Acceptance and Commitment Strategy for Christians: Addressing Life's Ups and Downs with Evidence Based Strategies and Biblical Examples

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In the previous blogcast episode, I talked about the simple strategy that Paul demonstrated in Phillipians .  Do go back and review that when you are able if you didn’t read or listen to that one yet.  

Then today – I will share the second strategy, and then I will wrap up with a biblical example.  This second strategy is called Acceptance and Commitment, and it can be applied to any negative emotion, but especially depression, anxiety, fear, and issues of doubt.  It’s different from cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive therapy is good, but it’s actually hard, and it can be hard to implement on your own. It's hard because you have to be aware of your thoughts, and you often need someone trained to help you pull up the thoughts that you are having. You also have to identify the not-always conscious scripts that are running in the background of your mind. Then you have to learn how to reframe those thoughts more positively, and then you have to practice thinking those new thoughts. It’s very effective and there is more research on cognitive behavior therapy than any other therapy strategy; but it is hard. What I mean is - that it is definitely not always intuitive. So, I love this Acceptance and Commitment strategy, and even though it was developed by secular psychology, it is clearly demonstrated by what several biblical characters modeled for us.


The first thing has to do with Acceptance. This means taking a step back from your day and all its activity,  and just being aware of what you are feeling. For example,  “I’m starting to feel really down. I’m starting to feel tired,  starting to feel unmotivated.” Then you take time to accept those feelings. You don’t have to talk back to the thoughts. You don’t have to say to yourself, “Oh,  I shouldn’t be feeling tired and sad or unmotivated or scared.” You just accept it. You think about it. You validate it. These feelings are real for me at this time. I am feeling down.” You allow yourself to sit with the negative emotion as long as you need to.  You tune into the indicators that God has given you through your emotions.


Here is the next step, the important, transformative step. After you give yourself time to feel all of those feelings - and actually think about the negative thoughts you are already having - then you move to the next step – a very powerful step. You tell yourself, “Yes, I feel this way, and I accept that I feel this way; and I am still going to choose to act within my value system anyway.”


That is it. Well there is actually more to it than that. There is a whole acceptance and commitment therapy training that’s been developed around this strategy.  I’m just explaining the very surface of it. If  this hits home with you and you want to learn more you can read up on it or find a Christian counselor or therapist who practices Acceptance and Commitment therapy.  Again, you take the time needed to accept that negative thing that you’re feeling. You let yourself feel it.  You allow yourself to experience it.  We are not trying to squash the feeling. We are accepting it, acknowledging that it exists. Then after we have accepted it and acknowledged it; it breaks the power over our behavior. That is when we consciously decide,  “I’m going to choose to act or respond in a way that is congruent with my values.” 


One of the best examples of this in the Bible is the Psalms of David.  When you look at his psalms, David writes and sits with his emotions and his feelings first. When he writes,  “I am downcast in my soul!,”  he is acknowledging his emotion first. Then after he has taken the time to explore the emotion and the thoughts around the emotion; he then flips from acceptance to a commitment. He moves on to “And I still choose to believe in God and to trust God. I still know that there is nothing better than having God with me.”


There are more biblical examples: Elijah, Solomon, Hannah, Mary, Paul, and even Jesus - all give us examples of acceptance and commitment. I will have to save those examples for another time or for the book and journal I am currently working on.  I find it fascinating that the Bible models this for us beginning 4000 years before psychology began developing its theories. It's even more interesting to me that the process of exploring and developing those theories led right back to methods exemplified in the Bible by David and Solomon and Elijah.


When applying these strategies I’ve shared through this Emotions Series, you will maintain better mental health, and you will also strengthen your identity and values. So yes, this is something to use and to teach your children and teens. When you choose to act within your values, you actually reduce what psychologists and counselors call “cognitive dissonance.” Do you know what cognitive dissonance is? It is when a person becomes aware that the way they are behaving or the direction they are heading, or the life they are living or the thoughts that they are thinking are not in line with their true values.  Cognitive dissonance is not always at the forefront of our awareness, but from a spiritual perspective it is a disconnect between our physical selves and our spiritual selves. I believe you might even say it’s a disconnect between our physical selves and our souls.


So review this and use these strategies, and teach them to your pre-teens and teens. They will enjoy the process too, and they will learn that it feels good to make a decision in line with their values. They will also learn, “When I make a decision that is not within my values, it doesn’t feel good; but when I decide within my values – it feels good!” As I talked about in the blogcast episode just before this one -  Do we want natural dopamine or do we want “blah” and sadness and spiraling emotions?


Before I close, I again want to remind you where you will find a link to my books. One book which I want to highlight is titled Closer to God: Simple Methods, Starting Today.  If you enjoyed these teachings on very simple strategies that can help you take charge of your emotions and your mental health; then you will also like the book title Closer to God: SimpleMethods, Starting Today.  A link to the book may be found at the website, The paperback and kindle versions of the book may be found on Amazon, and the Kindle version may be accessed for free if you are a member of Kindle Unlimited.

