Peace is an abstract feeling and hard to describe, but you definitely know if you have it or not. If you Google the word peace, you find it defined as “freedom from disturbance” or the “cessation of war or violence.” Some of the synonyms are tranquility, calm and restfulness.
If you ask random people to define the same word, most would say that it’s when everything is going well and there are no current issues that are clouding their minds. The younger a person’s age, the more like they are to associate peace with things going their way. A more mature person understands that peace can be shattered at anytime; therefore, they take moments of peace as they come, often in the simple things of life.
It’s human nature to desire peace. Lack of peace is what drives many to participate in unhealthy behaviors. There are myriads of ways people attempt to drown out their lack of peace. Most spend their lives trying to fill the emptiness and escape the uncomfortable feeling inside. Others never slow down long enough to determine if they even know what true peace is.
My definition of peace had always been related to not worrying. No matter what was happening, if I didn’t have something hanging over my head on my to-do list or I didn’t have that pit in my stomach regarding something that was happening, I felt peace.
Sometimes lack of peace is related to something I can control because of a sin issue. Through my Christian growth, I’ve learned to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit pricking my conscience. I can’t stand that feeling of conviction, but have grown to be thankful for it. It’s God’s protection and I have discovered it’s best to repent and submit quickly. His way is always better for me anyway.
Even when it’s not sin related, we know what it’s like when we have something heavy on our minds. It can keep us up at night or cause us to be distracted all day long. I’ve never met a mom who doesn’t have the tendency to worry about her kids, starting with teething and diaper rash all the way to who they will marry and whether it’s the right person at the right time. My understanding is that the worries about kids don’t end even when they are married. In fact, I know my parents still worry about me.
Worry itself boils down to a lack of trust. Every relationship is only as strong as its trust factor. It is the desire to be my own god and control (or think I can control) my life’s circumstances. It takes my eyes off of the Creator. The only one who really is in control.
When I struggle with worry, I know how to apply God’s Word, control my thoughts and apply His promises. Early in my adult life, I did a comprehensive Bible study on the subject and pretty much considered myself an expert. I’ve taught dozens of girls through the years all the worry verses and how to put them into practice. It’s a spiritual muscle I’ve been developing for a long time.
Three years ago when I was kept awake at night trying to wrap my brain around the fact that Patrick had a terminal disease, deep in my heart I knew this would be the ultimate test. Could I really apply those principles? Would I?
While it has been the most difficult and darkest season of my life, my weak spiritual muscles have strengthened immensely. The things/issues that I would have been anxious about in the past seem minuscule now. I’m not fearful of the future nor the unknown. While I still care about my children, I completely trust they are in God’s hands. He will allow what He knows is best for their lives.
The principles I learned to put into practice with the smaller problems of life really did translate over to the dramatic life and death struggle that came my way. This has not been an easy process and God knows the ugliness of my heart. I still have a long way to go. In fact, I embrace that this is an area I can never get lazy in. Progressive sanctification is just that….progressive. Never stagnant.
This has been the fiercest battle of my life. I’ve wrestled with God. It hasn’t been pretty. I’ve sprawled prostrate before God begging Him to change His plan; I’ve curled in the fetal position on the floor of my closet sobbing that I can’t make it; I’ve crawled into the back of my van in an empty parking lot and screamed at God. I’ve wanted to give in and say it doesn’t work; It’s not worth it and I quit.
But His Word does work. Christ is worth it. And He won’t let me quit.
My new definition of peace entails more than just the absence of worry; Yes that’s still a vital part. My trust with my God has deepened to a whole new level. I can’t be simultaneously filled with anxious thoughts and have my focus on God. I continually make a choice on where to direct my thoughts.
But there is another part of the equation that is new and different for me. Before in my peace, I didn’t have any pain. I would associate pain with that bad feeling that you are not supposed to have. Surely peace also meant “no pain,” because in my experience, pain meant something was wrong. Just get to the root, fix the problem and the pain will subside.
I now know differently. Some pain can’t be fixed. Some pain will never go away. It’s not because of sin—it’s not lack of trust. It enters your life and changes you.
Twenty-three months post the death of my husband and the path of grief is still the one I’m traveling.
But I can honestly say I am at peace. In my innermost being, I am not consumed with fear or worry. My God is carrying me through this valley. He has never left me. He never will.
He’s the same God who guided Joseph, Esther, David, Ruth, Daniel and Paul, to name just a few of the real people we read about in the Bible. Each of them had circumstances that didn’t make sense. They had pain, sorrow and unfair treatment. Yet they cried out to God. They walked with Him, even when they didn’t understand. They didn’t know their future, but they trusted in their God who did.
Peace and pain can co-exist. One does not negate the other. Pain does not mean lack of trust. Peace is not just lack of pain. They are not mutually exclusive.
Jesus is the ultimate example. Even on the cross, in his deepest turmoil and incomprehensible suffering, He was at peace knowing He was obeying His father’s will. He was doing that for me and for you. By His stripes we are healed.
My memories over the next several weeks will be painful ones as I remember the weeks leading up to Patrick’s death. His life and death are constantly on my mind.
But even in my pain, I do have peace that surpasses all understanding. The peace that only comes from God.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7