Sleep in heavenly peace. Peace be with you. Prince of peace. Peace is a big part of what we celebrate during the Advent/Christmas season.
I have recently embarked in a personal journey in which I have started seeing a Christian counselor in the hopes that I can find peace in certain aspects of my life. I find that I wrap myself up in anxiety, grief and angst over situations I have had no control over, situations that are long past that I cannot forgive myself for and my personal least favorite, deep scars from an unkind childhood.
It is not just me.
This week I solicited prayer requests and in a nutshell almost every single one of them was a direct prayer for peace in different circumstances. Keep in mind that it is only Monday.
Peace is one of those common place words in Christianity. It is a fruit of the spirit. It is a greeting. It is among the greatest hits in most benedictions. It makes an appearance 429 times in scripture (King James Version).
It is important.
So how do we obtain it?
Well, let us start by trying to understand what we are trying to obtain.
I have learned that in order to feel that I can pray effectively for something that seems as abstract as peace I have to visualize it. Call it meditation if you want. But I have to imagine what it looks like so I can understand it with my heart and then, and only then can I pray for it.
Over the years I have heard multiple times about a story about an art contest that took place. The contest was to depict a picture of peace.
Artists submitted entries that were so serene. Pictures of landscapes that would bring a tear to your eye. They captured so much detail of the clouds, the mountains and meadows during their peak moments of growth and beauty.
The winner however, was as less than ideal picture of beauty. The winning picture was of a bare and desolate mountain. Storm clouds filled with anger and destruction loomed overhead. But when you looked closely, you would find a solitary tree growing in the midst of this chaos. When you looked even closer you could see a bird serenely resting on its nest and you presume it is keeping its babies warm.
THIS has become the visualization I now use to focus my heart on peace.
After I can visualize it, I begin to reflect on the scriptures that call us to peace.
In a passage of scripture that is most familiar to me, John 14, Jesus gives us the gift of peace to CLAIM! We are to CLAIM PEACE! IT IS A GIFT FROM JESUS HIMSELF!
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let you hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
Now we know what peace should look like. We also know that peace is a gift from Christ for us to claim. Now, how do we claim it?
There is another verse in scripture that was written by the Apostle Paul, to the Christians living in Rome. But first let us talk about 1st century Rome, because it is relevant. Context is always relevant.
Rome had an amazing cornucopia of Christians. It had a sizeable split between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. Because of theological disputes they had a lot of infighting. This caused emperor Claudius to kick them out of Rome. When Nero took the throne when Claudius died they were permitted back in. Somewhere in this history the great fire of Rome took place and was blamed on the Christians and they were all persecuted.
These people had it coming from all sides!!!! Internal and external.
While our circumstances, in the United States, do not look as bleak as it did for Christians in 1st century Rome. We do deal with struggles that can come from both internal and external factors.
We deal with—grief from a variety of losses, anxiety from the world that surrounds us, diseases that lack cures, unexpected circumstances, misunderstandings, betrayal, gossip, self-doubt, depression, the need to forgive, the desire to be forgiven, the seeking of reconciliation, the goodbye we did not get to say, the words we should have said but did not, job loss, broken marriages, car accidents, house fires, not having money for the bills, and the list goes on and on and on…..
We usually are dealing with something or a combination of somethings. The only thing we want in these moments is to claim that gift of peace. We want to be that bird on the next in the midst of the storm. We want that peace that comes from the Lord. How do we get there?
Paul tells us through Romans 15:13 that peace comes THROUGH the holy spirt.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Paul also tells us in Philippians how to ask for it.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by PRAYER and PETITION, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the PEACE OF GOD, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds IN CHRIST JESUS.” Philippians 4:6-7
We HAVE to ask God for peace in all circumstances. We CANNOT claim the gift and we CANNOT live in peace if we do not first, seek it from God. Paul also says that we have to do it with a thankful heart.
It is hard to have a thankful heart when we go through so much and are filled to the brim with so much darkness. But, when we go through the trials, we do have a lot to be thankful for.
Our bird, she lived in a desolate location. But she had shelter of the tree and a nest to call home. She found peace in the storm that was coming because she was secure in what God had provided her. If she had lifted her concerns to God with this thankful heart then whom shall she fear/what shall she fear? Her heart and mind will be guarded by the Prince of Peace himself!
As we get ready to light the candle of peace during our Advent season, I will be in prayer for those that are reading this that need to find peace. My prayer will not be that peace is bestowed upon you. My prayer will be that YOU WILL CLAIM the gift of peace that was already given to you from God, through HIS Son, Jesus.