There is a well- known Serenity Prayer by Friedrich Nietzsche and used in 12 step recovery programs that seeks to relieve us of our mental turmoil:
God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
What is not quoted as often as some of the rest of the prayer:
“Accepting as God did this sinful world just as it is….”
Here is what we worry about. We are worried that the things we can’t change will be too detrimental, damaging or disastrous. We may trust in God but we are not sure we are rowing to shore fast enough to escape the storm. Usually the categories of what we worry about areW what W when W where
We may worry about what is going to happen, when something is going to happen, or where it might happen.
But the two big Ws we usually worry about are Who and Why.
We worry about the Who …because we are concerned about those we care about, or we are concerned that those we don’t particularly care about might have more power to affect our lives than we want.
The other big W is Why – why is this happening to me or to the Who we just talked about.
There is an H too – the how. How will be ever be able to cope, do, achieve, accomplish – on and on.
The Serenity Prayer points us to the most important W – Wisdom.
The wisdom to know the difference in the other Ws and the how.
We often do not want to accept the difference. It seems to be a limitation on our ideas about our competency, effectiveness, resiliency, or other “should be able to” messages we tell ourselves or have accepted as ours to do from other people.
Wisdom understands that we rarely know the Why. Sometimes if we can get a label, like a diagnosis, it helps us feel we have a small handle on What we can do.
Our worry continues, though, if we cannot trust that What we are able to do will be enough.
Wisdom also provides guidance on the What, the When, or the Where. In moments of quiet, we can listen for the still voice of direction. I often feared another powerful W – the idea of the Will of God. I struggled with a faith system when I was young that pitted the idea of my will (small W) as opposed to God’s Will ( big W). They were always at odds in the system I was taught, and yet I heard the God loved me and wanted me to be fulfilled and happy, living an abundant life.
The idea of the ego I believe is at root of this unnecessary battle. A book, My Ego, My Higher Power, and I by Jerry Hirschfield was helpful in making a healing distinction. We are made in the image of God and so can distinguish between our lower and higher selves without feeling outcast or divorced from the light of God within us.
It is this core distrust of ourselves that leads to much of our worry. We are struggling with the idea that we are missing something, we are not fulfilling some task we should, and that there will be destructive or damaging effects from this oversight of what we don’t know. Our minds become afraid, whirling around, searching for the mysterious piece of insight or information that will ward off disaster or pain.
I finally got off the angst treadmill by releasing this unrealistic expectation. I trusted God to have my back, so to speak. If out of good heart and mind after asking for guidance, I must make a decision or act, I trust that if it was not correct, God will straighten it out. More than that, I cannot do.
We often never know the Why or all of the factors, the What, Where, and When, or the How that will secure the well being of the Who we care for. But we can be assured that Wisdom will reveal to us our highest good, which is the Will of God.