The Serenity Prayer: a Road Map for Peace

Peace is scattered like breadcrumbs up the Oregon coast. Stop at any state visitor center, and the receptionists will enthusiastically circle its varied locations on an area map. They do not specifically tell you serenity resides here and there, but you can see it on their faces as they gesture and describe the points of interest along your route. With a sigh and well wishes, they send you off to discover peace for yourselves along the winding highway.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could hold a road map to peace in our hands at all times? One that told us the way to travel, the turns to avoid, and the attitudes to keep? As I was thinking about this lately, the first few lines of the Serenity Prayer came to mind:

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.

These words of reassurance may ring familiar to your ear as well. Here is the lesser known, second part of the prayer:

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
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;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with him forever in the next.
Amen.

The Serenity Prayer, composed in the 1930’s and published in 1951 by Reinhold Niebuhr, exists in several modified versions. Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step program groups use the prayer to bring a sense of peace, acceptance, and purposeful action to their members. It has a long history of helping people find peace by trusting God.

Although the Serenity Prayer is not actually part of the Bible, many Scriptures connect to the prayer and its wisdom:

God grant me the serenity

Right away, the prayer’s first few words highlight a needed reliance on God’s presence in our lives. This prayer acknowledges serenity is not something we can achieve on our own; peace depends on a higher power — God.

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9 NLT

To accept the things I cannot change

There are circumstances, events, and people in our lives we cannot change or control. Accepting this fact, instead of wrestling with things we are unable to fix or understand, frees our minds to focus on productive activities and gain a sense of purpose.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

Courage to change the things I can

Over time, unhealthy behaviors and attitudes make us feel defeated. They lead us to believe there is no hope for change, but this prayer encourages us to ask God to give us the courage needed to overcome problems within our control.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NIV

And wisdom to know the difference

Often it is hard to know what we can change and what we cannot. Giving a problem a “time-out” so we can think about it rationally, instead of reacting quickly can grant us wisdom. Sometimes, consulting with others we trust or those with similar experiences helps us too. God’s wisdom comes to us through these things, as well as in Scripture verses, prayer, quiet activities, or stillness.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 NIV

Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time

Although many of us would like to predict, prepare, or even avert the trouble we face tomorrow, God did not give us supernatural powers. Mark Twain once said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” One day at a time, one moment at a time, one blessing at a time is the way God unfolds life for us.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? …Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:26-34 NIV

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace

Instead of just handing us peace, God often allows struggles to strengthen faith muscles used to acquire peace. He teaches us to let go of situations we cannot control, to pray, and to trust in him. As we get better at accepting unavoidable hardships and at enduring with faith, we live with more and more of God’s peace by way of the Holy Spirit.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

Taking, as he did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it

Jesus came to earth not to rid us of our sinful nature, but to save us from it. When he chose to die on the cross for us, our sins died with him. The eternal life his death grants us is not something we have to earn. It is a free gift, received by believing in him. Through the Bible and the Holy Spirit, he guides us in living an abundant life now. Following Christ’s way of living in a sinful world leads others to see his likeness in us, and hopefully stirs within them a longing for that as well.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NLT

Trusting that he will make all things right if I surrender to his Will

Living with faith means learning to trust God’s timing and control. His plans to make things right may not be understood in our lifetimes, but he is always faithful in fulfilling his promises. Surrendering to his Will shows we recognize we will never have all the answers or be able to make everything right on our own.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 NLT

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with him forever in the next

Jesus’ life and teachings provide a model to follow so that we can live a “reasonably happy” life while here. Although we will face trouble, he tells us to remain courageous in anticipation of the perfectly divine, eternal life which awaits us.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NLT  

The Serenity Prayer unfolds peace like a road map; its words provide direction and point out areas for rest along the way. It is a good map to keep in our back pockets, in case we get lost. We can refer to it when life sends us on a detour or when the weather looks bad. And, the map maker himself is only a prayer call away. Press on in faith, my friends!

Related Posts:

Seeking Three Kinds of Peace 

While We Wait on God

The Worry Fight

Giving Thanks in All Circumstances

Sometimes, it is hard to see anything when we are walking in the rain. We keep our heads down and we try to move ahead. With our minds set on drier destinations, counting blessings tends to be an afterthought.

