needing God desperately makes us all rich beyond compare! Thanks for writing, Arlene.ReplyCancel

  • September 26, 2016 - 9:44 am

    Kimi Gay - Thank you! This is the first time I’ve read your blog. I’m 51 going through menopause. It’s been hard. Just got married for the first time 8 months ago and my last cycle was on our honeymoon. God is good. Moved away from my community to be with husband who is a widower and living in their old home. Lots of challenges. This is Gods best for me. I’ve been failing in my attitude but now repenting and trying to find my way. Looking forward to reading more. If you have any resources, they would be much appreciated. I’m in Wilson NC.ReplyCancel

    • September 27, 2016 - 11:08 am

      Vaneetha - Not sure if I have any resources to point you to- I’ve read numerous things but honestly the Bible and the Holy Spirit can give you all the direction you need to make it through this new joyous but challenging season. God will walk you through this, Kimi, as you lean on Him. I’m praying for you as I write that God will make all grace abound to you.ReplyCancel

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