There’s a lot of talk about peace at Christmastime, but how do we capture peace? It seems so elusive in a world fraught with terrorism, murder, mayhem, sickness and broken relationships.
Despite my relationship with Jesus – called the Prince of Peace – I struggled with possessing consistent sense of peace for much of my life. I had peace with God. At age 12, I’d trusted Jesus’ death as payment for my sins and invited him into my life. But I didn’t have the peace of God.
I wrestled with peace after my parents’ died, and even years later, ached with grief as I worked to clean out their home. On the fifth summer of my mother’s death and the eighth of my father’s, I started to bring things of theirs to my home to use instead of packing them away. I brought over a Corning wear baking dish, a slotted spoon and a hand towel I’d found in my father’s bowling bag. A sad face was monogrammed on the terrycloth. “Dry your tears on me,” it read.
Was I less of a Christian because I grieved so sorely? I wasn’t at peace. Not with their deaths. Not with a lot of things.
On Facebook, an acquaintance of sorts lost her husband. She was praised for handling the funeral “with grace.” I took that to mean she hadn’t balled out her eyes. I started to judge myself. I hadn’t ever handled grief with grace, with a calm, peaceful exterior.
Is that what God wanted from me? Is that what he wants from us? I worked through the question.
I came to the conclusion that peace and grief aren’t mutually exclusive. They may exist in the same container at the same time. Even the Prince of Peace is recorded to have wept at the death of his friend, Lazarus. You can grieve and still feel peace.
But the peace of God remained elusive to me. I experienced moments of peace, but it slipped through my fingers like a hand full of sand. A maddening sleepless night. A disappointing reaction from my husband. A troubling problem with my career. They zapped away peace.
I was sure I needed to look out for my interests – I’d do a better job than God – and so I worried because I knew I couldn’t control everything that happened to me.
And then I watched as God revealed he’d been looking out for me all along. I learned two men who’d been very important to me in my past had abused their wives, the women they’d married instead of me. One killed himself after a standoff with police. I’d been sure God was withholding the joy of marriage from me. Instead, he had been protecting me from danger and deeper heartache.
The following year, I faced the possibility of breast cancer. My annual mammogram test was flagged. I was too young, I thought. I had already faced more health problems than was due me.
I went outside to the edge of my carport, looked into the star-filled sky and talked to God, my mind busy with the “what ifs.” What ifs – worries – are a peace killer.
As I reached deep into my heart, I realized what I was most afraid of was losing the peace of God. In the year behind me, I’d reached a harmony with my creator that I hadn’t ever touched before. But now I wasn’t sure how to hold onto it.
And then God planted a revelation into my head. I’d had such a poor historic record of lasting peace because my eyes had been on my will. As long as I “must” have my will – marriage, health, prosperity– I am troubled if things don’t seem to line up. My peace evaporates.
Anticipating his imminent arrest and crucifixion, Jesus prayed “not my will but thine be done,” and he meant it. They weren’t just words. He was surrendered to God’s will. He was at peace.
Surrender is the key to indissoluble peace – to let go of what I think I must have and be truly willing to accept whatever God gives or allows.
With a strong will dating to my childhood, this is pretty tough for me, and I must return to this lesson again and again.
Surrender goes back to God’s sovereignty, to accepting his authority, his reign, over my life and over all of life. It goes back to trusting that he truly loves me, and thus, I can surrender to what he wants without fear because though bad things happen, they will work out for my good as he promised (Roman 8:28).
I left the carport that night with a terrific sense of peace and joy that my greatest desire wasn’t to escape hardship but to weather a storm with peace. I couldn’t have manufactured peace. I was given peace, the peace of God. And later, a clean bill of health, I might add.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27).
What are the obstacles to peace for you today? What do you need to surrender?
Copyright © 2017 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. www.tonilepeska.com