Bethel Lutheran Church
333 E. Ridge Street
Pastors’ Monthly Article
In times like these, I like to contemplate the “Serenity Prayer.” That’s the one that goes, 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 first encountered that prayer in a newspaper advice column decades ago as a teenager. At the time the prayer didn’t impress me. In particular, I wanted to add a something about working to preserve things that should not be changed. I also wanted the prayer to ask for more than just courage ─ things like strength and resources. Of course, that would have made the wording a lot more awkward, but I wasn’t much of a poet, so that didn’t bother me. And then I quibbled about the fact that it doesn’t mention Jesus Christ.
More recently I’ve come to see wisdom in the wording of the Serenity Prayer as it is. Absolutely everything in this life could stand some change for the better. On the other hand, not everything is within one’s own power to change. Some things are only within other people’s power to change. One might urge others to change those things, but the choice is theirs. And then there are those things, like the weather or earthquakes that no one but God has the power to change (at least not with current technology), or a severe infectious disease that threatens public health, that will take a long time to overcome When I bump up against something I can’t change, there’s no sense in doing anything other than to take it as it is and deal with it, keeping in mind that accepting it doesn’t have to mean I approve of it.
What I can change, however, is my reaction to those troublesome things that I can’t change. I can choose to make the best of the situation. I can choose, rather than griping and complaining, to find the hope in what’s happening. I can choose to look beyond the current crisis to imagine a better future. As the old saying goes, when life hands me lemons, I can make lemonade.
In Romans 8:28, Paul writes, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” God can make good come from anything ─ even something as monstrously evil as the crucifixion of his only Son.
God turned that awful event into the best thing that ever happened to us, by raising Christ from the dead and defeating the power of death. Likewise, God can and will get us safely through to the other side of anything that comes our way, and probably in a better state than we were before.
That’s what the Resurrection is all about. No matter what happens, no matter what obstacles we face, no matter what things come our way, there is another side, a far shore and a brighter future, and God will carry us through to it. That’s true even if the troublesome thing that comes our way is death itself.
That’s what Psalm 23 is talking about in the verse, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” God doesn’t promise that there will be no valleys of shadows of death in this life; but that he will be with us through them, leading us safely to the other side.
The Serenity Prayer is not specifically Christian, but it’s still a good prayer for Christians to pray. For us who believe in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead, the source of our serenity is the blessed assurance and certain hope that something better is coming.
Peace and blessings!