The Power of Acceptance
by Christa Black Gifford
Over the course of the past year, when sorrow, grief, agony, hurt, and distress pounded down on my heart like acid rain, I discovered a secret of life that’s changed everything. I discovered the power of raw acceptance.
Wholehearted living doesn’t mean living void of pain. It means being so alive in every moment that we’re also able to stay present without trying to escape—even when everything hurts like hell. But the only way to accomplish this is to learn to be with Someone inside of that pain—Someone so strong that He takes the pain and exchanges it for constant comfort, healing, counsel, hope, and love.
My favorite definition of joy is someone is glad to be with me. Because you’re in Christ, you just happen to be forever connected to Someone who loves you so much, He died to remain connected no matter what. Happiness is circumstantial, and Jesus never expects us to be happy about the traumas that have broken our hearts. I will never be happy about burying my infant daughter, for good reasons. But joy is relational—and we never leave relationship with Him living inside. When we learn to keep our hearts open to the acceptance of two realities—trauma and relationship—we can experience the paradox of deepest sorrow and overflowing joy in the same breath, one never negating the other.
Each day as my heart would scream to be numbed, I would turn around and face the truth. And the truth is, I was in agony, not knowing how to survive the death of my daughter. I would close my eyes and see my bleeding heart—mangled, torn, and full of pain—knowing that without the right medicine, that pain could turn into diseases like bitterness, distrust, despair, and unforgiveness. So instead of ignoring my heart as it screamed, I would intentionally hand it over again and again to my best friend, Jesus.
In those moments of surrender, I learned the unfathomable power of raw acceptance and confession. “Jesus, this is where my heart is today, and it’s a total mess,” I would pray. “But I’m not going to condemn it for being a wreck, beat myself up, try to heal myself, or force myself to change. I’m going to accept that if this is where I am today—wounded and broken—then you will meet me right here in my pain and begin to heal me with your love.” And then I would retreat to my secret diamond cave of intimacy and cry a bit more with Him.
For several months, we cried a lot together, and I never tried to stop the tears. Every time I cried and felt my Savior crying with me, my heart healed a bit more, because I was never alone in the pain. I would ask questions, and the Counselor would either reveal something new to my spirit or give me a Scripture as medication. I would talk to Him about my compulsions as they arose—wanting to run to substances or escapes—and He would pull me in closer, providing what I needed for immediate relief. Sometimes He would tell me that what I needed was to numb out in front of the TV, so we would curl up and watch television together. Sometimes I needed to eat something I adored, so I would bless a chocolate bar, and we’d eat a bit of it together. Sometimes I needed to sink into a bath and enjoy one glass of wine as I soaked in the tub and chatted with my Friend who had turned water into wine.
There weren’t good or bad days—just hard and even harder days. But Jesus was so faithful to meet me exactly where I was, moving in close when I kept my heart in His able hands.
At one point, fear tried everything it could to invade my heart, longing for an invitation to stick around and move back into one of its old rooms. I’d be driving along, and a horrific thought would blast through my brain—scenes of Moses getting beheaded by a truck, or of me slicing off my fingers while chopping vegetables. Luke would leave for the store, and I’d get bombarded with thoughts of him getting held up at gunpoint or having a terrible wreck. A tornado siren would go off, and my entire body would freeze with anxiety.
Remember, arguments in 2 Corinthians 10:5 are thoughts that haven’t yet become beliefs, and strongholds are beliefs that have rooted within the heart. In order to keep the fear as thoughts, I would immediately accept the reality of my fear, confess it, and get it out of my head and into the hands of Jesus:
“Of course my heart is producing thoughts of fear—I just got blindsided by death! Thank you, heart, for screaming so loudly that you need a Healer. I confess this fear and ask you to heal the source, my heart pulverized by trauma. Come on in, Jesus, and have your way. Love this fear out of my heart.” The more I accepted and confessed, the faster Jesus would get me back to a joyful connection with Him. Fear and bitterness were never able to take root within my heart as long as perfect love remained (1 John 4:18).
Taken from Heart Made Whole by Christa Black Gifford. Copyright © 2016 by Christa Black Gifford. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.
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