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Peace takes work. To consider peace with or within ourselves, we need time to consider where there isn’t peace, and that is more difficult than it seems. Our pace of life works against it. Now add this: our natural way of dealing with those things that disturb us is to avoid them—by surrounding ourselves with noise, entertainment, and yes, a pace of life that won’t quit—as if a careful look will just make everything worse. This, of course, is a myth. Avoidance only delays peace and gives room for darkness to invade the details of daily life. With this in mind, and because we can have confidence that Scripture speaks good words to our restless and discomfited souls, we know that the pursuit is a worthy one.

And pursue it we must. Jesus speaks peace to His disciples after His resurrection. The epistles begin with “grace and peace” and often end with a reflection on “the God of peace.” The pursuit of peace is, indeed, a way to bring honor to Christ in a world that offers no peace.

peace disrupted

Begin by finding words for your personal unrest.

Things hidden. Look first for anything you want to keep in the dark. If rest is a principal feature of peace, you will not know rest when you work to keep anything tucked away in secret. Here you will find both your own sins and sins done against you.

We have heard the message of forgiveness, but the signal becomes weak with certain sins. For example, do you have regrets? Persistent regrets often carry a message that says to the Lord, “What I did was really bad, and I feel really bad about it”—a message that can quickly drift toward legalism that acts as though deeper contrition will find more grace. You will not find peace on that path. We can be prone to categorizing sins into our own eclectic version of venial and mortal sins. Common sins such as speeding and a brief loss of temper are easily forgiven; uncommon and public sins are not. Look for old sins to which you privately say, “I can’t believe I did that.”

Regrets from past sins are not to be trifled with. Best to give them fully to God as a way to honor the work of Jesus Christ.

Regrets might be a result of the continued consequences of those sins. For example, if your negligence left you or other people with enduring struggles, those reminders are persistent and weighty. Yet regrets can never be left unattended. They are evidence that all things have not yet been made fully new, though they will be. Meanwhile, God forgives fully from all iniquities (Ps. 130:8), for “with him is plentiful redemption” (Ps. 130:7). He forgives completely because He is the forgiver, not because you are forgivable. He washes you clean; He Himself does not see you according to your sins, but you share in how the Father sees the Son as, by faith, you have been joined to the Son. Also notice how the Apostle Peter writes that spiritual malaise can be a result of forgetting that we have been cleansed from “former sins” (2 Peter 1:9). Regrets from past sins are not to be trifled with. Best to give them fully to God as a way to honor the work of Jesus Christ.

Look, too, for sins done against you, especially by those who were responsible to love you. As a general rule, if you have been treated disgracefully, you believe you are a disgrace, and you are left on high alert for when your disgrace will be fully exposed. Peace cannot abide with such shame. That path toward peace is possible only when shame is met by hope that “those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed” (Ps. 34:5).

Things future. Even without resonant guilt and shame, we all have our fears and anxieties, and these likewise compete against peace. Many of those fears are well founded. A very hard event may, indeed, be at hand. And these fears appear against a backdrop of fears and anxieties that are present no matter what the forecast. In my own life, if I simply turn my attention to my children and grandchildren, I find that there might be a passing moment in which everything seems fine, and then I suddenly remember one trouble, then another; one future danger, then another.

All this is to say two things. First, if you feel burdened and anxious, Jesus’ words of peace are directed to you. Second, peace will encounter more resistance than you might expect.

peace pursued

Now the work continues. We all desire peace, but we don’t all pursue it. We might seek peace as an occasional hobby rather than a need that borders on desperation. So we proceed by remembering that this is a promise of God to us, and we can insist that His Spirit lead us on the path of peace.

What should we expect? We expect to walk on the right path, with Jesus and toward Him. On that path we find the usual suspects. Fears persist, shame and guilt still tangle us in lies, and busyness distracts us from our destination. Yet on that path you hear Jesus say, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). Those are among His first words. He supports those with many evidences and promises, and He gives us His Spirit so that we can pursue those promises. To stay on the path, we must keep following words that sound almost too good to be true.

Here are some skills and aids that you might use as you pursue peace. They are not intended to be a list of assignments and steps. They are more pieces of wisdom for the journey. You might find hope in that the few mentioned here are just a glimpse into the treasure of wisdom and direction that is available.

  • Put those hidden places and future fears into speech to the Lord. He knows them, yet He desires that you actually speak them (Ps. 62:8).
  • What are other words for peace? The Apostle Paul’s use of contentment comes close (2 Cor. 12:10; Phil. 4:11). Rest could be a worthy substitute. Peace can sometimes be mistaken as the pursuit of a feeling. Rest will settle only for the presence of the right person.
  • Rest is natural to a child who has confidence in a parent. What are ways that you can grow to be a child who rests in the Lord (e.g., Ps. 131)?
  • Imagine other ways to rest in God. Perhaps it could be a moment in your day when you reflect that the Spirit who brings Jesus close to you, at all times, also reminds you that your God is the maker of heaven and earth? Perhaps it could be time in Scripture when you persist in reading until you are assured that God is rest-worthy?
  • Talk about this with a friend or pastor. How does that person find peace in Jesus?
  • Find a passage that orients you. Psalm 46 is popular, for good reasons. Find a passage that is vivid and can rescue you when you are drowning in the worries of the day.
  • Ask someone to pray that passage for you.
  • Make the clear connection between “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23) and peace. Write it. Speak it to someone else.
  • Take time to look for when the Spirit actually gives you more of the peace of Christ. The Spirit’s work is powerful yet gentle—too easily missed.

The path of peace is a precious one. There you hear the promise of God’s presence, you find hope and assurance that there is still more peace to be had in Jesus, and you receive a benediction. “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all” (2 Thess. 3:16). This is worth working for.

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From the January 2023 Issue
Jan 2023 Issue