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.