“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
This beautiful prayer is a hallmark of 12 Step groups such as AA. The origin of it is somewhat disputed, but look at this longer prayer written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:
God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.
Trusting that You will make all things right, if I surrender to Your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
The pursuit of serenity and peace is something that consumes many of us, with little to no results. The reason may be that we are using the wrong things to find it. Hoping to find serenity in alcohol, drugs, food, “retail therapy”, inappropriate relationships, overworking, over exercising, attempting to control everything around us….even the list itself is exhausting.
I know someone who religiously gets up every morning to pour over every single page of a national newspaper, thinking that intellectual pursuit of answers to her anxiety about the current state of affairs will bring her peace. It does not. I know someone else who is up at the crack of dawn to exercise, followed by more cardio work and group classes throughout the day, in hopes that physical exhaustion will settle her mind down. It does not. Neither will the every afternoon Happy Hour routine, the weed smoked before class, the sexting, the pornography, the overspending, the undereating…..nothing we can produce or manufacture will bring us true peace. It is all lies, smoke, and mirrors fueled by industries who are just trying to produce more consumption of useless things.
Niebuhr was right. Accepting hardship, rather than denying it, is the pathway to peace. Living one day at a time, rather than spinning with worry about tomorrow, will lead us to serenity. Enjoying one moment at a time, rather than comparing that moment to the fun everyone on Fakebook seems to be having, will lead to acceptance of the world as it is. And the key? “Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will.”
Take a look at verses 3 and 4 of this passage from Isaiah. Note that the voice changes in this passage; verse 1 and 2 describes what is happening, verse 3 addresses God, and verse 4 addresses us.
1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city;
he sets up salvation
as walls and bulwarks.
2 Open the gates,
that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.”
3 You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.
4 Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
To be kept in this perfect peace, our minds must be “stayed” on God. The Hebrew word “sawmak” comes from the root “to prop,” and is translated as “to lean upon or take hold of; to bear up, establish, uphold, lay, lean, lie hard, put, rest self, set self, stand fast, stay, sustain.” (Strong’s Dictionary)
So, what sustains your mind? What do you lay your mind upon? What does your mind stand fast upon? What is your mind leaning on? To have perfect peace, your mind can’t just occasionally visit the Lord; it has to be STAYED on him. Keeping your mind, heart, soul and activity wholly centered on God is the way to peace.
Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.Photo by Michelle Robertson.