Last week, we talked about how we can't control everything.
The serenity prayer begins with this idea:
"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..."
King David's serenity-type prayer also starts with a similar idea in Psalm 131:1:
"O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me."
Surrendering to the notion that some things are too great for us and choosing not to occupy ourselves with them is a significant first step out of stress and into a more serene life.
However, we can't stop there because some things are within our power to change. And we need the courage to take the next step.
A Lack of Courage
At first, the movement in the serenity prayer and David's prayer don't seem to match, but they do.
Let's look more closely.
The serenity prayer:
Moves from accepting what I can't change toward courage to change what I can.
David's prayer of calm:
Moves from not occupying myself with things too great toward calming and quieting my soul.
While the words are different, the movement is similar. There's a movement from large to small — from a lack of choice to personal agency.
We must surrender the idea that we are victims without power. David points out we must stop obsessing about everything out there and focus on one thing — the presence of God with us.
It's in His presence that all our fears melt, and it's in His company that our souls are content.
You Can Change Some Things
So don't sweat the big picture; that's God's job. Instead, ask, What can I change?
Make it a matter of prayer with Jesus:
What are small aspects of my life that I have the power to change?
How can I adjust my life to focus more on your presence with me?
What fears keep me obsessing over the big picture?
What fears keep me from changing what I can?
What would my life look like if I I dared to take responsibility for what I can change?
Jesus, what are you inviting me to do?
Jesus is faithful, and His presence gives us courage to take risks. The more we take the posture of a weaned child in her mother's lap, the more courage we have to act.
The paradox of the serenity prayer and David's prayer is peace doesn't come by trying to control everything.
A serene life results from entrusting to God what belongs to Him and partnering with Jesus to take responsibility for what is ours to do.
May God's Spirit grant us the wisdom to know the difference.
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