The above title is a line in the full length Serenity Prayer. On first glance, you shake your head and say, “How can this be?” But as you dig deeper, you begin to see how true this can be and the hope buried in these words.
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…
These words breathe hope since true hope is “an expectation with a pathway to achieve it.” The expectation is no matter how hard it gets, peace is always possible. The pathway to get there is by accepting our hardships.
I didn’t say “having hardship.” Simply having hardship is no guarantee you’ll have peace. Accepting hardships however, puts you on the pathway where you’ll find inner peace.
The natural tendency is to look in all the wrong places for peace.
- Solve your problems – find peace
- Eliminate hardship – find peace
- Lower your anxiety – find peace
- Reduce your stressors – find peace
- Gain control – find peace
- Manage difficult people – find peace
In each case, they depend on our circumstances getting better.
On the contrary, peace is an inside job and the by-product of an attitude you embrace – a choice you make not based on circumstances. True peace, as the Hebrew word shalom suggests, is a wholeness of soul, a soundness in your inner world, or a well ordered life under God’s direction.
When we look for peace in outside circumstances…
- We solve our problems but more problems come.
- We try to eliminate hardship and soon realize it’s an unrealistic expectation.
- We reduce today’s anxiety but wake up tomorrow with new worries.
- We experience loss and feel robbed of the life we had.
Acceptance is – “the act of taking or receiving something offered.”
There’s a dance we step with when finding acceptance – especially when going through loss and grief. If our grief and loss is too fresh, we aren’t able to embrace final acceptance as described in the grief cycle but we can find inner peace while we travel the grief road.
Grief drives men into habits of serious reflection,
sharpens the understanding,
and softens the heart (John Adams).
My losses (mobility, health, work, an active lifestyle) aren’t over. Another major surgery is coming. With it looming, I keep bumping into emotions like anxiety, depression, frustration, fear and each time I’m doing my best to accept these hardships as the pathway to peace.
The pathway to peace (by the way) can be more like climbing the Grouse Grind (very steep and hard on the body) verses a paved pathway by an ocean shore!
To be honest, I’m in the middle of accepting my hardships but have peace fairly frequently.
Here are a few structures I’m using to find peace’s pathway:
- Get quiet – the other day I drove to a quiet spot by the side of the road and sat there for a couple of hours with my journal, my prayers, my thoughts. Peace came as I accepted life as it was right then.
- A gratitude rock – I heard of an idea to reduce anxiety. Find a small rock, carry it around with you and every time you touch it, express your gratitude for what you’re experiencing in that moment. We’re not told to be thankful FOR all circumstances, just IN all circumstances!
- Adjust expectations –I’ve been recalibrating my expectations to be more in line with my limitations and current reality. It’s a practical way for me to accept my hardships instead of trying to outrun them.
- Share life with friends – I ran into an old coffee shop friend this week I hadn’t seen since before the accident. I shared my story, heard his story and in that exchange found myself accepting my hardships and experiencing peace in my soul.
- Change what I can change – I’ve been reading the serenity prayer over several times a day – it’s helping me to work on those things I can change, leave those I can’t change alone and finding peace in the process.
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace is not simple or easy but it’s possible if you commit to the journey. I’m a work in progress. You’re a work in progress. But I believe true hope and inner peace is possible even when faced with hardship in this life!
What keeps you from accepting your hardships?
What’s next for you to find acceptance?
Serenity prayer continued:
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. Amen. (by Reinhold Niebuhr)