Likewise, giving thanks during the metaphorical storms of life does not come naturally. Blessings are harder to see when we are awash in emotion. However, if we mindfully seek God’s gifts while proceeding through difficult circumstances, we can always find them.

A Story of Giving Thanks…

Granted, crazier things have happened. But, I am truly surprised when the receptionist at the hospital’s surgery and procedure center recognizes me. With her artsy flair of untamed hair and funky glasses, one understands why she is not easily forgotten. But me, noticeably lacking in pieces of flair — I am more apt to slide by unnoticed.

“Hmm, hey, you’ve been here before, haven’t you?” she asks. “You look familiar. Nice to see you.”

I nod. “Yes, it’s been several years,” I say. “I can’t believe you remember me.”

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV 

Thanks for Kindness

Three years ago, life was moving too quickly, transitions were happening, and health concerns of family and friends seemed overwhelming. I sat in the waiting room behind this same receptionist, trying to keep worry from eating up my insides. Bustling around her desk, the receptionist greeted incoming patients and their loved ones with a reassuring presence and calm step-by-step instructions. I noticed a big button pinned on her shirt which the other receptionists did not have. It read, “I GIVE FREE HUGS.”

On that day, I, someone who rarely initiates any public displays of affection, surprised myself by boldly accepting her hugging offer. Give thanks in all circumstances — thank God for people who throw kindness around like confetti and who lift the spirits of everyone they meet.

Thanks for Humor

So, here I am again in the same waiting room. The circumstances are different, but still concerning. I buy a cup of tea at the café and find a chair by the long set of windows. Scanning the waiting room, I take in the large maze of walls, windows, and partitions. Each division or pod creates a somewhat private waiting space for family and friends.

A family of ten trails in and sets up camp in a pod close by. It is early and the adults are disheveled, in need of coffee. Their children twist around impatiently on the floor at their feet. After awhile, I notice a boy, about four years old, pushing a toy truck up a chair leg and across the laps of his adult companions.

Exasperated he says, “Do we REALLY have to stay here all day?!”

His mother answers, “Yes, your dad is having surgery today. We have to be here.”

He grumbles, “Man! Now my whole day is ruined.”

I smile and stifle the laughter rising up. I love the unfiltered honesty of children. Give thanks in all circumstances — thank God for the humor that turns a serious moment upside down and shakes it all around.  

Thanks for Thoughts and Insights

Gazing out the window, I take a sip from my cup. Through the windows of a building across the street, I watch a preschool lesson in action. A teacher is speaking and the children are eagerly listening — as little ones will. They reach out excitedly to each other, hold hands, and quickly form a circle anticipating what is to come. Then, suddenly, whoosh! Together, their tiny hands toss a multi-colored parachute up high in the air. It balloons up, then gently floats down to rest. They smile and jump about, ready to do it again and again.

My mind flashes back to playing this parachute game when I was young. Never athletically inclined, this physical education activity was one I actually looked forward to. As I watch the parachute across the street rise and fall, I think about the ups and downs of life. Hard times come and go. We’re in the thick of trouble, and then we’re not.

Like a parachute jump from an airplane, our free fall in a difficult situation can feel like it goes on forever. We pray God would hurry up and deploy the parachute already! But, so often we must wait in our uncomfortableness. God knows the landscape ahead better than we do and he has a plan. As our instructor, he encourages us to rely on his wisdom, care, and grace. Give thanks in all circumstances — thank God for the way he comforts and speaks to us when we get quiet and listen.  

God’s Will

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

The second part of this Scripture, regarding God’s will, can be confusing. Does God want us to be thankful for the bad things that happen to us? Further study clarified Paul the Apostle’s meaning. He says to give thanks in all circumstances. Note this is different than saying give thanks for all circumstances. Awful and evil things in this world are not from God — we do not need to be thankful for them. Our thankfulness is for his presence with us in trouble and for the good he brings forth from it. God’s will for us is to use gratitude — in all circumstances — to find peace and rest regardless of changing events and emotions. 

A Formula for THANKS

Whatever our day brings, we can look for traces of God’s presence with us and give thanks for his care. Some blessings or gifts are easily identified like food, shelter, family, activities, income, etc. Others, like the ones below, are blessings that come from within.

