Today, I reached for my journal for inspiration. Sometimes flipping through the pages and reliving the emotional growth that was born out of those words points me towards the next right thing. But today, I never even made it past the front cover. Instead, I was stopped by the words printed on the surface of that worn out notebook. The same words that have saved my sanity and my relationships time and time again.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I wish I could say I have always embraced the serenity prayer and that I have always submitted to its message in my walk with the Lord and in my daily encounters with the people, places, and things of this world. But that is simply not true. You see, I’m a planner. I’m a people pleaser. I’m a perfectionist. And quite frankly, I’m a control-freak.
I’m also a believer. I believe that we are in control of our own happiness. I believe that people can change, and that many do. I believe that we all have something good to offer the world, no matter how deep inside us it may be buried. I believe that God created us each in His image, and I believe that it is up to us to be the change we want to see. And while that all looks good on paper and perhaps even sounds like an admirable combination of qualities to the outside ear, when put into action, many of those statements tend to contradict one another. Especially when it comes time to, “Let go, and let God.”
I say all of that to tell you that I think the entire premise of the serenity prayer is to help us remove the ambiguity and worry that keeps us from growing into the best versions of ourselves. And I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that coming to that realization has changed my life in more ways than one. It’s changed the way I see myself, the way I perceive and interact with loved ones, and the way I present my burdens to the Lord.
As I’ve used the serenity prayer as a foundational mantra to sort through the conflicting patterns of my heart, mind, and soul, here is what I’ve learned:
- Keep it simple.
- If it won’t matter in five years, don’t spend more than five minutes worrying about it.
- At the end of the day, you only have control over yourself.
- Strive for progress, not perfection.
- When in doubt, just do the next right thing.
So, let’s break that down:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”
Ask yourself, is this something you’re capable of fixing? And if so, is it your place to fix it? Will your actions and reactions truly change the outcome? If not, let it go. Confess your fears to the Lord and ask Him to convict and guide whoever does have the ability to change it, but then accept it for what it is and LET IT GO. Trust me, friend, if He has a job for you, He’ll let you know.
"Courage to change the things I can”
Why is it that we tend to spend our time and resources trying to change the things that are outside our control instead of focusing our efforts where they are actually of use? Is it fear? Is it arrogance? Is it that people pleasing Savior-complex we can’t seem to escape? For me it’s a combination. But again, we’re challenged to “keep it simple.” Where our influence is warranted, I believe we should exercise it. If you feel that tug at your heart, move. If God calls you to do something, answer that call. Don’t let your stubbornness be a stumbling block to others. And just as importantly, don’t let someone else steal your blessing because you are too timid or prideful to rise to the occasion. If you can make a positive change, do. God aims to write each of our stories beautifully, but if we’re ever to begin a new chapter, we have to be willing to put pen to paper in the first place.
"The wisdom to know the difference"
This is the tricky one. Sometimes I find myself asking why the world is filled with so much grey? When did the line between right and wrong, yes and no, and mine and yours become so blurred? Well, friend, it became that way when we made it that way.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is found in Ecclesiasties 11:3.
“If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth; and if the tree fall toward the south or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.”
It is what it is, folks. And while at times that seems unfair and even unbearable, I find there is also great reward in embracing our reality. For when we strip away the uncertainty, “what if” becomes “even if,” and everything gets a little simpler. And suddenly, we’ve found the wisdom to know the difference.
You see, we spin our wheels day after day trying to figure out how we’ll ever make it to the next place to do the next thing to serve the next person. So much so that, many times, we forget why we’re here doing what we do in the first place. But I don’t think God intends for it to be that way. In fact, I think the grace that is foreshadowed in the serenity prayer gives us every tool we need to simplify our lives in a way that both glorifies God and allows us the personal freedom to enjoy the blessings He has granted us in the here and now.
My challenge to you:
Seek God’s guidance in everything and make the most of the answer He gives you. Trust that if He is telling you to wait, He is telling someone else to make a move. Recognize that you can light someone else’s flame, but that it’s up to them to shine their own light. And finally, give yourself the grace you deserve. Remember, God’s mercies are new each morning, and yours should be too.
Until next time,