Just that word, “peace,” evokes in every person a sense of longing and hopefulness. Uttering this word in our anxious and chaotic world causes our hearts to yearn for a deep, long drink from it’s well.
In recent days with the news of Covid-19, we have found ourselves in an unprecedented time in history. I say unprecedented not because there haven’t been viruses, illnesses, and plagues that have not affected the world, but because it has not led to such a widespread global effect so quickly, nor have we seen the world literally shut down. With that has come a great deal of fear that has paralyzed many, and led to much panic.
To be sure, there needs to be reason for concern and caution, and I do believe that there are precautionary measures that need to be taken. We should take this seriously, and not lightly. But I believe that this pandemonium has revealed something much deeper and exposed the frailty of our human condition, with no sense of peace to which to tether an anxious and fearful soul. I also think it has laid bare what every person needs, and genuinely aches for: peace. Not a fleeting version of peace, but deep-centered, soul-anchoring, eternity-lasting peace that nothing, not even a pandemic, can steal.
For some reason, after all this world has experienced since the fall of man, humanity has sought to soothe its fears, anxieties, woundedness, and fallenness with futile solutions. I say futile because there is nothing we have been able to do, or will do that will give us true and lasting peace. We’ve tried. And the reason we can’t is because peace isn’t created externally. It’s not something manufactured or contrived. It’s not anything that the digital world or artificial intelligence can create, or even a vaccine for that matter. The truth is that after Covid-19 becomes like H1-N1, or SARs, there will be something else that will strip away the thin veneer of our “comfort” and fragile security, exposing once again the nakedness of our fear.
In reality, though, I don’t think it’s the next “big” global event we should be most concerned about when it comes to anxiety and fear. It’s the daily things that are often turned to in order to find peace, and ease our anxieties that, in my opinion, does just the opposite. For example . . .
• Smart Phones. We hold on to our smart phones as if they are our security. Studies show that almost 60% of smart phone users do not go one hour without touching their phone. For those between the ages of 18-34, it’s 68%. The average user touches their phone 2617 times a day; 10% of users are qualified as “heavy users” – they touch their phone (swipe, tap) 5427 times a day; 71% usually sleep with or next to their mobile phone; 3% of them sleep with their phone in their hand; 40% check their phones in the middle of the night; 33% check their phones within 5 minutes of waking up in the morning. We are a culture that suffers from nomophobia (Cambridge Dictionary: People’s Word for 2018), which is the fear of not having access to a working cell phone.
• Social media. I don’t have time to talk about all the anxieties social media platforms are contributing to: FOMO (the fear of missing out), comparison anxiety; the litany of news stories and articles that may or may not be true. And, I could go on.
• Numbing. Brené Brown has said that we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history. Much of that is due to trying to numb our fears, shame, and anxiety. We tend to try and apply a topical anesthetic to our soul, when what we need is deep healing. Medication may alleviate the symptoms of anxiety temporarily, but it will never get to the root of it. Vacations are great, but you can’t take a vacation from your fears regardless of what Bob says (“What About Bob?” movie reference for the sake of levity).
What I have found, in the midst of the uncertainty of life, is a peace that transcends my understanding and guards my heart and my mind. It’s not in finding my “center,” because at the center of my own humanness there is emptiness. It’s not in numbing, because eventually the soul-novocain of self-soothing quickly wears off. It’s something better. Actually it’s someone . . . much better.
In the Old Testament of the Scriptures, a prophet named Isaiah described the emotional and spiritual climate of the culture as being one of gloom and darkness. I’d say that pretty much describes how much of the world is feeling right now. But in chapter 9 of Isaiah, he writes this:
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone . . .” Isaiah 9:2
But then he speaks of a turning point. He prophesied that something would happen that would not just be a game-changer for them, but would change the course of history, and eternity future. He said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:6-7
The One who was born and would be our Wonderful Counselor, is Jesus. If there is anything that we need it is wise counsel in knowing how to navigate this life we live. The psalmist, David, writes of God, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8 In other words, God, who upholds the universe by the word of His power, is the One who gives instruction and clear direction on how to live, and He does so with a sense of closeness and nearness. He is not unlike an experienced climber who serves as belayer for someone who is repelling down a treacherous cliff. His hold on the rope is secure, and His words are both instructive and encouraging. His eyes are fixed, always paying close attention.
He is Mighty God, which means that there is nothing too big or difficult for Him. Rather than wearing yourself out and trying to do everything on your own, trust God with your life; not just the hard things, but all things. “Behold I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27
He is Everlasting Father, which means He never grows weary in caring for our weariness. Jesus has exemplified father-like characteristics toward us; He reveals God the Father’s character to us; One who is always there and never leaves; One who fathers us in every moment, and every area of our life. Charles Spurgeon once said, “There is no unfathering Christ, and there is no unchilding us. He is everlastingly a father to those who trust in him.”
And Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Our soul longs and aches for a peace that remains, regardless of what is raging outwardly. It’s the kind of peace that is the bedrock foundation of our much needed security. It’s a peace that is beyond our comprehension, yet overwhelmingly experienced and known by those who know and are known by Jesus.
He gave this encouragement to His followers prior to His crucifixion, and these words still ring true for us today: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
That same peace is what the apostle Paul spoke of when he wrote, from a prison cell, these words to the Jesus-followers of the city of Philippi, and for us as well: “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.” Philippians 4:6-7
These true words are as relevant today as they have ever been. What an incredibly timely word from the timeless word of God.
My peace is not found in what man can do, but rather in what God has already done in Christ. Because He is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace, I can lay my head on my pillow tonight and trust that God, who was faithful today, will be faithful for all eternity.
Should he grant me another day, I will get up in the morning and thank Him.
I will spend time with Him, and enjoy His presence.
I will let His word comfort me, encourage me, and guide me.
I will share with Him my concerns, my anxious thoughts, and my fears.
And I will listen as He soothes my mind and comforts my soul by His Spirit who is my source of peace.
And . . .
I will breathe in, and breathe out.
I’ll play my guitar.
I’ll listen to music.
I’ll go for a walk, and take in the gift of God’s creation. And if it rains, I may just play in the puddles.
I’ll read a good book.
In other words, I’ll keep enjoying and living this life that God has gifted to me, and trust Him with things I can’t control.
My hope and prayer for you is that you will do the same . . . and know God’s overwhelming peace.