T = Thoughts – God quietly speaks to us in our thoughts through the Holy Spirit. Referencing Scripture can help us discern his voice from other distractions and feelings.

H = Humor – God lightens our load through the gift of laughter. He puts people and events in our path which make us smile.

A = Acceptance – God points out things we have been reluctant to accept. He shows us where we are stuck, what we need to do, and who we need to forgive.

N = Nature – God calms our emotions with the many beautiful gifts of his creation (e.g. rainbows, sunrises, wildlife).

K = Kindness – God cares for us through the kindness of others.

S = Shine Opportunities – God provides us opportunities to shine his light by being a blessing to others.

Remaining mindful of the many gifts God provides may not change a difficult situation, but it does change our outlook. Gratitude helps us gain confidence that God is with us, and he is working all things together for our good. As our faith in him grows, so does our hope. And, hope in restoration from our God, a God who loves us, is always firm and secure. Press on in faith, my friends!

Puddles
by Jamie Trunnel

There’s bound to be puddles in your path.
Showing up as people, places, and things like that.

Some race through
Causing quite a splash.
Solving problems fast;
Missing meaning as they dash.

Others wade in,
Then get stuck.
Wallowing in trial;
Living in muck.

The lucky proceed
Like playing chess.
Seeing beauty ripple
From trouble’s mess.

Find this poem and many others in my new book Simple Wishes . The poems and color photos in Simple Wishes were inspired by the easily overlooked blessings in life. It makes a great gift for someone you are thankful for. All profits are donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with gratitude for the work they do.

Other Related Posts:

Three Ways Gratitude Boosts Faith

Small Surprises from God

Walking at a Dog-determined Pace

This is the Day the Lord has Made

Where Joy Flows From

 

 

Designed for Prayer: the pause of a praying mantis

 

The first time I found him he was lying upside down on my front porch. His long, spindly legs bicycled through the open air in a concerted effort to turn over.

“Hello, my friend, what a predicament you are in,” I said to him. “Let’s see if together we can make things better.” Grasping him gently around the middle, I turned him right side up and carried him off the porch. I set him carefully back down on the earth. He did not scurry away. Cocking his triangular head to the side and looking at me with bulging eyes, he paused in our stillness as if to say, “thank you and God bless.”

Several days later, he climbed back on the porch, remaining upright this time. My husband and I crouched low for a good look. Upon hearing our voices, he boldly turned and studied us while holding his forearms in a prayerful pose.

Long a symbol of peace, contemplation, and prayer, the word “mantis” in Greek literally means prophet or seer. Although it appears the praying mantis prays, in reality the pose helps him capture prey. Equipped with sharp spikes, his specialized front legs quickly extend and squeeze flies, bees, lizards, frogs, and even birds to eat. The prayers of the praying mantis are actually part of an intricately designed plan for their survival.

In thinking about how God designed the praying mantis to pray, it occurred to me that he designed us in a similar way. Not with spiky arms and an odd diet, of course, but with an appetite for prayer. Like the praying mantis, our prayers feed us. They nourish us with faith, hope, and love. Spiritually, optimal human functioning comes through a relationship with God. Consider this quote from C.S. Lewis:

God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. -C.S. Lewis

Many of us would agree prayer has benefits, but few pause long enough to reap them. My new friend, the praying mantis, held a prayerful pose for what seemed like an eternity to me this week. In fact, he was still praying as I walked away. What if we paused, prayed, and waited with such intense patience? What nourishment might our spirits gain?

How Prayer Feeds our Spirits:

Prayer opens the door to a relationship with God.

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV

Faith assures us we can be confident in God’s plans for us even when we feel uncertain of what lies ahead. Because we have hope in those plans, our hearts urge us to reach out to him in prayer. Like any other relationship, a close relationship with God requires consistent time and effort. As we draw closer to God through prayer, the meanings and instructions his promises speak to us become clearer.   

Prayer keeps us humble and reminds us who is in control.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10 NIV

Humility helps us remember we cannot control everything in our lives. While we may boldly ask for what we want, we remember God decides what is best. We may not like what is happening now, but we cannot predict the ways God may use it to impact our life or the lives of others in the future. Even as we pray to exit a difficult season, God gives us strength and equips us to endure through it. He sends people and circumstances which help us. He lights our path and can show us how to find purpose in our pain. Humbly yielding to God’s will opens windows of wisdom in our hearts and minds.   

