Is it faithless to accept your lot?

I’ve never been full of memory. I only have two dozen or so memories of my dad — one of the most influential people in my life, both before and after he died — all of which cycle through my mind as sounds and smells bring me back to girlhood. In one memory, we sat on the stiff-from-underuse matching couches in our living room. He was leaning back, arms stretched out across the back of the sofa as I often saw him sit, and he was coaching me. My dad, the forever coach. This time, not coaching my tennis stroke or my runner’s gait, but I remember him saying “acceptance.” If I fill out the sentence in my mind, it would be: part of growing through this moment is accepting what you cannot change, Sara.

I suspect we had that conversation dozens of times in that same spot. I imagine my dad talked with me a lot about “acceptance.”

My dad didn’t talk to me much about God. This wasn’t a Biblical exegesis on the importance of accepting God’s plan for my life. He’d lived some hard years, and more would come — this was his speech to his own heart that he shared with me.

But my teenage ears listened without absorption. I didn’t really believe him. This was his speech to a crowd that I valued but couldn’t receive. I had decades ahead of me to change my boyfriend and change my hairstyle, and change the world. “Acceptance” felt like the weaker road.

But this past winter, I read these words from James and knew that God first whispered it to me all those years ago through my dad: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

James didn’t say, “Accept your lot,” … but he did.

Because to consider trials a joy, we must first stop trying to change them.

You see, three decades into following God, I see a trend. As practical, technological limitations melt away, so does our understanding of how God limits us.

I used to call my best friend several times a day to reach her at home, and sometimes, even that didn’t mean I could talk to her. She had siblings in line to use the phone. I set a time in my schedule to drive twenty-three minutes to the grocery to pick up what I needed for dinner. Two-and-a-half hours later, I’d have food for our week. Today, I can see which grocery has the quickest Instacart drop-off to my front door. I ordered party favors for a kid’s birthday yesterday, and they arrived at my door today. I have access to more people, resources, and time in a day than I ever did two decades ago. There are now life hacks for almost all of my “everyday trials.”

The perceived value of experiencing “trials of many kinds” is mostly lost in the furious energy we put forth to avoid them.

This, coupled with a theology of God’s victorious abilities to conquer all, and you might just be like I was last winter reading this verse … bereft that the thing I wanted most (the good and beautiful and right thing) was something I couldn’t yet have.

So we do this thing — we are tenacious that way— we work and re-work and work again to get what we want (mind you, I’m not talking about the fancy car or shoes … I mean the deeply beautiful things in our lives that we want). And then, when our plans aren’t working, we throw ourselves onto the floor in prayer. We text friends and mentors and prayer groups, desperate: would you ask God to move?

It’s a re-purposed tenacity, this prayerfulness I knew so well in my youth, but I am more curious about it as I get older.

Because what about when God says “no” — or, rather, when His silence speaks that for Him?

There is a step after “no,” but before James’s words, “consider it pure joy” (and potentially many steps) that seems to have been significantly formational in my walk with God and my penetrating-through-the-skin understanding of Him in His Word.

It’s acceptance.

My Father’s words came through my dad.


I’ve shied from accepting any hard lot in my life. On the surface, I might say that it’s because I don’t want to lack that Hebrews 11:1 faith — I want to be sure of what I hope for. But deeper (and if I’m honest with myself), many days I fight with “faith” because I’d like to do anything I can to avoid walking through the trial that would come — in my heart and life — if God said “no” or “not yet.”

So for you, who are like I was when I read those promising words of James on a cold winter morning without much promise for change: there might be one (or three) steps between where you are now, fiercely fighting to change or to thwart the thing which might become one of the greater trials in your life if it doesn’t move. (For you who surely can’t pivot right to the “pure joy” that James speaks of from the crazy-wild tenacity of heart that has kept you fighting in life and prayer for this thing you so desperately want.)

It may be time to begin to accept it — to accept it as it is in this moment, unchanging. Accept that person, or that job, or that marriage, or that friendship, or that dwindling bank account, or that house with the dated wallpaper … just as it is.


Because on the other side of acceptance might just be the joy of which James speaks. Not a put-on-your-happy-face joy — not forced or forged from habit or will. But the joy of having the burden to make this thing move lifted. The joy of Him carrying what you’ve hoisted on your back and dragged through your days — what you’ve slept with and awakened to, what you’ve carried into work and back home to dinner … what hasn’t left you.

You might want to call me crazy and say: I can’t accept the waywardness of this child, I can’t accept this injustice at work, I can’t accept my husband who continues to choose work over family or my wife who manipulates me …

It feels wrong to the parts of us that know God can move mountains at a mere word.

But, really, in the quiet of our rooms and the dark of our hearts, we’re often responding to the parts of us that simply don’t want to suffer. Acceptance feels even more wrong to those parts.

So, with you, I cry. Acceptance isn’t initially a welcomed part of my walk with God. It surely doesn’t preach. The valley God has allowed in my life has felt harrowing at times. So wrong. Why would I choose to accept that?

And yet, something finally began to shift when I stopped looking for every way out of the valley — whether in action or in prayer — and began to accept what He gave me. This journey of months, or longer, produced …


Not a plastic joy, not a Hallmark joy, not the habit of joy.

But like a child who tumbles over bramble and brushes to climb the tree in the forest — the one that gives her a view — there is a beautiful strength and wonder (and height-reaching) and even exhilaration that comes after acceptance.

Perhaps we call it hope.