Finally, if you have missed any of the writings or episodes in the "Emotion Series," you may find a list of all the episodes, in the order they were released here:

The Emotions Series on Gospel Life Learning


Sherry Elaine

Positive Psychology Points Back to the Bible | Three Good Things | Paul and Philippians 1

Listen to this blogpost using the player below:


Have you ever wondered how Paul was able to demonstrate resilience and encouragment, even while in prison?  For one thing, of course, Paul had the Holy Spirit with him. Yet Paul intentionally did something else which directly contributed to his resilient spirit.  Paul wrote Phillipians around 60 or 62 AD, but he clearly demonstrated a decision to think in a certain way – and today, so much later, we know that what Paul did works, and that there is even neuroscience that proves it works.  In the 1980s, a field of psychology began studying resiliency in people. For the people in the world who don’t have significant mental health issues, who don’t struggle with depression or anxiety - what do those people do that contributes to their uplifted state?


In Phillipians 1, Paul is writing from prison.  In his writings, he remains positive and upbeat, as he talks about the good things that have happened in prison; and he mentions what he has been able to accomplish in prison.

Let me say that again:

First, Paul stated some good things that had happened while he was in prison, and

Second, Paul states some things  he had accomplished, even while in prison.  

  It’s been some months, and  I need to finish up the emotion series with a talk about  depression and anxiety within the framework of our theology of emotions. We are practicing identifying emotions and using them as indicators.  We view the emotion as an indicator, and then we decide how we are going to respond or what actions we will take. It sounds easy…but how, right? It can be hard in the moment. However, by using simple strategies, we can practice responses that are within God’s direction for us.  Eventually, those responses become positive habits.


A few statistics - at least 3 in 10 adults in the US have an actual clinical diagnosis of depression. 18% of US adults are currently being treated or are on medication for depression. Additionally, nearly 1 in 10 US adults have had a depressive episode within the past year. (This is data from 2023).  So if you are not affected, then someone close to you is.  For our youth and adolescents, it’s even more of a concern. A survey taken in 2019 indicated that 40% of our youth experience persistent depressive feelings or feelings of sadness. And anxiety is even higher than that.



So these strategies can be used daily – but most importantly – when a person begins to feel the “early slide” into depression. If you have experienced it, you know exactly what I’m speaking of.  It’s feels like a fog of heaviness, and it starts to creep up on you, and you know that a depressive episode is right at the door. It’s like you can feel it starting to seep in.  That feeling is your indicator to definitely start using some of the strategies that I’m about to share.  Secondly, even though all of my professional training was done in a state university, I always ensure that what I teach or recommend is in line with my theology and with biblical teachings.


Anyway – I am trying to keep this short so let me get back to where I was.  In order for us to use our emotions for good, we have to be aware of those emotions. We have to take time, at least a couple of times a week, to think about our own thinking and state of being. What have I been feeling this week? What have I been thinking? When you are doing that kind of check in with yourself, and you start to notice, “Oh, I’m starting to drag. I’m starting to not want to get up and go to work. I’m starting to not want to get up and even do fun things.” Or, “I stress ate a whole box of cheese crackers or chocolate chip cookies last night.” Those are the signals to look for, and then immediately activate this first simple strategy. 


I have been sharing this strategy with everyone I meet at work and with all the parents of the youth I work with. It is so simple, and it is so effective, and it even has research and neuroscience backing it up.  Here is what to do – when you feel that you are starting to slip into the “blahs” of depression. Then begin this process – near the late afternoon, evening, or near the end of each day – make yourself identify and name aloud at least two good things about the day. First, you are going to identify and name something good that happened that day. It doesn’t matter how small of a thing it is. Name something good that happened, even if it is the tiniest thing. Second, name at least one thing that you accomplished that day. Again, even if it is the smallest of all accomplishments.


Start there and start small if necessary. If you are interested in the evidence behind this very simple strategy – it comes down to a neuroscience finding. Paul modeled this, and research shows us this is so effective.  When we cause ourselves to think and reflect when we cause our self to think and reflect on our day in such a manner. When we choose to think about something good from the day in those two ways, we literally give our brains a shot of dopamine when we make ourselves have those types of reflective thoughts.  Try it anytime you are feeling a bit down, and you will realize that you actually feel  better after doing the exercise, even if it’s small, the dopamine still hits.  It works; it is a quick, easy, effective research-based potentially life changing strategy that anyone can do anywhere.


I am closing out for today, because I try to keep these under 15 minutes. My next post is going to be another strategy very similar that is also coming out of the research. It’s simple to do, and it is not cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s actually easier than cognitive behavioral therapy, and I will be sharing that next, along with people like David who definitely modeled it for us.


Now finally, if you’re finding these very simple strategies and tips to be helpful, I think you’ll also like a book that I wrote that has very simple, doable strategies to help you with your walk and staying closer to God. It’s called Closer to God:Simple Methods, Starting Today. It’s on the website and it’s on Amazon, both the paperback and Kindle version – the Kindle can be read for free if you subscribe to Kindle unlimited. You can also find the links to the books at or at We will see you in a few – bye!