My husband Scott and I celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary this week. When I shared that with one of my colleagues, she asked what my secret is. I actually had to pause for a moment to think, because I’ve never been asked that question before. I wish I could have said that my secret to a long marriage was having a wonderful date each week or never going to bed angry. But, honestly, what I said was, “Accepting what you can’t change.” She then said, “Oh, like the Serenity Prayer.”
This week in worship, as we explore what it means to persevere and endure on the Christian Journey, I am again reminded of the Serenity Prayer, authored by Reinhold Niebuhr. This prayer has helped countless people persevere and endure though the hard times and suffering in their lives:
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 [God] did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that [God] will make all things right if I surrender to [God’s] Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with [God] Forever in the next. Amen.
To me, living one day at a time and enjoying one moment at a time is easier said than done and requires endurance. The New Testament author James writes, “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. –James1.2-4
The word “endurance” appears often in James. The commentary in the Spiritual Formation Bible says that the meaning of this word in Greek has to do with “rising above” a circumstance while at the same time “holding on” within that circumstance. The exercise of endurance is central to James’ lessons on faithfulness.
There are so many circumstances and realities in life that we can’t change. To me, “rising above” means reaching up to the heavens in prayer, asking God to help us accept those things while we “hold on” to our faith though endurance.
My twenty-five years of marriage has been a combination of joy and endurance, sweetness and perseverance, mutually accepting the things that we cannot change about one another by “rising above” and “holding on.” Rising above pettiness, and holding on to our faith and to each other. This has only been accomplished by the grace that we have received from God through prayer.
–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer