Many, many years ago, when I was a cheery youth, and there was no care in life to weigh me down and no turn of events for me to anticipate except what I dreamed of, I came across an article in the Reader Digest. It was in the late 60s.
The author wrote that at one time in his life, adverse circumstances had so trampled him that he decided the less painful option for him was to take his life away. He devised a failproof way; swim out far into the sea until he ran out of stamina, and then, too exhausted to swim back to shore, sink. As he walked from the beach to the waters, the rushing waves came splashing on his feet. As the water receded, he saw something shining tucked in the wet sand. It was a shell.
While the waves brought in and took away the other shells on the beach, this little one managed to stay in its place through wave after wave. The man stopped. Another wave came, and the mighty waters rushed at the puny shell, then went round it and over it, and the shell continued to remain unmoved from its place.
Something caused the man to stare at the shell and ponder its situation. Here was a tiny presence on earth being continually swamped under by the mightiest force on this planet – the oceans. But as long as it lay low and did not struggle to resist the rushing waters, as long as it allowed the wave to run round it and over it, it was able to survive.
Now here he was, just about to wade into the water and swim to oblivion, because life had continually blasted him off his place. And every time he would regather his hope and set out to live again, the wave would hit him mercilessly again and sweep everything away into the deep. And he could take it no more, and so here he was in his final moments.
He stood there for a while more watching the shell’s calm and unresisting response to the waves, and then turned back to the dry sands. He knew now that this was how he could face and survive every wave of adversity that strikes him. Let the storms of life inundate him and take away everything around him. He isn’t going to resist them in the least anymore but lie low with just his life in his hands. And when the storm subsides, he will go on with just that spared life alone.
The near-suicide had learned a lifesaving lesson from the little shell and the mighty waves, and he went back home with a new attitude. Adverse circumstances did come again, but they could not sweep him off his place anymore because he accepted them and let them pass by him.
As I write this, I have before me a few yellowed pages of another Reader’s Digest article that I just retrieved from my old files. The article is titled ‘The Way of Acceptance’, written by Arthur Gordon, one of the favorite authors of my young adulthood (the other was Dale Carnegie). This article was written in the 60s, but its message is as inspiring to me today as it was four and half decades ago when I first read it.
Some years ago, two friends of ours were given the heartbreaking news that their teenage son was going blind, that nothing could be done. Everyone was torn with pity for them, but they remained calm and uncomplaining. One night, as we left their house, I tried to express my admiration for their fortitude.
I remember how the boy’s father looked up at the stars. “Well,” he said, “it seems to me that we have three choices. We can curse life for doing this to us, and look for some way to express our grief and rage. Or we can grit our teeth and endure it. Or we can accept it. The first alternative is useless. The second is sterile and exhausting. The third is the only way.”
The way of acceptance… How often that path is rejected by people who refuse to admit limitations, who hide behind denials and excuses, who react to trouble with resentment and bitterness. And how often, conversely, when one makes the first painful move towards repairing a damaged relationship, or even a broken life, that move involves acceptance of some thorny and difficult reality that must be faced before the rebuilding can begin. It’s a law that seems to run like a shining thread through the whole vast tapestry of life…
“O Lord,” goes one variation of the old prayer, “grant me the strength to change things that need changing, the courage to accept things that cannot be changed and the wisdom to know the difference.” People have called it the prayer of acceptance.
Precious child of God, having food and clothing and a place to lay down in peace, be content with them, knowing that the Lord is faithful and that he will not allow you to go through any trouble that is unbearable for you but with the trouble he will provide a way of escape (a way of acceptance) so that you are able to bear it until your Protector leads you out of it.
Yes, be content with such things as you have, for the Lord himself has promised that he will never leave you nor forsake you. Therefore do not fear anything, for the Lord is your helper. 1 Tm 6:6-8; 1 Cor 10:13; Heb 13:5-6
This message was written at a time I was living in an alien land, and circumstances were becoming so unbearable that I decided to cast away all my works and hopes there and retire to ignominy in my own land. As I pondered ways to leave as soon as I could, the lesson of the shell and the insight from the article on the way of acceptance came to mind. And I decided to do just that. I was not going to resist in the least anymore the constant barrage of troubles I was facing then, but let them pass by me and take anything they want from me, but I was going to stick to my life with just the barest the Lord would give me daily – even if that might be just my daily basic food, clothing, and shelter. And one day, some months later, I emerged completely out of my severe troubles, a stronger and happier man.
After reading this message, I urge you to read the unforgettable article ‘I Am Not As Steady At Walking’ by John Elliot in this section. It’s the story of another man devastated physically by adversity and who, by acceptance, now lives a full life. A complementary message on this website which may give you more insights on this subject is ‘Reduce the Pain of the Troubles In Your Life’