Nearly everyone has heard the “Serenity Prayer” which says: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
The Stoics of ancient Greece also had a similar belief. Epictetus wrote, in his book the Enchiridion, "Of things, some are in our power, and others are not."
Jesus also addressed change. Some things, he says, cannot be changed, and some things aren’t worth worrying about.
"Do not be anxious about your life," he says, "what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" (Matt. 6:25)
And in another place, he says, “Which of you, by being anxious, can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matt. 6:27)
While we can temporarily change the color of our hair, in fact, it cannot be changed but remains the same color in the long run. (Matt. 5:36)
In the Book of Proverbs, we learn that having anxiety can weigh us down (Prob. 12:25) and then there’s the oft-quoted Psalm 55, urging us to “Cast your burdens [cares] on Yahweh, and He will sustain you. (Psalm 55:22)
Jesus’ meaning, and the meaning of these other sayings of scripture, is that those things that we cannot change, we shouldn’t waste time worrying about.
And that’s very wise advice.
But while the Hebrew Scriptures and the teachings of Jesus are filled with admonitions to not waste time on things that aren’t changeable – nor worth changing – Jesus clearly calls us to change ourselves, to be “born again,” to repent of our previous bad actions, and also calls on us to ACTIVELY do Good Works that will build God’s Kingdom here on this earth. (Matt. 5:16, 6:10, 7:24; Luke 6:33-35)
He says we must “turn” (change) and become like little children, otherwise we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 18:3) That's work.
He calls on us to feed others, and clothe and house them. He calls for active service in the name of God and the name of God’s Kingdom. (Matt. 25:35) That's work, too.
Today, his message is often missed, or entirely overlooked, because it’s hard. And we like things that are easy.
God is seen by many as a pill we can take to get easy, fast relief, to stop working. God becomes OUR servant, a “mother’s little helper” in whom we can rest. And finding spiritual rest in God is certainly part of what God is, and what God offers us, in our always-busy, hectic lives.
But God should never be seen as our servant, but as our Creator, and Master, One Whom has sent us a perfect template, and it is through him that God calls us to a life of service and self-sacrifice.
Change can often be misunderstood. There’s certainly a time to “let go and let God” but neither God nor the one whom he chose, Jesus, calls on us to abdicate all our responsibilities to God or to others – to become lazy, complacent Christians. Instead, He and His chosen son, Jesus, call on us to be active participants in the creation of a new world.
There’s definitely a time for letting go, and giving things a chance to work themselves out. There’s also a time to jump in and do all that we can to make good things happen. Knowing when to do either is the result of wisdom, and if we lack wisdom to know the difference, we should pray that God will grant us more wisdom so we can discern it.
But taking a default “let go” attitude means that we’ve given up on life. It means that we believe God exists only to do all of our work for us, all of the Good Works that He expects US to do, as we bring in God’s Kingdom on this earth.
We are to be Jesus’ active hands and feet, serving others as Jesus perfectly modeled for us to do. Jesus called us to ACT, and he constantly moved from place to place urging people to do all that he did, and to feed, clothe, house and comfort one another.
Giving up and hoping that God will do all this FOR us is not what we are called to do as Jesus Followers. While some things are clearly out of our control, much of what occurs in our lives can be changed by our actions, and must be.
Let us put aside needless and pointless anxiety about what we cannot change. But let us also have the courage to get up each day and simply do the Good Works we were called by God through His chosen one, Jesus, to do.