A couple of nights ago, as I laid down to sleep, my soul was not at peace. I asked God for help. I don’t like how I’m feeling about other people. When I see how selfish people are and how indifferent they are to violence or pain and suffering, it makes me angry. Even if I don’t outwardly express my disagreement, I feel conflicted inside. I feel distressed. It’s a feeling of discord and I don’t like it.
In the book of Psalms, I find another soul who cried out to God in his distress. In Psalm 31, I read, “Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.” In Psalm 55, I read that David’s thoughts were troubled, he was distraught and his heart was in anguish.
I feel conflicted about my own feelings of discord because Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” How can I be a peacemaker if I am not at peace? How can I be at peace when the world is so broken?
Surely God understands my distress. My heart breaks for at least some of the same things that breaks his. But I am not nearly as loving and merciful and forgiving to the people who disappoint me as God is. As the Casting Crowns song (Jesus, Friend of Sinners) puts it, I am
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided
My heart is not at peace because it is divided. I am motivated by a desire to make the world a better place and that’s a good thing. But I also want people to conform to my expectations and I swing a sword that was never mine to swing.
I am learning to change my expectations of people. In Falling Upward, Richard Rohr wrote, “Don’t expect or demand from groups what they usually cannot give. Doing so will make you needlessly angry and reactionary. They must and will be concerned with identity, boundaries, self-maintenance, self-perpetuation and self-congratulation.”
This is so true. People who get their identity from belonging to a group will circle the wagons and shut down anyone who tries to get them to think differently.
So here is my prayer for today: God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the person I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.