By Tammy Darling
Peter slept. Not unusual, unless you consider the fact that Peter was in an uncomfortable, heavily guarded prison awaiting his trial the following day. Yet somehow Peter was able to rest. In fact, Peter was sleeping so soundly he had to be awakened by an angel.
Peter’s secret? Peace—one aspect of the Spirit’s fruit we crave but often find lacking. We have some pretty valid reasons, we tell ourselves: unemployment, sickness, a prodigal child, overdue bills. What we fail to realize (and Peter understood) is that peace doesn’t depend on external circumstances; rather, it transcends them.
Peace is not found in a five-step program, at the beach, or in a shot of whiskey. This is the peace the world offers, but it’s short-lived and shallow. Real peace, peace that endures, is found in Jesus Christ.
Unlike our surroundings, our position in Christ cannot be altered. His sovereign hand of protection and guidance covers us.
What would it take for you to have peace? Financial security? Fulfilled dreams? If so, you’ve fallen for the world’s definition of peace, which is based on external circumstances. The peace Christ offers comes from within and is based on our relationship with him.
If you’ve ever been lost in the woods, you know how easy it is to become disoriented, confused, and perhaps even fearful. But having a compass in your pocket would bring a measure of peace.
The world can be a confusing and scary place; but we have a compass, God’s Word, to point us in the right direction, to comfort us, and to sustain us.
We can apply the truths found in God’s Word and rise above the crises that engulf this world. As we do, we’ll learn to look for the hand of God in each day.
Jesus wasn’t speaking figuratively when he said not to worry about our lives (Matthew 6:25). In fact, we find many variations of the phrase “fear not” echoed throughout Scripture.
We lie awake at night stressing over concerns of far less consequence than Peter faced during his night in prison. Before you label Peter a super Christian, consider his track record. Peter was no superior believer; he was a man just like us.
There is no end to the “what ifs” in this world. We live in a broken reality. Jesus said we will have tribulation in this world (John 16:33). Perhaps we should stop trying to get rid of what bothers us and learn to embrace peace instead. Change our focus. Plant the seed we want to harvest. We are not victims of our circumstances. We can choose to live a better way, a way of peace.
Believing everything will work out is easy in theory, but we struggle putting it into practice. We’ve probably all read the Bible enough to know that God allows godly people to go through some pretty serious stuff. So it’s easy to think the same might be in store for us.
While it may sound absurd, we find peace when we recognize we are not in control and are desperately dependent on the one who is. We don’t need arms strong enough to bench press the world. We don’t have to buckle under distressing news. We don’t have to try to make sense of something that will never make sense.
With peace there are no endless refrains of “what if” robbing us of sleep. We can rest in who God says he is, what he has done for us, and in his promises. We have sound reasons to place our confidence in him.
If you’ve ever had your world come crashing in around you and yet felt an overwhelming sense of tranquility, you’ve experienced God’s peace. When I had to make the quick decision to undergo an ultimately life-saving C-section, I felt that peace. It’s incomprehensible. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
An attitude of peace is a priceless witness in a world filled with stress and unrest. Peace says, “I’m trusting God; he’s in control.” A consistently peaceful life takes time, focus, and the grace of God, but the fruit is a beauty to behold and brings life to others.
We have the peace of Christ within us, but we also have a choice to make. Will we let his peace rule? The Bible gives us the correct answer. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace” (Colossians 3:15).
Life is not fair. Temptations come. Things do not always work out the way we plan. So do we lose peace or embrace it? Rant or rest? If we accept that troubles are a part of life, they won’t bother us nearly as much and peace will rule.
Here are seven ways we can cultivate peace in our lives:
Keep a steadfast mind. Thoughts unbridled, escaping into the dark of night, will find their way into our morning leaving peace far behind—a distant memory longed for but never realized. Zeroing in on our circumstances is like hitting a bulls-eye, but on the wrong target. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
Relax. I rush around some mornings like I’ve been shot out of a cannon, which is not conducive to maintaining peace in the midst of chaos. Jesus invites us to come to him and he will give us rest (Matthew 11:28). Take time throughout your day to get face-to-face with Jesus. Make it a daily habit and the practice will continue even in difficult circumstances.
Get some perspective. It still bewilders me. How can our reactions be so disproportionate to the event we are reacting to? Things are rarely as bad as we make them out to be. And if they are, God is still bigger than our problems. When I need a dose of perspective, I recall a sign posted in my chiropractor’s office: Don’t tell God how big your problem is. Tell your problem how big God is.
Trust in the Lord. As with any relationship, we trust people based on their character and our past experience with them. Familiarize yourself with God’s character and “remember the deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 77:11). God is faithful, his character impeccable. He can be trusted.
Take one day at a time. Tomorrow may be better or it may not be, but “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24, NIV 1984). It is possible to rejoice in the midst of tribulation. Just ask Paul. Or Silas. Their praise brought down the house. Literally. Purposefully express gratitude for the day you have been given and when you wake up in the morning, hit the restart button on a new day because God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22, 23).
Live in the present. We can spend a lot of time thinking about the past or worrying about what the future holds. But what is the Lord saying to you at this moment? Jesus meets us at our point of need, in the very moment. God hovers about us, shadows our every step. Learn to recognize and bask in his presence right where you are.
Abide in Christ. The farther we are from Jesus, the less peace we will experience. Christ doesn’t just make a way for us; he is the way. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4, NIV). Peace will not grow in us unless we remain attached to the vine.
When obstacles appear in our lives, our natural tendency is to find a way around them. But by embracing peace instead we draw closer to the Prince of Peace.
God is always bigger than whatever we are facing. He is working behind the scenes on our behalf in every situation. We can embrace peace when we look past our problems and focus on our provider. Only then can we say with the psalmist (4:8), “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.
Peace for Our Cities
Violence in cities around the country is a complex problem. It’s an area where Christians can powerfully influence the world around them. But how? These resources and examples of successful programs will help you think through the problem and find ways to be involved in the solution.
The Louis D. Brown Peace Institute (www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org) ministers to families who’ve lost a loved one to homicide and to families who’ve had a member commit a homicide. Their core principles are love, unity, faith, hope, courage, justice, and forgiveness. The site includes resources for teaching youth about violence prevention.
The Youth Violence Systems Project (www.gettingtotheroots.org) looks at “academic, institutional, and community perspectives on the interrelated causes of youth violence.” They’ve developed a computer model that simulates the effects of “gang activity, culture of violence, personal predisposition, community context, social institutions, public institutions, family and peer influence, and individual and collective trauma” on youth.
Children in Danger: Coping with the Consequences of Community Violence
by James Garbarino, Nancy Dubrow, and Kathleen Kostelny
(John Wiley & Sons, 1998)