Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.Phillipians 4:8
If the past 12 months has taught us anything, it’s that life in a fallen world can get tougher, more stressful, and overwhelming very quickly. Although everyone knows that the world is deeply broken, you wouldn’t know it by our reactions. You’d think it was surprising that the hearts of people can be so corrupt, knowledge can be so fleeting, sin so captivating, leaders so bankrupt, and life’s demands so strenuous. But this is our reality, and this is where God works. Have you been tempted to resist or ignore what’s actually happening in your life? What reality have you been bucking against recently? Here are a few examples… If the shoe fits wear it, if it doesn’t fit then don’t throw the shoe at me!
- You may have more responsibilities as a parent now, and cannot live like you used to.
- We have a new president and congressional make-up that you’re not particularly fond of.
- Your financial situation requires you to work in a way that stretches you emotionally and physically.
- You have a physical or mental health issue that requires you to need others’ help or limits you in some way.
- You have been hurt deeply and have a hard time reconciling that with others or God
- After a long year, life in the COVID pandemic STILL requires discernment, care, submission and compassion.
During trials the temptation is strong to reframe reality, to wish away difficulty, and to believe in foolish yet convenient theories in order to void ourselves of responsibility. As Christians we aren’t called to move the epistemological goalposts in order to make it easier to “win”. I’m guilty of this for sure, just ask my wife. Although it’s difficult, there are compelling reasons to face reality as it is (thanks to my friends at the Cross Ministry Group for walking through some of this recently).
Accepting reality relinquishes false expectations of all that should or could be. This allows for grief, which will give way to joy. Coming to terms with our limits and losses is one of the best ways we can grow. If we don’t, we’ll be running to coping mechanisms that numb our painful reality. Internally, we may construct an image of ourselves and live in the “shoulda coulda woulda” alternate universe. Externally, our circumstances may seem unbearable, and we think we just can’t handle it. We then become susceptible to lies that reframe reality to make it palatable to us in our state of brokenness. The result is that we trade hard truth for a soft lie and live in a blinded reactive state. We sacrifice our integrity, our relationships, and our witness on the alter of our false reality.
Accepting reality opens us up to hope because you invite God into your reality. God doesn’t work in our dream world, he works in the real world. Sometimes it’s not what we want, but it’s what we need. Hebrews 12:9-11 speaks about God’s loving discipline that produces the fruit of peace and righteousness. We are not promised comfort, health, perfect sanctification, or a stable government. We are promised formation into Christ’s likeness if we submit to God’s work that happens in reality.
Acceptance of reality acknowledges mystery and welcomes the unknown. It’s precisely the unknown and mystery that we feel a deep need to resolve, but often we can’t reconcile the tension. The sooner we accept that the better, for in doing so our faith will grow. This may lead to some anxiety, but the life of faith looks to the welcoming God in the midst of the anxiety for security. Ps 56:3-4 says When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
Acceptance of ourselves and our reality lets us accept others. Of course we don’t excuse sin, but we must acknowledge the facts about where we are. We may be experiencing anger, guilt, shame, sadness, fear, envy, and depression for a variety of reasons we must pay attention to. Ignoring them will only strengthen them. When we understand the inner workings of our soul in all its brokenness, we become free to receive God’s grace for us and give love to others who may appear to be very different from us. We all share in the curse of the fallen world, but can also all share in the blessings of Christ.
Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. We don’t give up on the mission to love God and others, but we can’t resist what’s real. When we process life authentically we are able to see clearly and be more resolved to not give up on what’s most important. Acceptance of reality brings wisdom. You can’t wisely plan where to go without knowing where you’re at!
So, accepting reality brings hope and wisdom, which then can lead to loving and courageous action. Being grounded in God’s love for us in real time will bring forth the fruit of hope, faith, love, and endurance. As a line from the song “Christ Our Hope In Life and Death” states…
Who holds our days within his hands? What comes, apart from his command? And what will keep us to the end? The love of Christ in which we stand!