Thou dost keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee because he trusts in Thee. —Isaiah 26:3 (RSV)
I don't do a lot of personal revelation here at Cerulean Sanctum. For the benefit of those people who grapple with the whole idea of "Peace on Earth," I thought I'd share a few things. Last year, I wrote on peace, but wanted to revisit the issue since I struggle with inner peace more than most people, I suspect. In trying to nail all the things down that I must do before Christmas, deal with the fallout from last week, and just get my head right in this season of the Coming King, peace fled away faster than a rocket-powered sleigh.
I start by noting this is the second time I've written this post. It started out paired with the post on Prosperity, then I realized I needed to split it. So I duplicated the tab in Firefox, giving me two copies of the post. I deleted the Peace from the Prosperity and the Prosperity from the Peace and saved both. the Peace section first. Sadly, in doing so, WordPress could not distinguish the post IDs from each other, so in saving the Prosperity second, I said goodbye to the Peace post. Evidently, duplicating the tab was clever, but stupid at the same time. Lesson learned. A perfect metaphor for peace—or the lack of it—we find at Christmastime. Say goodbye to all that work and do it again.
So much for clearing the To-Do list.
A couple weeks ago, I went to bed at 2:45 AM after a day of frenzy. A half hour later, my head still buzzed with things to do. Over the next hour after that, I would get up four times because I'd forgotten to
- Take out the trash
- Feed the rabbit
- Start the dishwasher
- Close the garage door.
If I don't attend to those little activities, who will? Let them slip and the next thing you know, Junior's weeping because Fluffy Bunny won't "wake up." So sleep becomes a precious commodity.
Someone should have informed the world at my birth that I'm not one for frantic activity. I have a tendency amid busyness to stand in the center of a room and wonder why I'm there. I know I came in for something, but what? The older I get, the less I seem capable of handling the fast-paced American lifestyle we're each called to live. I don't think God intends us to live like headless chickens, but what's a headless chicken to do?
Knowing Christ dealt with my sin certainly gives peace. I think that's the peace the Bible speaks of when it talks about peace. The passage that begins this post is from the RSV because it's the version I memorized long ago. Despite knowing that verse backwards and forwards, peace still seems elusive in an age when machines scream at you to attend them. A couple weeks ago, my Palm PDA, the phone, and the beep of an incoming e-mail on my computer all went off in a fury of audible technical alerts at precisely the same moment. My scalp still hurts from ramming my head through the tiny plaster points of our textured ceiling, such was the altitude I achieved.
Peace. What is peace?
It's not just busyness that kills peace. I'm not a good one for the type of decision-making peace my wife comes by so easily. When an enormous, forever-life-altering decision must be reached, she determines the correct direction by peace. You may have heard it before, that "I felt peace about it" thing that so many utter when assured that God's delivered unto them the one perfect choice. Hours spent searching the Scriptures for some evidence that the saints of old justified their choices by the amount of peace they felt in making a decision came to naught for me. To this day, I don't think I've ever felt that kind of peace when making any of the major decisions I've confronted in life. That nagging feeling I wasn't doing the right thing never left.
I've seen a lot of people who made a decision at eighteen and decades later were still wilting like some sun-starved petunia under the shadow of that choice. Good people. Christian people. People who wrestle every day with a lack of peace because they don't want to add shadow upon shadow. It's one thing to quote them Romans 8:28 and something altogether different to stand by them until the shadow flees in the bright light of the Son. The latter reflects the heart of God, but how rare it is to find among people beset by too many e-mails, crying babies, and a Charles Schwab account manager on line one begging you to sell now or kiss your retirement goodbye.
Someone's got to take the blame when a decision goes awry, right? Not being one of those "get mad at God" types who likes to shake his fist at the heavens (where I come from, that's called "rebellion"), I tend to fall back on blaming myself for not scrying God's Master Plan for the Universe more thoroughly. I keep hoping that one day someone tries to hawk the Urim and Thummim on eBay. THOSE I'd bid on. You can keep the rest.
And so, dear reader, I ask: what is peace? And how does one find real rest for one's soul in the middle of lives kicked into overdrive?
In this season of peace, when you can still get away with sending a Christmas card festooned with an olive-branch-bearing white dove and not be blamed for offending someone else's beliefs (or lack of them), the answer to that question may be the best gift we can hope for under our trees.
22 thoughts on “Staples of Christmastime: Peace”
It is suspiciously silent…Could it be that peace is a problem?
“Knowing Christ dealt with my sin certainly gives peace. I think that’s the peace the Bible speaks of when it talks about peace.”
I think it’s more than the comfort in knowing that our eternity is secure. God wants us to enjoy peace in the here-and-now as well. I think the greatest detriment to that is not really trusting God to take care of the physical part of our existance. We still feel the need to exert control over our lives, and so peace eludes us.
