Without hesitation, I can say that the past week has been one of the hardest I’ve had to endure emotionally in my life. I know that sounds SUPER dramatic but it’s true for me—I’ve never been tested like this before and it has been a whirlwind of emotion while trying to restore my balance during this difficult time. But what I can’t deny is the quiet presence of God while I’ve been gradually pulling myself together.
I was working on this study of “Pursuing Peace” even before I started going through this particular issue so I just think God is hilarious in using this to pull me through the wreck of it all. Over the last month or so, whenever a situation would arise or something that would usually get me unsettled came up, I would just whisper, “Pursue peace” over and over again and I would just rest. I’ve heard God tell me multiple times to just rest in this season—don’t try to figure anything out, just rest. So when I began searching the Word for affirmation of this pursuit of peace and rest, I was led to 1 Peter 3:11 where Peter is reiterating Psalm 34:14:
“Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.”
Often times we assume or are told that peace is the absence of conflict, but this scripture tells us almost the opposite. Not only will there be conflict (“evil”), but we must exert effort to enjoy the peace we seek. We aren’t going to just have peace because we desire it, we have to “Turn away…Search…and work to maintain it.” In our relationships, on our jobs, with family, there will be conflict because everyone is human and imperfect—there’s no avoiding it, but as children of God we always have access to His peace as long as we pursue it.
What kind of peace does God want us to have?
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” –John 14:27
The gift of Holy Spirit results in lasting peace in our minds and hearts. With Holy Spirit’s presence, which is the evidence of our faith, we have no reason to be troubled or afraid of what is to come, even if we are terribly unsure of it. God’s peace is a result of trusting God’s way over ours. This kind of peace is unexplainable because even when people expect you to be distraught or disheveled amidst all that may be happening around you, Holy Spirit tells us to rest in our faith in Jesus Christ to fulfill his promises to us.
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33
Jesus has overcome the world. There is nothing he hasn’t handled through his sacrifice. No heartbreak, layoff, disappointment, or sickness is too big for his peace to cover because as long as we rest in Him, it’s handled.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” –Matthew 11:28
Jesus tells us to let Him teach us how to rest. He wants us to emulate His humble and gentle heart that we may not be burdened with the trials and sorrows of this world. Unfortunately, it is more natural for us as humans to want to handle things in our own strength and control, and to worry and be negative as our first instinct. God urges us to retrain our minds and hearts to think of Jesus first. Think of his heart and the peace He desires for us.
What does this peace require of us?
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” –Colossians 3:12-15
Anyone who has ever been hurt by someone knows that this is the search and work element of Godly peace. Gentleness, forgiveness, and patience sounds so sweet when God is giving it to us, but Lord knows how much work it takes for us to give it to one another when we feel we’ve been wronged. It can be down right painful, but with His grace, thankfully, it’s not impossible. When we stay close to God (John 15:4) we have fruits of Holy Spirit within us that makes it easier to clothe ourselves in the mercy it takes to love others even when they hurt us. When we stay connected to God’s word, we are doing the work to retrain our minds daily to think as He thinks, and therefore have the peace He desires for us.
It is our active commitment to God’s principles that requires work in order to obtain His peace. It requires intentional prayer and endurance to rely on our faith. It takes study and knowledge of God’s word to be able to speak life over our situations when the enemy wishes us death. When we don’t see it turn around as soon as we would like it to, it takes patience and confident assurance to believe the best. But all these things result in God’s peace. If we diligently pursue him in and out of tough seasons we will always be prepared. When you’re ready for a test you have peace because you know you’ve done your part to prepare; there is only cause to worry when we haven’t aligned ourselves with His will.
How do I “maintain” God’s peace?
This is the hardest part for me. I know what I’m supposed to do, I know what God’s peace requires of me, but how do I maintain it? How do I not forget what He told me? How do I hear God’s voice louder than the enemy repeating what hurt me over and over again?
“You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” –John 15:3-4
I have to stay close to God. I have to be obedient immediately when he tells me to do something; otherwise, I get confused and I start to rationalize different scenarios even though He already gave me direction. I have to guard my heart against all outlets that cloud my vision—social media, movies, music, certain environments. I am so sensitive right now, that anything will trigger discontent, so I have to guard and protect my heart from all things that threaten my spiritual peace of mind. And it’s that serious for me. I know if I can get through this initial period, this situation will strengthen me, but if I falter now and fall into the things I’ve always relied on, I will get the same results and that is the opposite of what I want.
This will probably be different for everyone, but just be sensitive to Holy Spirit telling you not to do something, because even the things we think are “not that big of a deal,” can be tools used by Satan to keep us from the growth God wants us to experience.
When I first found out about what happened last week, I instantly thought of God and heard him tell me this was him closing a door; while I was up late crying and a mess, I felt him and heard him tell me that he has seen every tear; when I was holding it together in front of Grace, I could feel him smiling on me. It’s been surreal but every negative thought I’ve had, God has countered with truth. Even when I want to be angry and lead with pettiness, God has whispered for me to pursue peace, love, and understanding. In the face of pain, God has literally shown me evidence of my maturity. If I hadn’t been actively pursuing God prior to this test, it would have literally taken me out for months. Now, not even a week removed from the initial blow, nothing is perfect and I’m still hurting intensely, but I have no choice but to share how in the face of heartbreak, God truly restores through His heavenly peace.
I know nothing I’ve suggested is easy–trust me, I’m living it! But God tells us not to give up:
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone–especially to those in the family of faith.“–Galations 6:9-10
“So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, and always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of their dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” –Colossians 1:9-14
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.
May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power to work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”—Ephesians 3:14-20
“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again–rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix you thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me–everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.“–Philippians 4:4-9
I pray these prayers for myself and all who may read this as you pursue peace in the midst of your own personal battles!