Prayer puts plans in motion.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 NIV

In this Scripture, Jesus encourages deeper faith in the disciples who doubt their given authority to heal. Jesus tells them even the tiniest amount of faith in tandem with God’s power can move mountains. As believers trusting in God’s abilities, we too, can move mountains with prayers.

God certainly can get things done without us, but in some situations he calls for prayer. He chooses to use our prayers; he makes them a part of the plan to accomplish his will. Prayer can put God’s plans in motion. He uses prayer to help us believe in his power instead of merely our own abilities. 

 

Prayer battles darkness.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corninthians 10:4 NIV

As believers we have an arsenal of spiritual weapons at the ready. God arms us with weapons like his Word, the Holy Spirit, faith, hope, love, and prayer. With these, we are equipped well beyond the confines of mere physical strength and human intelligence. Prayers help battle the world’s darkness by calling upon God’s power to work within us — shining light on our spiritual gifts and inspiring us to serve him and others. The loving actions which flow from our prayers in dark times strengthen the bonds of faith between believers and ignite faith in those who lack it.   

Prayer grants peace.

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. Psalm 107:28-29 NIV

Once we have done what we can in our trouble, prayers allow us to rest and trust the work of God’s hands. Because we know God, we know he will help us. He will help us think through our problems and alert us when we need to move. He will prod us to seek forgiveness, fill us with faith, and restore what is broken in our lives. As we seek him in our struggles, we learn about his lovingkindness and mature in our faith. Prayer grants peace by asking God to take the lead in situations we cannot change.  

 

 

Our prayers do not have to be fancy, or long, or even full of requests. Sometimes prayers simply tell God how much we love and appreciate him. When harder days come and life unexpectedly flips us upside down, fear will not overcome us. Because we know we have a trusted friend who rescues us time and time again. He gently turns us right side up and places our feet back down on solid ground. As creatures designed to pray, our faith encourages us to pause and to thank him. Press on in faith, my friends!

 

 

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. Psalm 40:2 NLT

 

Related Posts:

 

Serenity Prayer
by Reinhold Neibuhr

 

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.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
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;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.
Amen.


 

Encourage and Build Each Other Up

Tucked away in an alcove of pine in Door County, Wisconsin, there is what many consider a treasure. Towers of precariously stacked stones populate this short stretch of shoreline at Lake Michigan’s Cave Point County Park.

Some towers are short and dainty looking, assembled quickly by someone passing through. Other structures clearly showcase much time, effort, and of course, patience. They are miracles of height and structure, balancing at six feet or more.

I visited this shoreline on a cold and windy autumn day. There were no builders in sight, just this evidence that many had been here and worked with their hands. Carefully, I made my way around the towers and down the shore. I wondered what inspires the visitors here to stack stones? What do they gain from building? Could this process of stacking represent anything similar in our own lives? Consider this verse:

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV 

Therefore encourage one another…

In this passage of Scripture “encourage” translates to mean comfort. The apostle Paul wrote this verse in a letter to the Thessalonians who were persecuted for their new Christian faith. Their loved ones were punished and killed daily for their beliefs. In his letter, Paul reminds them to comfort one another and to live knowing their future is secure with those they have lost.

Our problems may not be as dire as the Thessalonians, but we still understand hardship. Everyone has problems, even the people who visited this rocky beach. Perhaps they walked next to the water like I did and tried skipping stones. Maybe seeing the towers around them calmed their spirits or inspired them to build too.

Whatever issues we face, knowing we are not alone helps us cope. Our faith comforts us and helps us comfort others. As companions in faith, our presence can encourage (comfort) others through hardship with compassion, hope, and thoughtfulness.  

and build each other up,…

Throughout his letter, Paul likens the members of the church to the parts of a body. Each person or part contributes to the welfare of the whole. His request to “build each other up” means to edify or improve each other intellectually, morally, and spiritually.

Our faith is always growing and in need of tending. We build each other up by praying together, discussing the Bible, and sharing how God touches our lives.

