In life we all face the question, ‘Why do bad things happen to good or innocent people?’ This question can be answered in a lengthy philosophical and theological explanation but generally will not provide the emotional resolution we need. After some form of loss (be it death, loss of health, loss of a job, loss of a friend, a betrayal, or the loss of an expectation) we all grieve and can be filled with deep sadness that leads to hopelessness and anger. Loss also involves a great disappointment of our expectations.
In this life we all face irresolvable issues that evoke hopelessness. Besides having the understanding of the 5 stages of grief we need to also understand how to let go of expectations that have been lost. The Serenity Prayer (modified from the original version by Reinhold Niebuhr) that is posted on the Alcoholics’ Anonymous website, gives us simple but concise insight on letting go!
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and (the) wisdom to know the difference.”
Four points can be taken from this prayer that will help enable us to have a life filled with gratitude, rather than grief; then hopefully circumstances will make us better rather than bitter.
God grant me…
This prayer gives us an understanding that we need to first and foremost have a spiritual relationship with the Creator and ask for His help. Without divine help we will always wrestle with loss and its injustices.
Accepting the things that I cannot change…
Acceptance of things that we cannot change is very important for our healing process though sometimes difficult. This statement shows us that at times we feel powerless, and powerless to change things. Powerlessness is a feeling that we dislike because it leads to hopelessness and fear. Only through trusting in the Creator is there any consolation of hope, even concerning things of the afterlife. One key statement helped me in my own healing process was this, “Let go of all hope for a better past.” In our grief of loss we are hoping for a better past, which is futile if you really think of it, but it is an inner decision that we need to make in order to heal. Also, it is just as important to be at peace, trusting in the Creator in the journey of life.
Courage to change…
Within our grasp are things that we can change but too often, because we are afraid, we feel powerless and helpless to make the necessary changes. We fear failure in our efforts and therefore we shutdown and avoid doing what is necessary.
I remember a time when I was approached with an opportunity to host a spiritual conference. I made excuses as to why I couldn’t do it. This became a huge challenge for me. Instead of pursuing it I became busy doing a lot of other things in order to avoid the very thing I needed to do. I needed courage. Thank God for my wife who confronted me with my avoidance and who encouraged me to do what I needed to do. The outcome was rewarding but the journey wasn’t easy. So are many things in life that we need to do but often we avoid them because we are afraid. Mark Twain once said, “Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it.”
Wisdom to know…
…the wisdom to know the difference. This statement shows us that we need sound understanding and discernment to know what we can and what we cannot do in life. Wisdom goes beyond knowledge because knowledge gives us information but wisdom gives us understanding, insight, discernment, and the ‘how-to’. Wisdom gives us choices. One of the greatest gifts we have given by the Creator is the power of choice.
People are often not aware that they have the power to choose and this is usually because of their past experiences in life. This can be because as children they were neglected or abused by their primary care givers. When children experience neglect or abuse they develop beliefs that they don’t have choices or they believe they are weak, powerless, or helpless. This is then carried into adulthood and often debilitates them on some level, and when faced with loss they often fare the worst.
The Serenity Prayer teaches us some very important things on how to handle our life’s experiences and expectations, and by doing so we will then be empowered through the gift of choice.