“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
With all that is in the news right now, peace is hard for a lot of us to find. There is a lot to worry about. Will you and your family stay healthy? And if you don’t, will there be medical care available? What does the long term picture look like for school with this unprecedented shut down? Just how long will we need to stay at home? When will we all be able to buy toilet paper again? When will normal return? Will normal return at all?
There is a lot to worry about right now.
But there is also peace to be found.
Just a few days ago, the lake here at camp officially opened as the last of the ice melted away. It’s a sure sign that spring is coming. Yesterday at the end of my day, I took advantage of the beautiful weather and went for a walk along the beach. One of the most peaceful sounds for me is to listen to waves gently washing ashore. I’ll admit, I prefer ocean waves but I’ll take West Lake Okoboji waves. For me, there is something soothing and centering about listening to a sound I know has been part of this place for hundreds of years. The waves have always been here. Droughts, floods, fires, pandemics. Through them all, the waves have come ashore both here and at shorelines throughout the world.
For those few minutes standing along the shoreline yesterday, I felt a profound sense of peace. All was right with the world. But eventually I had to turn and walk away. My apartment is on the other side of camp, away from the waves, and I had things I needed to accomplish with my evening. However, I carried that sense of peace with me as I left. It was good to know the waves were back. It was good to be reminded that in the midst of so much of life pausing, I was able to see life still moving forward towards summer.
I never understood how peace could surpass understanding until the summer of 1997. Until then, I believed you could only find peace if there was nothing to worry about or be fearful of in the world. The summer of 1997 was my first summer of my college years and I had been at home working in the local grocery store. I had no access to internet or email nor did unlimited long distance calling exist so my only connection to my college friends was handwritten letters and occasional, 5-minute phone calls (and yes, I was timed!). By the end of the summer, I was stressed out and lonely.
I had volunteered to spend the last week of my summer working in the kitchen at a camp near Detroit Lakes, MN because some friends from college were going to be attending camp there for the week. It was a win-win for me. I’d get to see my friends, hang out with them a good amount of time, and only have the expense of gas to get there and back. Towards the end of the week, when I was tired from late nights and early mornings, sore from laughing so much with my friends, and worn out from wrestling with God about something, I found myself wandering down to the beach during my morning break with a blanket and my Bible. I had intended to do my quiet time curled up in one of the many hammocks on the beach.
Instead I was captivated by the perfectly smooth and still lake. Not a hint of a breeze to cause even a single ripple on the lake. I hardly dared to breathe myself for fear of ruining the perfect stillness of the water. That’s when I finally surrendered whatever it was I wrestling with over to God. And that’s when I felt God’s peace settle over me for the first time in my life. My heart, my worries, my mind was finally as still and quiet as that lake.
I had to go home the next day. Back to the last few days of work, packing to move back to college, and the many activities and stressors of daily life. But I carried with me an understanding of peace which went beyond the worries of my world.
The peace I felt in that moment, and continue to hold onto today, is not because I have no worries about the health and safety of myself and those I love. If I dare to stop and really think about it, if I watch too much of the news, I’m terrified for my family living far away where I am unable to help them. I’m scared someone I know will get seriously ill and not be able to get the care they need. I worry about those I know who work in the medical field and their families being exposed to something we have next to no defense against. I hope those who are not able to work are able to keep food on tables and roofs over heads while we ride this out.
But the peace of God does not depend on our circumstances. God’s peace comes from knowing the Lord of the Universe is by your side and God is ultimately in control. It is not avoiding conflict or scary situations, but knowing that you have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you as you the challenges of life. It isn’t sticking our head in the sand or being willfully ignorant of what is happening in the world, but choosing to focus on God’s truth first and foremost.
Perhaps one of the most striking realizations I had while working on this week’s blog was on the subject of meditation. The article I was reading was pointing out that a regular practice of meditation is often helpful when seeking to find true peace in life. It’s something which makes sense to many of us but we often struggle with actually putting that advice into practice because we have trouble focusing our thoughts on God’s truth. What the author pointed out was that we are actually really good a meditation, we just choose to meditate on fear or worry. Meditation is no more than thinking intently on a particular subject and we have trained ourselves to mediate so efficiently on fear and worry, we don’t even realize we are doing it any more.
I’m not saying there isn’t legitimate concerns in the world today. What I am saying is be sure the truth of scripture is what you are most focused on as you face and deal with those concerns. Jesus Christ is our peace (Eph 2), not a world or life free of conflict, trials, or disease.
Store up the truth of Scripture in your heart as you seek to know the peace of God.
Find a physical place which is peaceful for you. For me it is being by water. But maybe for you it is while running, or making music, or working on a project in the garage. I think my mom probably finds a lot of peace in looking at her scrapbooking room when it is all cleaned and neatly organized. Make time to be there on a regular basis. It’s often when I’m in a physically peaceful place that God can most easily bring peace to my heart and soul.
Get right with God. One of the biggest barriers to experiencing God’s peace is simply not being connected with God. What are you holding onto control of which should be turned over to God? What has pride kept you from repenting over and asking God’s forgiveness? And once you confess, do you really accept and embrace His grace and forgiveness?
The song “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North rings true for me in many ways these days. Click on the video below to join into my prayer.