When we work with others, whether it is on faith…or stacking rocks, we soon learn people think and do things differently than we do. Comparing ourselves to others or judging them limits the learning and growth we can gain from them.

In the relaxed setting of these open waters, I imagine strangers building towers side by side. They learn from each other, share balancing tips, laugh, and cheer each other on as yet another huge rock remains in place.

It is not our job to fix or change people, but to build each other up (edify) as a community growing in a faith which benefits us all.     

just as in fact you are doing.

In this last part of the Scripture, Paul recognizes the Thessalonians for their supportive efforts. He gives them praise for holding on tightly to faith in the midst of tragic and challenging circumstances.

In today’s stressful and troubled world, confidence in our faith and purpose can become wobbly as well. We question if we are doing the right things for God and struggle to keep our balance.

Taking time to slow down and giving ourselves space to think about how we show up to love others brings meaning and purpose to our lives. For some understanding may come while on a walk, studying the Bible, or looking at the stars. For others, it may come stacking stones on a desolate shore. Paul’s words travel to all those places and more, imploring us to go a little higher.

Stacking Stones
by Jamie Trunnel

Wandering souls sometimes stack stones.
Marks of patience,
Balance,
And time free from phones.

Expressing their bliss
With careful luck.
Escaping from problems,
Or calamities which have struck.

What if each placed rock
Represented a problem someone had?
And, the stacking process made him feel…
Not so bad.

Standing back and taking a look
Put things in perspective;
Told him he had what it took.

Life could be organized
And balanced as such.
See all these other souls
Who thought just as much?

We all have problems.
We all struggle.
If we saw others’ towers,
Maybe ours would not crumble.

Standing vulnerably tall
With our problems on display,
Maybe we could all find
Peace,
Hope,
And a little less judgement along the way.

Stacking Stones is a poem from my new book Simple Wishes which releases in early September. Be sure to join my email subscriber list to receive upcoming sneak peeks of the book and other special offers!

Related Posts:

Love on Ordinary Days

A New Kind of Resolution

Judged Instead of Loved

Some Clowns Showed Me How to “BE” the Church

And Just a Note: Some outdoor enthusiasts consider rock stacks like these an unwelcome reminder of humanity. There are concerns about the natural erosion process and the habitat of insects or mammals which burrow under the rocks. This blog post is not intended to support or discourage rock stacking. 🙂

The Worry Fight

Have you fought a few rounds with worry lately? More often than we would like, many of us find ourselves in the ring trying to knock worry out. We fret about things like beauty, money, success, health, family and …. even worry itself! Gradually, worry becomes a fact of life, part of the human condition, or something we expect to come with responsibility.

We stay in the ring, routinely fighting one worry after another, even though we know our efforts are futile. There’s no winning against worry, and we know this. It doesn’t solve anything, but tossing it around in the ring seems to make us feel productive somehow. Then, circumstances change and our current worry opponent becomes weaker. We’re ready to take off our gloves, but then a fresh worry shows up and relieves the old one. So, we stay in the ring, and we keep swinging.

One day a large, unfamiliar worry shows up in the opposite corner. This fight drags on longer than the rest. The punches surprise us. We can’t stay on our feet. Staggering and out of options, we fall against the ropes.

Where do we go from here? Have you been there? I have. I spent a lot of my life in the ring fighting worry, day in and day out. One opponent after another, I stayed on my feet. But, one day the worry was too big and too unknown. It wore me out. I spent some time hanging on those ropes, searching for a way to end the fight with worry.

I read what God had to say about worry. Did you know the Bible tells us ‘not to fear’ hundreds of times? Some sources say 365 times — interestingly, the same number of days in a year. Regardless of the exact number, it is clear God never intended us to fight with worry at all. How did he intend for us to cope?

Humbly Seek God’s Help

 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 New International Version (NIV)

In Christianity, humility means to hold a modest opinion of one’s importance and abilities in relation to God. Humbly seeking God’s help requires us to overcome any barriers like pride, shame, or even ignorance which stand in the way of our relationship with him. Admitting we cannot find answers on our own opens the door for God to help. Our prayers start a relationship with him, thus serving him in one of the best possible ways.

