Fear. What thoughts or images does your mind conjure up when you read or hear that word? I guess it might depend on your age. If you ask a small child, they might respond by saying they are terribly frightened by a sudden crack of thunder in the night. If asking a teenager, fear happens when your parents say, “We need to talk.” An inexperienced young couple may feel terrified when their newborn baby has a high fever. A sense of panic might come to a middle aged person when they hear that their job is being terminated. Fear, worry, anxiety, panic, whatever you want to call it, has crept into our lives at just about every juncture. Something difficult and out of the ordinary happens to us and we immediately feel our heart pounding, the cold sweat on our forehead, and the sick feeling in our stomach. It’s the first emotion to come to the surface when we’re faced with a particular problem or challenge. We imagine the worst. I’ve been there so many times.
Growing older doesn’t have a ton of benefits, but the infusion of wisdom from experience is something that I wouldn’t trade for a younger body and better knees. (Okay, I might consider it.) Over the years I have learned the absolute futility of fear and worry. I’ve learned that God has a plan and that no matter what happens in my life, He will work it out for good. I’ve understood that not one moment of that worry has changed anything for the better. It sounds terribly simplistic. Maybe because it’s supposed to be simple. Life can be crazy, imposing, and painful in every sense of the word. But God is present at all times and in all things. He is there to hold us up, to comfort us, console us, and strengthen us in the midst of the storm. The image in Scripture of the apostles in the boat comes to mind. The sea is raging and they are being tossed about. They are filled with terror that they will all drown. Suddenly, Jesus appears to them and says, “Do not be afraid. It is I.”
The Lord has given me many opportunities to practice trust. My family and I have come up against many hardships over the years. I confess I’ve panicked, gotten angry, cried rivers of tears, and even tried to bribe God to change the pain into a bed of roses. It’s taken years but I think I am finally beginning to understand the beauty and the healing power of the Serenity Prayer.
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;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
If you are facing what seems like an immeasurable challenge in your life right now, pray that prayer. Ask our Heavenly Father to grant you His peace beyond all human understanding. Ask for the grace to trust Him in the midst of your own personal storm. When you recognize that the situation is not under your control, what better option is there than to place it in the ever capable Hands of God? Surrender has a connotation of defeat, but surrender into His Hands will indeed be a victory, a victory over fear.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will direct your paths.
Proverbs 3, 5-6