If you want to live a sober life; if you would to live a life that’s not consumed by worry; or if you just want to live a joyful and peaceful life; then you have to get in touch with the Serenity Prayer.
The problem is if you just pray the part of the Serenity Prayer most people know (verse 1), you are begging God to give you something that you have not prepared yourself to receive.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Serenity Prayer, Verse 1
Verse 1 of the Serenity Prayer presents you with the desired results of recovery without presenting you with the spiritual steps to get there. Those steps are contained in verses 2 & 3.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Serenity Prayer, Verses 2 & 3
The key to being able to “accept the things I cannot change” is learning to accept “hardships as the pathway to peace”. We all want life to just be easy and peaceful, but deep down we know that those two things do not go together. When we go through hard times and try to find peace and hope, we seek out someone who has been through even tougher times to guide us through. When we hit rock bottom, we find Christ to be the solid rock that cannot be shaken, who will never give up on us. This discovery gives us the ability to live in peace by accepting the things we cannot change because we know there is an all-powerful God who is wrapping us in His all-consuming love.
The key to finding the “courage to change the things I can” comes from “trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will”. Once we have surrender, we no longer have to fear failure. The fight is in God’s hands. He may lead us to an external victory that the world celebrates with us or he may lead us through hardships that ultimately help us win more internal peace. The only thing we can change is our perspective.
Be warned: change your perspective to one of actively trusting God to make all things right is not as easy as it sounds. Trust is not trust until you follow God down a path that you would never choose on your own. So long as you agree with everything you do, you have not surrendered to God. You are simply using God as a cheerleader for your best thinking, some which is pretty good and some of which is quite bad. Once you accept God as God and follow God’s lead on God’s terms, then you will know what it is to trust and in so doing you will find the courage to change the things you can.
The key to ultimately finding the wisdom to know the difference between what you can change and what you cannot is having realistic expectations about life. By trusting Christ you can realistically expect to be reasonably happy in this life filled with hardships and “supremely happy with Him forever in the next”. When we learn to expect reasonable happiness in this life we make wise decisions even when life gets hard. When we learn that supreme happiness really is a realistic promise to expect God to fulfill in the next life, we find a serenity that nothing in this world can take away.
Praying the first verse of the Serenity Prayer without the second and third verses is like setting out to work the 12 Steps and then skipping from Step 2 to Step 12. If you do that, it’s just not going to end well for you. But if we learn to pray all of the Serenity Prayer and work all of the 12 Steps, then we will learn how to receive the gift of peace Jesus gave to his very first followers to live when he told them “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).
June 23, 2016