As we grow in faith, we realize that no problem is too big or small for God. Everything that happens to us concerns him because he loves us, no matter what. We were not meant to handle our problems without his help. However, if we don’t ask him for help, he certainly lets us try (free will). God does not occasionally want our worries. He does not only want to hear about certain things. God wants every concern; he wants ALL our anxiety.

Trust God’s Care and Plans for You

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3: 5-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

When worries weigh heavy on our hearts we try anything to remedy our situation – even more worrying. Urgent situations may cause us to forget to pray or to delay it. We might doubt God’s ability to help us. Or, we might wonder why God would even want to help us. Prayer can become our last resort. Trusting God with “all your heart” means trusting him FIRST, not last.

God wants us to rely on him. We cannot control or fully understand our circumstances, but God does. He has a plan for our lives, and he wants to help us find our way. Prayer provides the time we need to free our conscience and voice concerns. Do our problems magically vanish? No. But, prayer can relieve worry by rejuvenating us with God’s hope and new direction. Scripture brings us reassurance and helps evaluate decisions. We start noticing how love shows up for us in times of trouble, and we may discover how our experiences can help us love others. Trusting God, in good times and in bad, helps us discover paths away from worry. 

Share the Load

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV

Many of Jesus’ teachings in the Bible use farming metaphors. Farming was a common activity people could relate to. A yoke is a harness worn by oxen to pull a load behind them and complete work. In this Scripture, Jesus asks us to share the yoke with him, so he can help pull our burdens in life. Our troubles may not be removed, but Christ’s strength makes our load lighter and more manageable.

Sharing the yoke allows us to focus on the work we can do and leave the rest up to God. Worry only distracts us from seeing the ways God is helping. Dwelling on the what if’s stall us from walking forward in faith-filled directions. Those directions might include things like asking others for prayers and support, exploring resources, taking care of our health, seeking professional help, or enjoying God in new ways. Focusing on God’s guidance and results, instead of worry, makes us more productive in our circumstances.  

Find Peace and Rest

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NLT

As God in human flesh, Jesus knew what suffering lay ahead. Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his crucifixion, he was overcome with anguish and deep sorrow regarding the agony ahead (Matthew 26:36-39). Yet, because of his faith in God’s sovereignty and good, he left willingly with the Roman soldiers who came for him.

His pure heart had never felt guilt, anxiety, or fear until he chose to become sin for us. By accepting our sin while on the cross, he endured not only physical torture, but infinitely worse, a spiritual separation from God (Matthew 27:46). Because of his sacrifice, his believers will never experience this kind of separation from God; they receive the gift of eternal life.

As believers, we never have to endure anything as horrific as Jesus did. But like Jesus, we must remind ourselves not to fear because we also trust God is in control and working things for good. Faith allows us to face concerns one day at a time and remain assured God will meet our needs (Matthew 6:25-34). 

Before he died, Jesus told his disciples he would send peace to dwell within his followers through the Holy Spirit. Our faith ignites the Holy Spirit to offer peace, so even in the most difficult circumstances we know we will be okay. The world cannot offer us that kind of lasting peace.

Fighting worry requires us to bring all our best moves, fancy footwork, and endurance. We’re good fighters, but eventually worry wears us out. Crawling to the ropes, we try hoisting ourselves up. Beaten, tired, and struggling, our minds run out of options.

But wait…someone is on the other side of the ropes. Offering a hand, he pulls us clear of the ring. Turn around. Look at worry now. He’s dancing around, throwing jabs in the air, and searching for an opponent. He can keep swinging. We are done. As our friend and rescuer says, “It is finished”.

When you run out of options, you run into Jesus. 

“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” -Mark 6:50 (NLT) 

Press on in faith my friends.

Dear God,

Thank you for your gentle reminders not to worry. You show love and care for me daily through your blessings, people, and opportunities. Keep my eyes open to the ways you work on my behalf so I do not take any of it for granted. Continue teaching me humility so I bring more worries to you in prayer. When I get caught up trying to fix or control circumstances, help me remember to trust your plans and come to you first not last. Help me focus on what I can do instead of worrying about what I cannot. Lead me in finding the plans you have for me. As I feel and see the way faith lightens my load, I pray my peace will also grow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

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