If you’re anything like me, you may think of the word serenity and immediately remember Frank Costanza, George Costanza’s zany father from Seinfeld going through a fictional self-help material based on the very real faddish trend of DIY self-help psychology in the 90’s. I can still picture Frank Costanza screaming “serenity now” at a bellowing octave, trying to achieve serenity as his eyes were bugging out. We all laughed at the scenario because we knew he was helpless in his self-help endeavors. He was not going to receive serenity. You can take a look at this short video clip if you want a good laugh.
And unless we’re intentional, we are going to go through a less dramatized version of Mr. Costanza’s decline. This prayer I’m about to go through could get a little self-helpy if and only if we rely on ourselves, fooling ourselves into thinking like Frank Costanza that the words themselves hold power. (They don’t; this isn’t a mantra chant.) The power lies in the sheer fact that it’s prayer being lifted up to the Most High God. It’s not words used to command Him, but instead, prayers for wisdom and intentionality.
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 is the bulk of the prayer that most of us know. There’s simply things we can’t change, situations that God allowed that we are at least tied to for a season. As much as I’ve wanted to change my illness, and although I’ve improved from where I was, haven’t been able to untether it from me completely, even with fervent prayer, a healthy but excruciatingly restrictive diet, and meds and supplements. I pray this prayer, asking God for the wisdom to know the difference because although I cannot control my mitochondria or my genetics, I can control what will build up my body and what will tear it down.
Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time. It can be tricky to be in the moment at times when we have worries about the future attacking us, ungrieved trauma from the past, and the ugly twin foes of guilt and regret still haunting us. This is a time to confess whatever we have had buried deep inside, the regrets and the hurts, and the pain we never named.
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace:
This is the one that can cause me to cringe a little. Did it for you too? It sounds good…until you’re faced with hardships that are a little more difficult than just being out of milk for a cranberry muffin recipe on Christmas day when the stores are closed. But if Christ warned us that we will face suffering, there must be a purpose. There has to be a purpose behind being confined to my bed 90% of the day, even of I’m not aware of it right now.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will: Christ’s becoming human, yet still retaining His divinity reminds us that we are not alone to face a world filled with unfairness. This portion of the prayer reminds us of this as well as remembering that Christ will turn everything that is unfair to fair.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen. This is the capstone of the prayer, that after asking for wisdom from God on taking action on the things we can change and accepting in peace that there are those things in life we can’t change, as well as living in the moment by forsaking the destructive elements of our past and the worries of the future, accepting that hardships will come, and humbly submitting to Christ that we will seek after His desires and not our own we now come to this portion- to be reasonably happy in this life. This clearly isn’t talking about momentary happiness that we experience because life is going well, if it was, the hardship part would have been omitted earlier in the prayer. This is a time to accept the joy that Christ gives us as a gift, knowing that later we will have the ultimate joy with Him in the next.
Right now, we’re praying this prayer as we submit our application to a house for rent. Although that sounds like an easy process and a pretty trivial matter, it’s very weighty for us. We live in a house that has black mold that is only both been creating illness and exacerbating already current health conditions. I will most likely stay stagnant in my health if I do not move. And even though it sounds easy to move, we live in a highly competitive housing market and already have competition for this house we applied for. We acted from a standpoint of what we could change, now we are left to rely on God from here, knowing that He is the One who determines the outcomes ultimately. I know you have to have at least one or two things in life right now that are heavily weighing at you. Keep these in mind as you pray through the serenity prayer. I made sure to provide a printable version of this prayer, so print it out and stick it in a place where you will remember to pray this prayer as your own.
I will be praying alongside you,