The Serenity Prayer and Letting it Go

serenity prayer reflection

Often, I feel like Queen Elsa in the 2013 Disney film, Frozen, with “let it go” repeating in my head like a scratched record or a warped mix tape warbling words of what has got to be one of the greatest three-word sentences in the history of ice queens.

Let it go.

Life can feel like an avalanche of situations outside of our control. Other than our reaction to things, we don’t get a say in much. Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t have much to say. Only that we don’t get to decide who listens, cares, or jams earbuds in their earholes when we speak. Despite my awareness of how much I need to let go of every. single. day.

I don’t want life to be merely a series of reactions to outside events. I want to be deliberate about what I let go of and what I strive to change.

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The Serenity Prayer

Long before Elsa retreated to the ice castle, American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote The Serenity Prayer. I know he wasn’t royalty, didn’t have a 3-centimeter waist, and couldn’t turn people to ice with the flick of his wrist. But he did write a pretty good prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

As far as I am concerned, Mr. Niebuhr could have stopped writing at serenity. What a beautiful word.  It makes me thinks of scented bubble baths, sunsets on the beach, and a cloud of soft-serve ice-cream that looks like Olaf without the carrot nose.

Trying to accept what we cannot change feels like none of that. Instead, it feels like wrestling, wrangling, and wearing ourselves into a state of exhaustion. We think we can pick and choose, negotiate and mitigate, and purchase and plunder into getting what we want. But sometimes, we have to face the cold grip of truth. There are things we cannot change.

Accepting the will of God in our lives doesn’t have to be a frosty experience.

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:6

We can accept the things we cannot change when we put our trust in God to guard our hearts and minds. Poor Elsa retreated to an ice castle. We can go to God for the serenity to do what often feels impossible.

Let it go. There are things we cannot change.

Courage to change the things I can.

What’s funny about Elsa is she was a beautiful queen with a queendom, a crown, and an incredible power to turn anything to ice. But it scared her. Unsure how to control her gift, she ostracized herself to a solitary life in an ice castle.

It’s easy to confuse courage with confidence. We think to be courageous we have to be fearless. There are so many things about ourselves we can change: our perception, attitude, habits, and our reactions. However, sometimes that requires us to be brave.

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the one who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. -Deuteronomy 31:6

In the end, Elsa realized her power was controlled by love. She just needed the courage to let go of her fear and be free.

Let it go. With God at our sides, we have nothing to fear.

And wisdom to know the difference.

The crux of this prayer’s message is recognizing what to accept and what to change. Wisdom is such a daunting word when you feel less like a wise owl and more like you just escaped from the cuckoo’s nest. But, really, I don’t think this part of the prayer has to be that hard. Wise people don’t overthink things.  They know what’s right and act on it. It has less to do with smarts and more to do with conscience. What is your heart telling you?

A good rule of thumb is if it’s the past, let it go. If it’s in your power to change it and you think you or those you love would be better for it, change it.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put in practice… -Philippians 4: 8-9

But anything else, be like Queen Elsa and let it go.

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Lara Patangan is a freelance writer and mother of two boys. She is currently working on publishing her first book about her mid-life mission to do works of mercy. You can find out more about her here.

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  • Reply
    Paola @ Swallow the World
    December 5, 2018 at 9:48 am

    Serenity… no word describes better what I need in my life right now!! I’m going to interiorize this prayer and its meaning.

    • Reply
      Lara Patangan
      December 5, 2018 at 11:01 am

      Yes – ’tis the season where the need for serenity is on everyone’s wish list! This prayer helps me a lot because so much of what we worry with is out of our control. When I have those moments when I really feel surrendered – it is nothing short of serene 🙂 Good luck!

  • Reply
    December 5, 2018 at 10:47 am

    I needed to read this today as I’ve been struggling with the thought of anything bad happening when I give birth in two months, and letting go of my fears and being brave and somehow accepting that whatever happens, happens. This brought me a lot of peace that I will be chewing on for a while. What a fantastic writer!

    • Reply
      Lara Patangan
      December 6, 2018 at 12:15 pm

      Jess – I remember how exciting (and scared) I was when I had my children. But the truth is you can handle whatever happens. God will be by your side (and very likely your husband and competent medical staff). Trust in all of it. There is SO MUCH in motherhood that requires letting go – childbirth is just the beginning! But is the most amazing experience I have known. You have so much joy to look forward to. I will be praying for you- Congrats!

  • Reply
    December 6, 2018 at 11:23 pm

    The holidays have amplified my grief and uncertainty for the future. Thank you for reminding us to have the grace to let go. It truly helped me today.

    • Reply
      Lara Patangan
      December 8, 2018 at 11:15 am

      I am so glad it helped Monica. Sending prayers for peace, hope, and trust.

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