Finding balance in life is one of the most difficult tasks we ever face. Discerning when we need to exert control and when we need to surrender it is not always easy. There are things that are within our responsibility and other things that are not.
The great 20th century theologian and pastor, Reinhold Niebuhr, is the author of the well-known “Serenity Prayer,” which asks God to help us distinguish between those things over which we have control and those we do not. It is a wonderful prayer we should always keep close at hand. It reads:
God, give us grace to accept with serenity, the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, Not as I would have it, trusting that You will make all things right, if I surrender to Your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.
It is important to remember that recognizing our powerlessness in certain situations is not an abdication of responsibility, but an acceptance of reality. I also believe that doing so allows God to work in our situation when “trying harder” on our own does not.
Two weeks ago, I shared a reading in worship by an anonymous author that lifts up the importance of letting go. I’ve had several people ask about it since then. Here it is:
To let go does not mean to stop caring; it means I can’t do it for someone else. –To let go is not to cut myself off; it’s the realization I can’t control another. –To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands. –To let go is to enable, but also to allow learning from natural consequences. –To let go is not to try to change or blame another; it’s to make the most of myself. – To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being. –To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their destinies. –To let go is not to be protective; it’s to permit another to face reality. –To let go is not to nag, scold, or argue, but instead to search out my own short-comings and correct them. –To let go is not to criticize and regulate, but to try to become what I dream I can be. –To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future. –To let go is not to deny, but to accept. –To let go is to fear less, and love more.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.” (Matthew 6:34) Often, it is fear and anxiety that move us to seek control. Faith is the assurance God is ultimately in charge – that he holds the world in the palm of his hand. May we seek first the things of the Kingdom – doing those things it is in our power to do – and trust God with the rest.