There are many things that one can do in pursuit of happiness; however, there are also t some things that one can stop doing that will help with that pursuit. Pastor Jack Freed used some advice from the ancients in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, today – “There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” (Epictetus)
Epictetus was an ex-slave, a philosopher and one of the leading proponents of Stoicism in his day. There is much good information available about the rise and fall of stoicism as a philosophy of life. Stoicism fell out of favor as a philosophy, although it has enjoyed somewhat of a revival lately as people wrestle with our current political situation. It’s failure is that it stops at the edge of reason and does not make the leap to belief that faith allows.
It is relatively easy to advise that one cease worrying about things that they cannot control; however, it is much more difficult to heed that advice. The key to that difficulty can be found in the word “will” in Epictetus’s quote. When you substitute the word “ego” for the word “will”, you begin to see the root of the problem. Our hubris gets in our way.A stoic sees and approaches all problems as things for which solution can be found, a way out, a fix; but many problems have no such solution. There is nothing that we can do about certain things, such as the current Corona Virus pandemic. No amount of personal effort or thinking will result in a solution or a way back to what we think of as normal. There are many other things in life – challenges, situations or happenstances – that present similar conundrums.
What are we to do? Is there a better way to live than to heed the advice of Epictetus?
The answer is found in turning to our faith. Faith lies just beyond reason, just out of our control. Acknowledging our faith reaffirms our acceptance of something that we don’t understand but believe. If you can get yourself in that faith frame of mind, the next step is easy and one that I have posted about many times in this blog. That step involves a simple prayer to God – “Not my will, but thy will be done.” How simple is that? Yet how powerful. It is at that point that you let go of the unsolvable problem and things that are beyond your control. You have put them in God’s hands and have accepted that His will be done.
The answer to the conundrum of worry about things that we cannot control, then, is not stoicism, but faith. When the problem at hand goes beyond your ability to control or resolve, you must take that step beyond reason, into the world of belief and give it to God. You are free to cease worrying about them and move on with life. You will leave that prayer session with the feeling that a great weight has been lifted from your shoulders.
Cease. Desist. Believe.