I have recently reread one of my favorite books: “Hinds Feet on High Places.” In this allegory Much-Afraid, the main character is challenged by the Shepherd to develop an attitude of “acceptance with joy.” In regards to some recent events in my life, that are not to my liking, I too have been challenged by my Shepherd to work toward this mindset. Can one really achieve this state of mind? After all, this idea is in a book written by a human—is it really biblical? Yes, I believe it is. Look at these verses:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (Jas 1:2-4)*
When Jesus went to the cross He didn’t like it. Was He smiling in the midst of all that agony? I doubt it. So when we are in the midst of troubles the Bible is not saying we are to like it but to accept it. Jesus’ attitude was one of patient endurance for the joy that was to come (Heb 12:2). We are also told to have the same attitude as His (Phil 2:5).
I guess the problem in our minds arises because of our definitions of happiness and joy. We often equate the two and think they are only about emotions. Although joy may include good feelings, it is way more than that! These feelings are a sense of inner joy and a peace that passes human understanding. They are a byproduct of abiding in Christ, and the fruit of the Holy Spirit (John 15:11; Gal 5:22). It is a deep knowing that in the end all things will be made right and good. I believe the Lord gives us these wonderful “feelings” to help us do, and keep doing, the right thing, especially when it’s tough.
Granted, having a joyful attitude in the middle of trials is very difficult to achieve. I think God did it that way on purpose so that we would learn how to be totally dependent upon Him—continually. We can only accomplish this by remaining close to Him and empowered by His Holy Spirit. As you and I work toward this goal we can start with, at the very least, acceptance of God’s will without grumbling and complaining. By reading His Word and abiding in Christ we can develop an attitude that is determined to trust in our wise and good God, and not fight or strive against Him. We must submit our will to His.
Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (Ps 46:10)**
We are not to be resentful or angry at our Lord. We are to be a willing bondservant and obey without question, i.e. without backtalk, stomping of feet, whining—even when we don’t like it. Let us grow up and accept His plans.
Contemplate this one last point with me. If “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Rom 8:28), then we can take pleasure in the fact that sometime in the future we will be pleased with God’s plans. We can have joy now by faith. Then on that day when our faith will be our eyes (i.e. in heaven), we will see how very good, perfect and pleasing God’s will was!
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope…and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you…. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Pet 1:3-4, 6)*
* THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica. All rights reserved worldwide.
**New American Standard (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation