What Control Do You Really Have In Life? (Article 17-20)
One of my favorite prayers is the “Serenity Prayer” attributed to Reinhold Neiburhr, (1892-1971). During difficult and challenge times in my life, especially as it concerns relationships, I find comfort in reading this prayer. The Beginning of the prayer is “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”. This prayer reminds me that the only control I have in my life is control over my own choices. Beyond that, God controls all things. With this understanding, I find true and meaningful peace and rest.
Accepting the Things We Cannot Change
We expend a great deal of time and energy trying to control our life circumstances and with it, the direction of our lives or the life direction of those we care for greatly. Ultimately, our goal is to be happy and for those we care for to be happy. As such, the aspects of our lives we try to control the most are our relationships, whether personal, family, or those in our work place or community. In many instances, we attempt to assert control over our relationships by imposing our will (desires, way of thinking, or intentions) over others in an effort to achieve what we perceive will yield a positive or beneficial outcome. The imposing of our will on another’s is an attempt to align diverging viewpoints to achieve the same or similar conclusion about something. However, in our effort to impose our will over another’s is often met with resistance and can lead to significant resentment by the person you believe you're trying to help. The situation can become even more distressing and frustrating when we’re trying to help someone we love (such as a family member or a friend) in an effort to steer them away from what we perceive is a situation or circumstance that will end badly for them. At the end of our efforts, we often resign to letting them do what they choose to do because it becomes clear that they want to live their life on their terms. The question here is why is it so difficult to get people to see things the same way we do? The answer is that God gives each one of us the free will to choose our path in life with no power or authority to change the path or direction of others. Although we think that our relationships, whether biological or platonic, gives us the right to impose our will on others, we fail to remember that the main purpose of our existence is to have a one-on-one relationship with God. See, it’s not the assertion of our will over another’s that we should focus our time and energy. Our focus should be on whether we’re attempting to assert our will over God’s Will for our lives. So, what is God’s Will? Above all things, God’s Will is for us to be "one with Him" and not with anyone else, not even the ones we love and care for the most. There is no greater calling or purpose in our life than to be "one with God". God will not permit any other forces to interfere with this divine reality.
In reflecting on the “Serenity Prayer”, the author petitions God to help him recognize what he cannot change and to give him the courage to “let go” of any desire or effort to change things that he has no authority or power to change: Even when what is he trying to control and change is for the perceived to benefit of those most dear to him. With this too, the author recognizes that by “letting go” and submitting to God’s Will and trusting in His power and control over all things, he will have peace and rest (a state of serenity) he has always sought. In sum, it is a petition for God to give him the courage to repent, which is to have change in thinking and understanding about who he is in relation to God and the knowledge that he needs God for all things. It’s the author's petition to give him the courage to trust and have faith in our Lord and to abide in our Lord, and by way of the Lord Spirit's power, to change him, for the author knows he has no power to change himself.
Knowing The Things We Can Change
The only control we have to change anything in life is our own decisions and resulting direction in life. The sooner we come to realize this, the sooner we can come to peace with God and our life’s circumstances. Knowing that we alone choose our path also brings us to much higher level of personal accountability, thus the truth about ourselves. With this truth too comes knowing that we cannot blame others for the way we feel or our perceived misfortunes, for we must resist expectations for others to make us happy. Why? The answer it that God instructs us to listen to (hear) our Lord Jesus Christ and no other (Matthew 17:5). When we listen to our Lord, He tells us that He is the true and the only way (John 14:6). Our Lord tells us that apart from Him, we can do nothing and to abide in Him for all things (John 15:5). In sum, God gives the the free will to choose (or not to choose) to believe in and follow the one He sent, His beloved Son Jesus Christ, to to save us from an eternal separation and death. Yes, we are given the freedom to choose (or not to choose) to give Christ full reign over our lives. If we choose to follow our Lord, by way of trust and faith, then we are fulling God's will. If choose not to journey this path, then we must be willing to be held accountable for not wanting to put God's will at the center of our lives. It's that simple.
By choosing Christ as our Lord, we acknowledge that in fact He is “our Lord” – the sole source to make all our decisions. The source we must go to for our guidance and direction. In other words, we choose to seek Him not for recommendations, but rather to guide our lives in all circumstances. We choose to seek His Spirit to replace our own so we may have the power to accomplish His will and by doing so, be at the center of our Father’s Will. To choose Christ as our Lord, we seek the Fruits of His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and to bear these same fruits in our lives. Our choice to abide in Christ is motivated by our recognizing our spiritual poverty and the need to humble ourselves before God. With this comes a desire to mourn and be sorrowful for those who do not know God’s truths and His promises and subsequently, to pray for them. Our faith and trust in Christ gives rise to our decision to be meek, thus subservient to the Lord’s will. Our submission to Christ gives us the ability to recognize that it is not what we desire for ourselves that matters the most but rather, our Lord's desires. With this comes our choice to pursue righteousness for the sake of our Lord, and that our righteousness comes only from Christ and His “Works on the Cross”. With submitting to the Lord’s Will, we acknowledge our calling to forgive others and to show mercy and compassion toward what God loves above all that He created - that being us. To submit to our Lord's Will means to fulfill His calling to be pure in heart and to act in ways that are not motivated by malice intent. To trust and have faith in our Lord leads us to be peacemakers and implied with this, a call to be peacekeepers. Finally, it is our Lord’s Will to take a stand for our Father and Creator and not to place our personal desires for validation and acceptance over our Lord's call to exalt and glorify our Heavenly and Holy Father in all things.
Grant Us The Wisdom to Know the Difference
The author’s final petition in his prayer for serenity (peace and rest) is for God to give him wisdom (God's insight) to know what he is called to do and not called to do. It his petition to never forsake the importance of God's wisdom with the knowledge that God's wisdom will protect him. (Proverbs 4:6-7). It is the author’s acknowledgement that any perceived foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and any perceived weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25). This prayer acknowledges the author's understanding that it is God’s will for our hearts be united in love, so we may have the full riches of complete understanding of the mystery of Christ. (Colossians 2:2-3). His petition for wisdom is witness to his understanding that God's wisdom is first among all pure things and that we, as his children, must be peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy (and good fruit), and be impartial and sincere in all that we do. (James 3:17).