So what is peace? It’s the acceptance of the lordship of Christ in my daily life. Because I trust in Him.
No one’s doubting the trust issue. But what do we do about our run, run, run society that makes no place for quiet and contemplation? There is no peace when you’re always running around.
I guess the question is “why run?” The society we find ourselves in is probably only fit for schitzoid sociopaths, so trying to find time to ponder while at the same time conforming to the pace is a practical impossibility.
I remember having dinner with a friend when his microwave started beeping at him. “Pardon me, my slave is calling.” He said as he excused himself. So you see the irony in that?
We are enslaved to this technological wonder we have wrapped ourselves up in. In the pursuit of convenience we have become, well, inconvenienced. Sure, productivity is increased, but at what price? Conformity is a high price to pay. Too high.
What’s your practical prescription for “dropping out”?
Turn off your cell phone…Ha! Our lives are shaped and molded by what we want to make of them. Seeking for success (tag on: seeking to avoid failure…) leads us to strive to accomplish those tasks that will lead to success. So we have contacts and appointments and time spent in pursuit of…What? If we “drop out” we are haunted by a very real concern that we are not providing for our family.
So my practical prescription? If you see yourself becoming busy, especially a frenzied busy, then stop, turn everything electronic off, and wait. Don’t make a conscious effort to think, pray, plan, or ponder. Just wait as Moses did on Sinai. It gives time for the dust to settle, the wind to die down, your heart to stop racing. Then pray, plan ponder, and when the million things have resolved into the two or three that you really have to do, then do those. When you’re done, then check for messages.
We are so driven by the tyranny of the urgent, it’s a wonder we get anything done.
I think David has the right idea. Most of our lack of peace comes from a real lack of trust in God. We act as if it all depends entirely upon us.
I’m finding a lot of help from Dallas Willard.
Peace to you, Brother.
You’re right, there’s no peace when you’re always running around. I highly recommend that you check out Dallas Willard. He has a lot to say on this very issue.
One answer is related to the Jewish observance of Sabbath. It was enforced inactivity. It served as a weekly discipline to trust God.
We talk about trust, but I don’t think we really understand what it means.
We are the ones who must make a place for quiet and contemplation.
You’ve brought up an important issue.
I applaud your integrity and transparency.
My wife and I keep a Saturday Sabbath rest that we conclude with our church service on Sunday.
The only problem is we take all the things we had to do on Saturday and cram them into an already packed schedule the rest of the week.
I read Randy Frazee’s Making Room for Life, but it’s got several glaring flaws in it. He glosses over some gaping holes in his theory of recovering a Hebraic view of a day’s work.
I’ve only recently discovered Willard’s teaching in this area. Here’s an article that addresses this particular issue:
One of the best things about Willard’s approach is that it avoids any hint of legalism.
I don ‘t practice a specific Sabbath. But I am trying to put some of these principles to work in my life.
Saw this posted on another site today:
By Julian of Norwich
My, how busy we become when we
lose sight of how God loves us.
Peace of Christ to you and your readers,
Thanks for the Norwichian reminder.
Now who’s going to pay all my bills? 😉
Seriously, it’s very hard to develop a schedule that seeks peace when the schedule the world keeps must still be lived in. I think Christians need to start banding together to resist society’s mandates.
How to do that is the big question. Smarter people than me need to join in.
No one’s said anything about the issue of peace being a confirmation that the right choice has been reached when making a difficult decision. Like I noted, I can’t really find examples of that in the Scripture, yet many people use it to check their choices.
First time commenter here.
What you’re writing on this blog speaks more directly to what the church desperately needs to hear more than anything else I’ve come across on the “godblogosphere”. Thank you for putting it out there. It continues to be a blessing.
The “right decision” dilemma has always bothered me. Perhaps it’s another one of those “wrong question” scenarios. It’s like we’re trying to solve a really hard puzzle while God sits up there snickering at us as we struggle, begging for some kind of “sign”.
But God has given us something better than a “sign”. He has made His will knowable and known. To live consistent with His will, we must die to ourselves to the point where we desire Him more than anything – any outcome, any result. We’re to desire Him more than His blessings.
Perhaps the peace your wife experiences doesn’t come a certainty that God has given His assurance that she has made the decision that will produce the best outcome, but from knowing that any outcome or situation is bearable in Christ. Besides, getting hung up on “making the right choice” puts the emphasis back on us and our performance, which opens up a whole new can of worms.
The lack of peace often suggests the presence of a war. In my case, it’s usually the war between wills – mine and God’s.
