And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:7
At the start of every 12-step meeting we open with the Serenity Prayer:
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.
I never thought much about the word Serenity. I’m more focused on figuring out ‘the difference’. What can I do to make this undesirable outcome better, different, more desirable? What am I responsible for in this situation? What did I do to contribute? And all that is good. Except that sometimes there is nothing that can be done. Sometimes there are reasons why things are the way they are.
Acceptance is at the core of serenity. And serenity is elusive when you feel powerless to change something you wish were not as it is.
In Emmet Fox’s book, The Sermon on the Mount, he positions serenity in this way.
The great essential for success in prayer – for obtaining that sense of the Presence of God, which is the secret of healing oneself and others too; of obtaining inspiration, which is the breath of the soul; of acquiring spiritual development – is that we first attain some degree of peace of mind. This true, interior soul-peace was known to the mystics as serenity, and they are never tired of telling us that serenity is the grand passport to the Presence of God – the sea as smooth as glass that is round about the Great White Throne. This is not to say that one cannot overcome even the most serious difficulties by prayer without having any serenity at all, for of course one can. In fact, the greater the trouble one is in, the less serenity he will be able to have, and serenity itself is only to be had by prayer, and by the forgiving of others, and of oneself. But, serenity you must have, before you can make any true spiritual progress; and it is serenity, that fundamental tranquility of soul, that Jesus refers to by the word “peace” – the peace that passes all human understanding.
This concept has proven to be most difficult especially in the realm of faith. Wouldn’t accepting something mean losing faith? If faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, isn’t it wrong to throw in the towel and stop believing?
In my early 20s, I belonged to a church that was firmly committed to confession of God’s Word over your life and believing that God wanted all people to be healthy and wealthy. It was at that time my dad was dying of cancer and I was anything but serene. But my dad, yep, he had the peace that passes all understanding. I mean, how can you go through cancer treatments and leave your healing in God’s hands?
I can remember him saying, “If God wants me healed, He will do it and if it is not His will, I know where I am going.”
And I would throw every healing scripture, and book written on divine healing, at him saying, JUST BELIEVE!
Showing up at church it was almost as if you couldn’t talk about it. If you talk about it, then you’re admitting it is real, and physical realities aren’t real. God’s word is real. Just believe harder. Ignore the facts. And it was confusing and I learned how to live in a world of fighting reality with faith. This type of thinking does not result in peace. It puts you in a fight or flight mode.
So eventually, after he died and no one from that church came to the funeral, I finally woke up. It took me a few decades to make my way back to the church I was so disillusioned. Now I understand that faith and serenity can come from accepting reality as it is. Not fighting it and denying it.
Does Jesus wish that we be prosperous and in good health, even as our soul prospers? Yes. Do we live in a human imperfect body that is meant to be without any ailments? No.
This is not just about healing this is about life. Rich or poor. It’s about the cycles and seasons of humanity.
Like the song we all know from Ecclesiastes 3:
For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
What season are you in now? What in it do you need to stop fighting and accept as being exactly the way it is supposed to be? Finding serenity can be as simple as that. Put down the boxing gloves. Walk in faith and trust that God knows exactly where you are and He is loving you through it. Ask what lessons are available to you now that might not be if the situation were different. Surround yourself with others who will help you strengthen your serenity, not judge your situation.
This too shall pass. Rest in God’s love, the support of others and the serenity that comes from accepting the things you cannot change. Then you shall have the peace that passes all understanding.
Day 35 Lenten Love Prayer:
God forgive me for the times that I’ve fought the realities of life that I didn’t want to accept as being exactly the way they were supposed to be. Forgive me for blaming You or myself. Help me to see this world as transient and fleeting and help me to see that there is a purpose for everything. I can learn in all situations and I know that You have planned my days perfectly. I will accept responsibility for the times I mess up. I will continue to change what I know can be changed. But I pray for the wisdom to know the difference. I pray for the peace to accept the seasons of my life as they come and go. I trust You. Thank you for the gift of serenity and peace of mind. May I sense when it is elusive and see where I can accept Your Will at that moment. Release me from judging others when they are going through difficult times. May I be a supporter and a friend above all. May I always walk in Your Love and may I have a kind word and a helping hand when others need serenity too.
In the words of St. Francis:
Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life
Day 35 Scripture:
Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. ~ 1 Peter 3: 8-9