My An Arkie's Faith column from the April 27, 2016 issue of The Mena Star.
“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.” You have probably heard these words before. The American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote them in the early 1940’s.
This simple prayer, commonly known as “The Serenity Prayer,” has become such a part of our culture that most people have heard it. This prayer is used in Alcoholics Anonymous and has become closely associated with 12 Step programs.
What is serenity? The dictionary defines it as the absence of mental stress or anxiety. To me, Serenity is the name of my newest granddaughter. We have only granddaughters; five girls age ten to newborn. Serenity was born on April 19th, but her arrival wasn’t serene.
My wife and I were traveling to the Houston area to be present for her birth. My daughter-in-law’s doctor had scheduled for her to be at the hospital early Monday morning to induce labor. While we were on our way, we traveled through torrential rains. As we slept that night, relentless rains caused catastrophic flooding that killed seven people, flooded over 1,000 homes and caused more than five billion dollars damage in the Houston area. The town of Hockley, thirty miles southwest of where we were staying, was drenched with 17 inches of rain in less than 24 hours.
Because of the flooding, the hospital called and said to stay home. Many of the hospital employees were not able to get to work. They would not be inducing labor on Monday. I wasn’t able to stay and wait for Serenity to come. I had to get back home so I could be at work. I felt sad about missing her birth, but there was nothing I could do about it.
I was disappointed as I drove those long miles home alone. My wife stayed behind so that she wouldn’t miss out on Serenity making her debut. On the long trip home, I prayed, “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.”
The Bible tells us in Philippians 4:6,7 (NLT), “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Serenity, or peace, comes from asking and allowing God to give us these things. In other words, it is surrendering to Him. We associate the word “surrender” with resignation, failure, and weakness. But in Philippians 4, Paul shows us that “surrender” is an act of faith and trust. There is wisdom in surrendering a life of endless “what ifs” for a life of trusting in God; in a power beyond ourselves. Our confidence needs to be in God to work things out and to recognize that we don’t have any control over this sinful world or the actions of others. Trust God and live one day at a time, enjoying each moment.
Serenity in life comes from knowing that God is in control and that He has a plan for you. We don’t always understand the “why” of things that happen, but Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) assures us, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” And in Hebrew 13:5 (NCV) the Bible says, “be satisfied with what you have. God has said, ‘I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.’” Never is long, long time. God has plans for you. He wants you to have hope. He has promised never to leave you, to never abandon you.
Every time I see my newest granddaughter, or even say her name, I will be reminded that God wants me to have peace. He wants me to have Serenity. God has plans for me. He wants me to have hope. He has promised never to leave me, to never abandon me.
Gentle Reader, “give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) When things go wrong in your life take a moment to pray, “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.” God will hear you. He has promised! “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” 1 John 5:14 (NKJV)