Do the waters of your soul continue to be choppy and churning all about? Do you simply wish for peace and rest on every side? Are you battered and bruised? A war-torn soul?
It is possible to experience internal peace while there’s a vortex of unrest outside of you. Think of Jesus. He knew he was going to the cross. Why don’t you think he was in the pit of despair, as he was at Gethsemane, throughout his entire life? After all, if he really knew what was coming–the brutal death, the burden of sin, and incomprehensible rejection he would face–how could he go on from day to day? How could he be at peace?
Yet he says, “My peace I leave you…do not be troubled . . . do not be afraid.” How could he tell his disciples not to be troubled nor afraid, knowing full well the everyday trials and even persecutions they’d endure? Was he out of his mind? Is it really possible to have peace? I ask again. Or is that some nice saying of Jesus’ that he can’t follow through on?
Let me answer. Peace is possible in the midst of difficult circumstances. Peace is possible even if you’re in the pit of depression (he can pull you out). It is a gift of God, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, that he delights to offer us. At the same time, do you know how it most often comes? Isaiah 26:3 tells us, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose mind is stayed on you.” In the Message translation, Eugene Peterson puts it this way:
People with their minds set on you,
you keep completely whole,
Steady on their feet,
because they keep at it and don’t quit.
Depend on God and keep at it
because in the Lord God you have a sure thing
Jesus had his mind set on the Father and His ways. It is true. The Holy Spirit brought things to Jesus’ mind and the Holy Spirit assisted him and ministered to him. The Spirit does the same for us. Our minds cannot be set on the problems or obstacles. How many nights do we stay awake mulling over the issues and nursing our doubts and fears instead of mulling over God and over his power in our situations?
So as we have our minds set, stayed on God, as we mull over him and his ways, slowly but surely we’ll start thinking about our lives the way Jesus would think about them if he were us. His attitudes, behaviors, and ways of being will slowly but surely start to become ours. For we become like the object that we love, the object our minds or affections are focused on. When anything that is anti-God–anti-Christ comes to us, we shift our gaze to God and destroy anything that raises itself up against the knowledge of God–by finding God’s perspective on the matter. That is how we use Scripture as a sword (Hebrews 4:16).
As God’s ways of being become our ways (as much as is humanly possible), we will have peace. Our lives will be marked (characterized) by peace instead of turmoil. Of course, it doesn’t happen in an instant. But you will see that you have grown in peace. As you reflect, you find that you are not disturbed as you once were.
Shalom invades your life. You are now becoming the way you were supposed to be, as you have your mind stayed on God. A mind stayed on God, influences the will to obey. Soon obedience is the norm. And peace accompanies obedience. Sure, it won’t happen perfectly. There will be times that you are in despair–perhaps over a death or hard life circumstance. I am not denying those realities. But even in those, a peace will reign, peace will influence even how you react to such things. God’s peace, his gift to us often despite us, but also as we keep our minds focused on him.
Peace comes as we pay attention to God and as we obey him. As we pay attention to him and obey him, he will deliver us from ourselves…often the cause of much internal strife.