Originally posted at joshuastairhime.com
It isn’t always easy to accept our place in the world.
When we seek peace, we often look at the people around us, and focus on changing them. We tell ourselves if our boss would just learn to do his job better, or if my coworkers would pay attention, or if my significant other would just make some effort, then we would find peace in those relationships. We tell ourselves that we are frustrated and tired because of the actions of other people in our lives, and we need them to change to find real peace. At least we think that might help us feel better about our lives. We are left powerless to experience peace, because the keys to peace are not in our own hands. We couldn’t find peace if we tried, the people we spend time with have made it impossible. We are hurt, tired, broken.
When we seek peace, we often look at our circumstances, and focus on changing them. If we could just pay our bills on time, if we could buy a new car, if we could find our soulmate, then we could have peace. We recognize that we can’t do anything about the choices of others, so instead we focus on making the best possible decisions for ourselves, and just learn to cope with the consequences of the actions of others. We are willing to put in the hard work to find peace, if we could just save a little more money, be a little kinder to our families, or just find a few hours to rest. We put all of our energy into changing ourselves, because it is up to us to find our own peace. We are exhausted.
For the longest time I thought that I was doing the right thing by focusing on my own actions to bring about a positive change. I constantly struggled with trying to be good enough on my own to work my way into a peaceful and pleasant life. I knew that I could’t blame discontent on others, even if they felt like such a part of it. I did occasionally slip into blaming others for my unhappiness, but I would try to snap myself out of it as soon as possible, as obviously that wasn’t the right thing to do.
What if there was another way?
A friend told me last night in passing about the way she tries to pray. It was so foreign to me.
My typical attempts to approach prayer involve lots of repetition of phrases like “your will be done” and “You can change this, but only if it is your will” I know that God is not a cosmic vending machine, so I treat the interactions like I’m giving God the opportunity to act if he wants to, but I don’t really care either way, I mean…”It is your will I’m seeking here God, so you can’t blame me if I ask for something I shouldn’t.”
Not unsurprisingly, my prayer life does not tend to be the most fulfilling part of my relationship with God.
My friend encouraged me to pray differently as I sought peace. Instead of saying “God please help me figure out how to fix this situation”, she recommended asking God to be present as I experience the situation. In other words, stopping asking God to change where you are, and start asking to be changed through the experience. Ask God to be alongside you as you face whatever it is that happens to be disrupting your peace in that moment.
It does make more sense…the Bible doesn’t say “Solutions I give to you, answers to tricky situations will I give. When the world gives you trouble, I’ll show you how to outsmart the world, and escape from the pain you’ll find there”.
Instead the Bible does say in John 14, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
So instead of changing my acquaintances or my circumstances God, I think I would like to welcome you to change me. I’m not asking you to change me so I can avoid the things that cause me stress, but instead I ask for you to change me to more fully depend on you, your peace, and your provision.