It’s funny how modern ideas in psychology, which are supposed to provide guidance in life for those who do not have faith, nevertheless echo ideas found in the gospel. One of these ideas is ‘radical acceptance’. This means complete acceptance of the facts of your situation. You no longer fight it, however unfair or painful.
You can see the benefit. It takes away thoughts of being angry at one’s situation, jealous of others, resentful and self-pitying - all things that can blight our lives and relationships. But wait a minute:
O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth forever. [Psalm 118: 1].
In everything give thanks. [I Thessalonians 5: 18]
When as a Christian I am thankful to God for all that he has given me, I am embracing the life that God has given me. But I am doing much more. This is because my acceptance of my situation is positive and personal. Everything is a gift, if only we could see it. If we could rise high enough, we would see the thread of our lives twisting and turning, this way and that, forming the pattern that is God’s plan for us. Mistakes, failures and losses are all part of this. This is why, when we pray, we do not expect magical answers which fulfil what we think should be the plan for us but ask God to guide us in His way.
The gospels tell us how Jesus would withdraw to a lonely place to pray. What were his thoughts? ‘Radical acceptance’, maybe - that he was born into hunger and poverty, surrounded by people who failed to understand, where disease and danger were everywhere - but His thoughts then springing forth into thanksgiving, no doubt in the words of the psalms which He loved. As he looked over the wild landscape, he saw that the lilies of the field not only accepted their ‘reality’ but flowered in praise. The birds of the air were little noticed and had such short lives but sang in thanksgiving.
So ‘radical acceptance’, if we can muster it, might get us out of the ditch, but praise and thanksgiving will bring us, with the lilies, the birds and the whole of creation, to the presence of God.
Surely, for those who do not yet believe, observing our attitude of praise and thanksgiving must be the most powerful invitation to faith there can be.
When all thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view I’m lost
In wonder, love and praise.
Dear Lord Jesus, You saw your father’s hand in everything: the stony and unmade track from the fields to your beloved home and family; the royal road you took to Jerusalem; and the bitter path to the cross. We accept you for the path you have set before us, wherever that may lead, and give you thanks for every step.
by Dave Pitcher