“Why can’t he just see the truth?” My mom and I were pondering this on the telephone this week as we thought about my stroke-ridden uncle’s health crisis. He wasn’t really getting better, and he seemed to think that ordering expensive health products online—instead of working hard in therapy—would help him to regain his pre-stroke “fitness”—which wasn’t that great to begin with. He had already been kicked out of one therapy for not doing the work; now there was a chance he would be kicked out of another. It just seemed like he didn’t want to accept anything about the situation—including his limitations.
One of the biggest keys to emotional health is acceptance. It’s not about others accepting you—that is a path that leads to death. Instead, it’s about walking in emotional health and with the joy that comes through Christ. And if there’s anything I have learned about life in Christ, it is that you must practice acceptance in the following three areas to create emotionally healthy habits:
- Accept yourself. Sometimes, accepting ourselves means accepting where we are right at this moment. It means taking a hard look at ourselves from a Biblical point of view and recognizing our current sins and struggles. It means swallowing our pride and understanding that we are beautifully broken people. We may not be physically broken, but we are all spiritually and emotionally broken and weak because we live in a broken world. As I watch my uncle resist accepting himself and his condition right now, I am forced to ask myself, where am I being prideful and not accepting my weaknesses? Proverbs 19:8 says, “Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good.” Do you have sense? Are you trying to keep understanding yourself so that you can discover good?
- Accept others. This is my biggest struggle. For most people, accepting themselves is the hard part, but for me, it is accepting that other people are exactly the way God made them. Why can’t my coworker learn things as quickly as I do? Why can’t my uncle see the truth about his condition? I tend to bring these complaints to God instead of accepting and seeing others as His creations as well. After all, I need to accept that God didn’t just make ME, He formed others uniquely as well (Psalm 139). And I need to accept others, flaws and all. I need to accept my family’s flaws—including my uncle’s—and realize that as I am growing in Christlikeness, I need to show no partiality as God does. How can you accept others as they are?
- Accept circumstances. My uncle had a stroke that incapacitated him. He is no longer independent, but is dependent on my family even to use the bathroom. He can no longer drive an 18-wheeler, he can no longer live a bachelor’s life of doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants to. Those are his circumstances. Maybe your circumstances aren’t as grim; maybe you simply don’t like where you are living. Maybe you don’t like your job. Maybe you aren’t married and you want to be. Can you change your circumstances? Of course. But the better question is…can you accept your circumstances and wait patiently on the Lord to use them to mature you? As James 1 notes, our circumstances—trials and testing especially—lead to perseverance, which makes us mature. So are you willing to accept your circumstances so that the Lord can produce in you His fruit? Am I?
Acceptance can be difficult, but it is a great step towards practicing emotionally healthy habits. When you begin to accept yourself, others, and your circumstances, you begin to change your thinking, your actions, and eventually your outcomes. And that is the beginning of total health—mind, soul, and body!