Christian rock singer Steve Taylor is often credited with the phrase “I feel so much better since I gave up hope.” I think, though, that he was just the one who put it to music. I suspect we all can take at least partial credit for the concept. There are those things with which we’ve struggled and struggled and, finally, simply given up. Then, and only then, can we continue without anxiety and pain.
I have a friend who is a good pastor, working 60 hours a week, who cannot seem to get his members to do anything more than just drop in on Sunday mornings every now and then. He has read my books, taken my workshops, tried everything that the so-called-experts say, yet nothing works. People love him, compliment his preaching, think the church is great, but aren’t willing to be more than casually involved. Finally, I told him he had to resign.
Actually, what I said was, “You have to resign. You can resign and leave, or you can resign and stay, but you have to resign feeling responsible for other people’s choices. All you can do is all you can do, and, beyond that, you have to resign feeling hurt, angry, resentful, anxious, guilty, remorseful, and stressed out over something you simply cannot control.” In essence, I was telling him to give up hope.
I wasn’t suggesting that he give up the hope that people will change, or even that the people in his church would change. I was simply suggesting that he give up the hope that he could change them.
Recently, Dr. Scott Thumma opened our class at Hartford Seminary with the complete “Serenity Prayer.” We all know the first two verses, but I’d forgotten how much I love and need the entire thing, 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.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Rev. Michael Piazza