“Peace” or certainty? I wonder how much “peace” Shadrach and Co. had when facing the furnace? How about Daniel in the den of lions? I think it’s fine to be shaking in our shoes, but with certainty in the active presence of God. “Perfect peace” (which casts out fear) is faith in God and His desire for the best for us. Fear, concern, questions, even doubts, are, I think natural. That I will come to recognize those doubts and fears as my very human nature at war with my new nature, and as the realization comes, I become free to enjoy the, dare I say it, peace?
I once heard of a missive attributed to Martin Luther. Someone asked him how much time he spent in prayer each day. He said “One hour.”
“What if you know you are going to have a busy day?” The questioner asked.
“Then I pray two hours,” was the reply.
That Martin bugs the crap out of me with all his praying, praying, praying.
Doesn’t he, though?
Why would anyone want to follow anything that Martin Luther did?
He was a vicious Jew Hater who called for the destruction of synagogues, Jews, and everything Jewish.
It truly amazes me that everyone seems to FORGET & IGNORE just how CRUEL and HATEFUL this man was. The Lutheran ‘church’ still has not come out publicly and asked forgiveness to our Jewish brethren for what this man wrote……and Hitler used the writings of to ‘justify’ his actions of exterminating the Jewish people.
If you don’t believe me…..just do some research of your own with any enclyclopedia, or internet search…..or better yet….go down to your local synagogue and ask a Rabbi his opinion of Martin Luther…!
For those of you who doubt:
Thank you Dave and may Yahweh BLESS you!
“Come out of her My people”…..
Just do it. That is the answer to your question for Dave.
We did. We left the ‘church’ ….we left the holidays too….no more christmas….no more buying the xmas cards & stamps for them, the xmas tree, the xmas gifts…. whewwww…..what an awesome feeling of freedom and peace!!
Don’t get me wrong…we still celebrate the birth of Messiah ….but we do this during the Feast of Tabernacles when He was actually born.
We don’t do easter either…..we do passover.
We don’t do sunday worship….we do Sabbath. As directed in scripture from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. We get together as a family, we light the sabbath candles, we have a wonderful meal, we say the blessings over the children, and we REST. WOW…..what a concept…..that Yahweh gave from the BEGINNING in HIS TORAH!
On Saturday we don’t engage in commerce, we don’t do anything but rest, fellowship with other believers, read scripture, eat, play, and ENJOY the LORD.
As far as your question about not seeing any examples of being led by peace in the Scripture….my answer is that it is seen EVERYWHERE.
(Abraham’s servant finding a wife for Isaac, Esther calling a fast, David declining Saul’s armor, they were all led by peace to make their decisions.)
We are told to be led by the Spirit, & to keep in step with the Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit includes PEACE. When we are more fruit than flesh it is easier to discern His leading, promptings, & nudges.
If there is bitterness in the heart we become blinded and we cannot see past the root of the bitterness. What is going on in your heart ….it is all about the heart. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. False flesh expectations result in disappointment.
Do you have expectations that you want others to fill? Only Yahweh can fulfill YOU.
Just be still. If you want to know the truth then you need to ask it of THE TRUTH. You are responsible to know the truth of yourself…not of anyone else. If peace alludes you then examine your heart for unforgiveness, for the foundation of peace is forgiveness.
This is why Yeshua was able to say ‘my peace I leave you and my peace I give you’…..for He emptied Himself and FORGAVE ALL….
The season that we are in now is the Feast of Dedication ( chanakah).
As a family we are using this time to dedicate/consecrate ourselves to the King, to examine our lives and clean out anything that is displeasing to Him. Flesh profits nothing but the Spirit gives life.
Yeshua gives us the answer to what our work is to BE…..to BELIEVE in the one He has sent.
Will you believe that He has sent someone to you today?
I don’t know if the Bible is totally transparent about the emotional state of the saints depicted in all of their decisionmaking.
Yes, by faith Abraham set out into the desert, listened to the promise of a child, and set off to sacrifice Isaac. Whether he felt at peace (or merely calm) about those is altogether different.
We equate peace with not being stressed, but I would find it hard to read a perfect lack of stress into all those situations with Abraham. I’m sure there were times when Abraham wondered what he was doing after he left Ur. I’m sure the knees were a bit weak when he put Isaac on the altar.
What was faith was that he still did what God asked of him, whether he was perfectly at peace at all times with decision. It’s like the parable of the two sons that Jesus tells where the Father asks one to do a job and the son says yes, but the later does not do it, while the other son says no, but then does it. It seems to me that faith is in the doing moreso than in the feeling. The Bible says repeatedly that the heart is deceitful and we cannot always trust our feelings. If we view “peace” that I discuss in that part of my post as feeling, then can we trust it? Seems to me that faith is better served by doing, even if the “peace” isn’t there.