Peace is on the lips and fingertips of many speakers and writers today. What it is, how to get it, and how to keep it make up a triple quest so many of us are on. We want out of our problems and the answer many of us come to, me included, is that peace will deliver us. Or at least make us feel better.
Can I get some peace on what I should do next?
If I just were at peace about X, I know I could deal better with Y.
Will our relationship ever be a peaceful one?
What we as Christians know but very often forget is that peace which sustains, is one that energizes and calms, and one which can be present regardless of your specific storm. Peace doesn’t wipe out the storm. Instead peace keeps us upright through it.
First of all we are doing great to ask what is peace. We find the definition of peace in the character of God himself. Throughout Scripture the concept of peace is so much bigger than the passive one we often ascribe to it. We think of peace as tranquility between people, between nations, in conversation, in the weather, etc. Peace is calm in relationships, accord between nations, successes in life, but it’s also a covenant between God and us. We learn this as we study the Hebrew root slm from which we get Salom, which is translated as peace throughout the Old Testament.
Salom means to be complete or to be sound, and contains both a dynamic and static meaning of being complete or of living well. What is peace then in the biblical sense? Peace is wholeness, completeness, wellness–and it’s both a state of being as well as a promise from God to us. But to gain it, we must enter into the covenant. To use my umbrella pic from above, we need to go out into the rain, and engage our umbrella, our protection, our peace. We must respond to the relationship opportunity with God. Daily. This engagement (which looks different to each of us) doesn’t make us feel better necessarily, nor does it stop the storm, but it allows us to continue through life unharmed at our core.
So what is peace? It’s being whole despite being torn apart. It’s being well despite experiencing sickness. It’s being sound even though dissonance rings at every corner. And this peace is real.
Is our search for peace Scriptural? Psalm 34:14 says it simply. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Yet how many times have I walked away from seeking peace because I assumed that seeking inner calm was somehow wrong? If God wanted me to experience peace, wouldn’t He simply pour it on me? Yet, the Psalmist says we are to turn from evil and to do good as well as to seek peace and pursue it. What I take from this is that we are called to go on the offense, not to passively wait for peace to arrive. Whether things in life are broken, bent, or destroyed, (or even going swimmingly well!) we can and should seek and pursue peace in all of it.
Jesus made it possible for us to be at peace with God and have peace too as Paul explains in the New Testament in Ephesians 2:14-16. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. Despite the problem that we have fallen out of a right relationship with God, we can be restored, and peace is possible. In fact, it’s the peace of God which will usher peace from God into our lives.
Finally, what about keeping that peace? Once we’ve tasted it and seen it, we crave it again. We are built to want it and more. We are built to experience it in an ongoing way.
The prophet Isaiah hundreds of years before Christ speaks to our quest for ongoing peace when he reflects on God in the famous Isaiah 26:3: You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Again we are called to do something, not just expect something. We are called to be steadfast and to trust in the Lord. If our worries, fears, conflicts, uncertainties, questions, hopes, wishes, dreams, goals, plans–if any or all these things are not rooted in our trust in the Lord, Yahweh Shalom–the source of peace–and His Truth, we will not experience peace. Instead, we will be overwhelmed with our wavering, with our personal chaos, even our personal milestones. As long as we walk into our storms with closed umbrellas, each and every wonderful or tragic wave and circumstance that whips against us will remind us how not at peace we really are. Behind these closed doors, we will continue to enter the room of our thoughts alone and without rest.
That is until we choose to see the source of peace, seek it, pursue it, and live in it.
So go ahead, get out into your storm, your calm, or whatever the weather in your life, and open your umbrella.