Let go and lean in…part 3 of the Serenity Prayer Series

If this was something easy to do, I wouldn’t be writing about it. I’d just be living this, and that would be the end. Wouldn’t that be lovely? I’ll pick that option. Oh wait….

If you want to read what I’ve already written, you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. Otherwise read on for part 3. You can read the full Serenity Prayer here if you’d like.

My writing buddy Hazel. She’s very serene. She isn’t controlling like me.

We all know that the world is ‘sinful’. It’s messed up. It’s a train wreck. There are so many issues and problems in this world because we are dealing with people. We are all messed up and sinful. We are flawed humans, and obviously no one is perfect, even though some of us like to act like it sometimes. No matter how hard I’ve tried, I cannot be perfect.

Here’s the next part of the Serenity Prayer that we are looking at:

Taking, as He did, this sinful world 
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make things right
If I surrender to His Will,
  1. You have to stop being controlling. You don’t have the control you think you do anyway.

Surrender and letting go of control, these are both such themes in Niebuhr’s writing. It’s woven through every part of the prayer, highlighting its importance. Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, accepting things I can’t change, and now, accepting the sinful world not as I would have it – it’s all just so difficult. It is! That’s why it takes the daily work to stay on the path – at least for me, I’m stupid! It also takes me many, many, many words to try to understand how to apply this to my life.

When I am struggling to understand things in the world, I try to go back to a root understanding that people, by and large, are not evil or mean-spirited. I truly believe that many of these mean-spirited or bad things that happen stem from the human wish to control. People do things to try to make their lives better. The fruit of that trying to fix and change things oftentimes makes things worse because of our humanity. Selfish and self-serving motives, and I am an expert at those, can take hold of an otherwise normal human being, and they can destroy any good we are genuinely trying to do. I’ve done it thousands of times, just ask me, I’ll fill you in on all my fixing behaviors. I’m really good at them. Or is it really bad at them? Either way, I have skills in doing an approach that doesn’t work.

Learning to let go of my expectations of the world has been the only way I have found peace in my relationships with others. It’s very difficult work, but the benefits are well worth it.


Controlling people and situations is not what we are meant to do. I am never peaceful or serene when I’m being controlling. No matter if that controlling looks good on the face of it, it’s not truly peaceful. You know I’m right on this, admit it. Sometimes being controlling does look good on the face of it. Controlling is when we do things like over-parent our children instead of striking a balance of love, nurture, care, and allowing them to learn some lessons in life. Those are all things our children need, but it’s so easy to try to protect them, which is controlling! We all want our children to grow up and be resilient, but we love them so much that we don’t want them to fail or struggle. It’s hard, I’ve battled this many times in my own parenting journey.

At work, an example is controlling when we push our own agendas at our jobs, without listening to others. Yes, we are paid to be active members of our work teams, but ignoring all others for selfish motives is not trusting that He will make all things right. This one is tricky and deceptive, but truly letting go and trusting that Someone more powerful than you, or any other human, is in charge is greatly beneficial in navigating the weird professional relationships we have.

A marriage example is when we tell our spouses what to wear, how to act, or what they should do next. We all need freedom in order to be in healthy relationship. Just ask Jason – I need freedom in relationship. Ask him too, he needs to be his own person. We have gotten this wrong so often. *Sometimes we want to be loved so we try to control the other person. This one too is a product of not wanting our spouse to struggle, so we want to ‘help’ them. It’s hurtful and destructive though. Each person needs to be free to live, learn, and grow. That means we will falter, we will fail, we will be upset and we will have regrets. What we don’t need is the other partner controlling what we do. We need to know that we are lovable and we need to love our spouses, in spite of their faults and failures – that’s unconditional love. Humans suck at it, but it’s worth working toward. Truly being loved and loving others are amazing gifts.

There are a million other examples of controlling behavior, both obvious and quietly deceptive, but you get the point I’m making.

2. Trust in God after you choose to give up that control. Have open hands and a full heart toward God, who can teach you so much through this exercise.

The Serenity Prayer calls for us to trust that God will make all things right if we surrender to His Will. That means letting go and putting it in God’s hands. He wants our full trust and faith in Him. It’s not a one time decision. It’s a daily effort to trust God. Sometimes for me, it’s a moment by moment effort to trust Him. I trust and then take it back.

It actually hurts to give up control. It’s scary. It feels wrong when you are used to using it as a coping mechanism. I’ve learned the sweetest lessons in trusting God when I’ve fully left my issues in His hands.

3. Lean in fully to what God has for you. He has good things in store, even if things don’t turn out like you thought they would.

The lessons I have learned haven’t come without deep soul-searching, pain, suffering, and rivers of tears. I’m not being dramatic. It’ll change you, but you have to be ready for a rough ride. You’ll need support from others. You can’t do it alone.

God does want good things for us. He wants us to live a life of surrender and peace and hope. He does make things right, I’ve seen it many times in my life. I could tell you volumes of stories about God’s faithfulness in my life. Come over and have coffee with me and we will chat. Sickness, trauma, and regular life problems will happen. It’s not because God is a failure or that He doesn’t care. It’s an imperfect and sinful world. What God does do, is comfort, guide, correct, and ultimately we come to acceptance with His help.

I have had several times in my life that I’ve had to dig deeper than I ever thought possible, and I emerged from those experiences with a new understanding of God and my relationship with Him. The things I hoped would work out and then fell apart; those are oddly what I am most grateful for, when I view them in hindsight. I think of the jobs that I didn’t get, the relationships that fell apart, my failures, or even the grief and hard fought battles that come up in life, I am grateful for what I have learned and I see that God has the best for me. God knows what He’s doing and He’s never left me, not for a moment. Ever. He won’t leave you either.

I can only lean in to this growth if I am fully, totally, completely, and unconditionally surrendered to His will. That’s what I want for my life. No matter what happens, which I can’t control anyway, I will continue to live in this world and continue to pray that He will make things right if I surrender to His will. He has done it so far, and I have no doubt that He will continue to help me.

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 He did, this sinful world 
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make things right
If I surrender to His Will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

- Reinhold Niebuhr

*Sidenote: your spouse can't fill that need, ever.  You have to find that you are worthy and loveable first, and then bring a more whole version of yourself in to your relationship.  I should do a post on this - this is something amazing I've learned that has changed my life.  

Thank you for reading along! This was a really healing post for me to write, I reflected on a lot of things in my life and how I got to be where I am, and the windy path that got me here. I know I have more windy paths in my future, and I’m hopeful that the things I’ve learned will help me navigate those too. If it’s helpful, please take what you want and read the rest. But I’m not going to control that, I’m living in peace! Ha ha. Love, Leslie

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