I've been thinking a great deal about acceptance with joy. I first heard this phrase many years ago when I read "Hinds Feet In High Places" which is an allegory written by Hannah Hurnard.
In the story, a character named Much-Afraid very much desires to go to the high places. However, her mouth is crooked and everyone mocks her as being ugly. She also is lame, weak and very fearful. After a series of events, she decides to allow the Shepherd to take her to the high places. She can't wait to go leaping about on the peaks of the high places!
After she starts her journey, she discovers and experiences many things she did not expect. At one point, she has to turn away from the high places. Not only does she have her back to them, she also begins to descend rather than ascend. This definitely does not follow the plan! There has to be some mistake! Instead of telling her to turn around, the Shepherd insists that this is the correct road. The place she eventually finds herself in is Egypt.
While in Egypt, she learns many things. She also comes across a beautiful flower in that barren, desert place. The little flower is growing with very little water. Much-Afraid is curious about the flower. She learns that the flower's name is Acceptance-With-Joy. The little flower is growing in a place were flowers are not supposed to grow. The flower doesn't care. It not only thrives under the tiny droplets of water that trickle down, it also brings a smile of joy to all that see it. When they see the little flower, they focus on it's beauty rather than the dusty dry desert that surrounds it.
The little flower could be a victim of it's circumstances. It could say that it is impossible to survive in this place. It could say there wasn't enough to sustain it. It could complain that God put it in the dry, burning desert and wonder why is wasn't in the cool, green, and restful high places. It didn't. It bloomed where it was planted anyways and brought a smile to the face of everyone who passed by.
It could have been a victim of it's circumstances. That would have been completely understandable. Everyone would agree that it had been given a hard lot in life. Things were unfair. It should file a complaint against or even sue the Shepherd.
The flower could have done that, but it didn't. It chose to be a victor over the circumstances. It chose to have joy inspite of the circumstances. In doing so, it not only experienced joy itself; it brought joy to others.
There's the natural joy people have. That comes from our circumstances. That sort of joy requires no action or sacrifice on our part. It's easy to be joyful when all is well in our world. While this sort of joy is wonderful, I don't think that's the sort of joy or level of joy that God wants for us. While there's nothing wrong with it, I think God wants us to go to a higher level.
This type of joy requires action or sacrifice on our part. This joy comes from the attitude of the heart. It requires recognizing that God is in complete control of every aspect of our lives. It requires complete trust that God will do what he has said he would do. It requires you to sacrifice your will for his will. It means that you have to focus on the things which are eternal rather than that which is temporary. This is not a one-time shot, rather this is a choice that you must make daily. You really do have a choice you know... we're free agents
*8/18/11--This blog is now part of a series entitled Walking With God In The Midst of Cancer