So often my reaction to that word has not been a warm soft feeling that flows down my body. Instead it’s made tears spring unbidden to my eyes. It’s made my fists curl into tight balls because peace is the one thing I’ve wanted so badly, and I have tried so desperately to obtain it without success. Peace seemed so elusive for me, and so hard to reach when anxiety, fear, and worry were so unwanted yet always rising up unsummoned. I’ve felt this way many times. It’s discouraging to work so hard for peace, to do everything I can for it, and not be able to obtain it. It’s despairing! My anxiety and fear would become so great that many nights I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I would wake up throughout the night, restless, afraid and on edge. My mind would race at times so quickly that I would cringe, shut my eyes, and hold my head in my hands in an attempt to stop the thoughts that came with paralyzing fear, anxiety and doubts. And then there was always guilt. Why couldn’t I be at peace? Was I doing something wrong? Sometimes I would finally get a small drop of peace, only to have it snatched brutally away from me with thoughts like, “I can’t let the devil steal my peace”, and “I can’t let my peace be stolen.”
But what if peace is not something that God expects me to produce or maintain? What if peace is something that God wants to do for me, instead of being robbed of my peace in my very own pursuit of it! Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (ESV) The “You,” at the beginning of this sentence is referencing God – not me. That means God will keep me in perfect peace, when my mind is stayed on Him. A little later in this chapter, Isaiah says, “Lord you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” (NIV) God will establish my peace. All that I will accomplish He will do for me. All that is needed is for me to fix my thoughts on Him.
I find that the easiest way for me to do this is to think about and ponder Jesus’s life through the Bible. I intentionally set aside whatever is causing worry, anxiety, fear and doubt, and think about stories of Jesus. Sometimes it might be the story of the woman at the well, or the crucifixion. Or maybe Jesus feeding the five thousand. I focus on the character of Jesus throughout the stories; what He did and said, and how He interacted with the other people in the story. Sometimes I just think about Jesus’s faithfulness in my own life, or imagine him seated at the right hand of God. I let all my thoughts and imaginations revolve around Jesus. I can’t let this become something for me to grow anxious about either. In the practice of keeping my mind on Jesus, my thoughts will drift, and other thoughts will come into my mind. I have to learn to not stress over them. To not bother with them, but just direct my thoughts back to Jesus; again and again if I have to. Through the power of His Holy Spirit, He enables me to keep my mind focused on him. Then, Jesus keeps me in peace. I don’t have to find it or produce it, He brings it to me. As I trust Him, I can let Him be the one with the responsibility of establishing my peace. The heavy weight of trying to be at peace slips from my shoulders, as I let God carry it for me. It is His peace, not mine. And if it isn’t my peace, there is no way that it can ever be stolen from me. God has been so faithful, so loving, and so patient. He has established my peace time and time again. He’s lifted such a weight off my shoulders. He’s done it for me, and He will do it for you as well. He who has promised is faithful. (Heb. 10:23)