Acceptance and the Problem With Bears
“That which does not kill you makes you stronger.” – attributed to Frederik Nietzsche
One of my favorite quotes is this one from Frederik Nietzsche. It is because it has been handily rewritten by the wilderness community into this: “That which does not kill you makes you stronger…except bears. Bears kill you.” I have had numerous encounters in the wild with bears and have learned up close about their strength and capacity to kill. These experiences have made me stronger, and I am still here to talk about them.
Yet the things in life that are difficult, that we think may even kill us, are the very things that our God uses to move us farther along in our transformation into children of light. Perhaps without realizing it, Nietzsche was identifying how our God works in us in our difficulties and trials.
Elisabeth Elliot, in her book, “Be Still, My Soul,” has this to say about God’s role in our sufferings, trials, and losses: “… Do I really believe that God is governing this world and everything that touches me with perfect wisdom, justice, and love?” He who keeps us neither slumbers nor sleeps. His love is always awake, always aware, always surrounding and upholding and protecting. If a spear or a bullet finds its target in the flesh of one of His servants, it is not because of inattention on His part. It is because of love.” In one of her later talks, Elliot stated that in light of our God’s love and justice, “our sufferings are never for nothing.”
Because our God is working from His love and for our good, our difficulties should prompt us to acceptance. Acceptance allows us to respond with worship, with joy, and with gratitude even in the tough times. There are important truths for us to consider, drawn from Paul’s words in Romans 8:18-25, as we consider acceptance of our difficulties. This post will cover the first three truths, and the rest will be covered in the next post.
The first important truth is that the sufferings of our lives here, no matter how severe, are not worthy of comparison to the glories of the eternity we will share with our Savior. In Romans 8:18, Paul wrote, “or I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” We are being prepared for an eternity in the presence of our God in all His fulness. Jesus told His disciples that the faithful will rule and reign with Him in the final kingdom. The trials we experience in this world in some way prepare us for the roles we will have in that Kingdom. Paul is hinting to that no sorrow or loss is to be wasted in view of eternity.
The second truth is that the sufferings and trials we face are ubiquitous, and from them none of us are exempt. They are the consequences of the great rebellion against the rule of God by Satan and by humans. Paul goes on in 8:19-23: “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”
These rebellions have led to all manner of upset and difficulty in the created order. Paul uses terms like “subjected to futility,” “bondage to decay,” and “groaning in labor pains.” Disease, evil, and harm come to us and to all creation. Problems, conflicts, and hatred impact us all. No one is exempted.
Third, even though the children of God in this world have been set apart for eternity with Him, we are still living in this fallen world. As such, we will fall victim to the depredations of evil, the sin, the decay and disease that are now a part of this world. Yet for followers of Jesus, hope is a key part of our God’s will and work in us. Paul wrote: “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” We wait in hope of our final redemption. We hope for our deliverance through our difficulties and distresses, from evil and from those who would force it upon us. We live in hope, knowing that all our trials on this earth are preparing us to be godly here in this life, and to be glorious in our Lord’s eternal kingdom.
Acceptance is the best response for us when facing various trials. Acceptance is the response of faith in our God, His goodness, power, justice, and most importantly, love. And the problem is not a bear, we can be certain that it is useful in preparing us for this life and for eternity.
“Though we cannot control the universe, we can determine our attitude toward it. We can accept God’s will wherever it is expressed and take toward it an attitude of worshipful resignation. If my will is to do God’s will, then there will be no controversy with anything that comes in the course of my daily walk. Inclement weather, unpleasant neighbors, physical handicaps, adverse political conditions—all these will be accepted as God’s will for the time….” A.W. Tozer
Watch for more on acceptance in the face of trial in the next post.