When I was young, I remember hearing adults say there are two constants in life: death and taxes. They never said it lovingly but rather sadly, as if one must accept the inevitable. As I aged, I realized the list could be expanded, certainly the negative ones. Being a person of faith, I would add the fallen nature of man and nature to that. Things always decay and break down, and no one must teach a child to lie or do wrong. It’s just built into us. No matter how hard people try, they mess up or make mistakes. This is evidence of what the Bible calls sin.
There are other constants as well. God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness are constant. God is always good and righteous, that never changes. There are things in life which are constant and unchangeable.
Whether we like the unchangeable things in life or not, good or not so good, we must learn how to accept them and how they affect our life.
If you have never heard this, I want you to know that there are some things which are constant and true about you. God, speaking to Jeremiah, said, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5, NLT). The same is true for us. God knew us before we were born. The Psalmist acknowledged another truth, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it” (Psalm 139:14 NLT). Please know your birth may have been unexpected, but you are no accident. You are part of God’s plan from the beginning of time! Never forget this!
Someone has said, “God doesn’t make junk.” You are not junk or worthless.
At your birth, you were exactly as God made you and a part of His wonderful plan. But that’s where it can change. You can make poor decisions or others can make them for you. People may not provide the proper care or do things that harm you. What others do or have done to you is beyond your control. If you make poor choices, even though God can forgive them when you confess and repent, He often chooses not to remove the consequences of those poor decisions. There are things in our past that have shaped and affected us. You cannot change that. You are not Marty McFly who can jump in a DeLorean and go back in time to change things. What’s in the past is fixed. You must learn to accept that. What you can do is to change how you allow things from your past to shape your present and future. This will not be easy or happen quickly, but it can be done.
The first step in acceptance is to recognize and acknowledge what was done to you or that which you have done which is negatively affecting your life.
Denial is a natural coping mechanism. Shoving these things into the deep, dark recesses of our consciousness is called denial. It never happened, it hasn’t affected me, or that’s in my past without dealing with it are all signs of denial. Denial is a natural coping mechanism, but it is not a healthy coping mechanism. Denial never helps you move beyond where you are. Accepting that something bad has happened does not mean you are a bad person. It merely means you acknowledge something bad has happened, is happening to you, or that you are doing it to others.
Next, you must decide what to do about what you have acknowledged.
My analogy is that you choose to make it a stepping stone into the new, healthy you or a stumbling block over which you continue to stumble and struggle. Acknowledging and accepting what has happened makes no difference unless you choose and try to change. In an old joke, a man goes to his doctor and tells the doctor that he has broken his arm in three places. The doctor’s response? Stay out of those places! Doing the same thing seldom produces different results and certainly doing nothing won’t produce different results. You must find a way to move beyond what has been shaping your life. You must accept what has happened, it cannot be changed, but you can change how you will respond or allow it to continue to shape your life. A word of caution: If you could have achieved this on your own, you probably would have already done so. This is a perfect place to seek help from a trusted friend who has overcome something similar or a pastor or professional counselor. Just as you go to the doctor when you realize you are ill, going to a professional for help is a wise choice.
So, I’ve acknowledged and accepted the issues in my life, and I’m choosing to move beyond them. What do I do now? Great question and a significant one!
The next step is to create a new vision for the life you desire and set some goals to begin to achieve that vision.
Is the issue about how someone has treated or not treated you? You cannot set a goal about how they need to change. What you can do is decide how you will respond to them. You do not need to accept the value they have placed on you but begin to see how God values your life. Remember, you are so valuable to Him that He sent His Son to pay the price for your sin so that you could have a relationship with Him. God sees you as a person of ultimate worth and value. He may not be crazy about what you have done, but He is crazy in love with you. Plus, you must come to the place where you are willing to forgive the people who have negatively affected you. Did they ask for it or deserve it? Doesn’t matter. You need to forgive them so you can release the hurt and begin to heal and develop into who God desires you to be.
Have you been the source of the problem? Now is the time to seek forgiveness and to attempt to make amends for what you have done. Obviously, you cannot undo what has been done, but you can seek to “fix” what you broke and ask forgiveness for what you did. What if they don’t want to forgive you or have anything to do with you? Great question. Remember, you cannot set goals for them, only for yourself. Your genuine desire and effort to ask for forgiveness and make amends will begin to release you and reshape your life. Even when you are the problem, you can only be responsible for yourself, your actions, and your life decisions.
Perhaps the best example of accepting what cannot be changed is God Himself.
He created you in His image and has a plan for you. He knows what has happened and how different your life is from His plan. But instead of rejecting and punishing you, He has chosen to forgive your sins (putting them as far away as east is from the west) and seeing you through loving, forgiving eyes. When you turn to Him, He accepts you just as you are, faults, blemishes, and all. Plus, He can give you the power to change! Put the same into practice in your life. It will help you accept what you cannot change and focus on what you can.
Want to see this concept in action? Watch how Jesus impacted the lives of so many others in our Gospel Videos.