James chapter 4,verses 13 – 15
13Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.’ 14Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’
Numbers of people infected with the virus are rising. The 10 O’clock News announces it in large red print each day. People are dropping out of society like ninepins as they are called to self-isolate. Anyone with a cough is suddenly uncertain as to whether it is Covid or not. And it’s only mid September! it seems highly unlikely that this scenario will improve until next Spring at the very earliest. At the same time the nation is frenetically trying to get the economy back on track, sending children to school, eating out …, generally yearning to get back to the more settled existence of what life was like only 9 months ago.
If you look at the short passage from the Epistle from James above we seem to be at the beginning of verse 14 but yearning for verse 13. We are worrying that we do not know what tomorrow will bring whilst yearning for the day when we can go to such and such a place, do business and make money. What an attractive prospect! We are yearning to be in control but actually are faced with something which at the moment is uncontrollable. How unsettling!
James gives a solution in verse 15 to help us feel more settled which works for Christians. you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’ This acknowledges that we are not in control very much at all, even if we think we are. But the Lord is! And therefore we do not need to feel unsettled! Instead, when next you do feel this way, ask yourself the question, “Do I really want to go back to how things were? Is going to such and such a place, to do business and make money, really what I want out of life? Is there a future hope that we would prefer?” Then turn it into a prayer and wait and see what answer comes back!
Here is the serenity prayer by Reinhold Neibuhr
grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Listen to a rather beautiful setting of Make me a channel of your peace