October 8, 2013
The Quest for Peace
Before the eyes even open, it’s there. Lingering, menacing, its approaching darkness threateningly close. It’s a storm cloud that descends without warning, casting a dark gloominess across the day ahead. Hope’s radiance may be struggling to shine through, but it is completely hidden in the shadows.
This ominous cloud may be Regret. It is heavy with the tremendous weight of guilt, taunting its reminders of past decisions. Roads that seemed innocuous and safe in the beginning, but with every step, every twist and turn, have long since led to a place of unintended consequences. There is no going back. That time can never be redeemed, and Regret is ever present, mocking and ridiculing the foolishness of yesterday.
Perhaps the foreboding cloud is Fear. Facing an unknown future, feeling thoroughly unprepared and ill equipped. This frightening cloud warns of impending storms, a deluge that threatens to consume, causing horrendous damage and destruction. What if the imagination’s worst nightmare indeed happens? What about that possible scenario? How will the heart be able to bear it? The anxiety of such thoughts can be paralyzing.
Sometimes the cloud is simply Weariness. The difficult circumstances of yesterday remain here today. The battles that were fought so valiantly at the beginning have now become overwhelming and futile. What’s the use of continuing the fight when nothing ever seems to change? Not the slightest sign of victory is in sight.
The thoughts, the thoughts, the thoughts. Like frightened rabbits, they bound across the meadow of the mind, first darting one way before turning suddenly and dashing in a completely different direction. They continue to scurry, frantically racing and whirling. Never resting. Will peace, that elusive tranquility and contentment so earnestly sought, ever be found?
Yes, peace is attainable! And it isn’t a mysterious secret that only a few select people are able to find. The prescription for peace is freely revealed in God’s Word, for anyone to find. Look at the encouraging, insightful words of Paul in his letter to the Philippians in chapter four:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: REJOICE!
Rejoice – it’s an action verb. It’s a choice. Every minute of every day, there is a choice: to wallow in guilt, to obsess about past mistakes, to be consumed by present circumstances, to agonize about the future; or to choose joy. To make a decision and determine that, for this one moment, joy will triumph!
How? How is it possible to choose joy in the midst of heartache, loss and disappointments? When the cloud of Regret descends, unleashing it’s guilt, heavy and burdensome?
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God.
It begins with the EYES. Eyes that choose to see, not yesterday’s mistakes, not the impossible consequences and bitter grief that result from those choices; but that choose to focus on the amazing work of a sovereign, loving God. Eyes that thank Him, yes thank Him, when praying and petitioning.
Grateful eyes that behold the cross, the beautiful cross that means complete pardon. Infinite, boundless forgiveness for every selfish thought, every poisonous word, every destructive deed, and every failed relationship. All forgiven, remembered no more.
Eyes full of gratitude when they catch glimpses of God working all things - even ugly, sinful, wretched things - according to his plan and for His ultimate purposes.
Eyes that thank Him for continuing the work He began, the invisible work of taking broken lives and miraculously transforming them, causing them to become more and more like Christ.
Thankful eyes rejoice.
What about those anxious thoughts? Those scurrying, scampering thoughts that race into tomorrow, causing the cloud of Fear to cripple and paralyze today?
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--THINK about such things.
Every day, every waking moment and sleepless night, the MIND has a choice. It can “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). It can choose to think, not about all of the what-ifs and the worst-case scenarios of an unknown, uncertain tomorrow; but can choose to think about what is true and lovely and praiseworthy. In fact, when the mind is renewed, true transformation begins. (Romans 12:2)
Will that awful situation happen? It’s possible. But for today, no, it hasn’t happened yet. It isn’t true, so the mind does not need to think about such things.
Will people fail and disappoint and hurt? Perhaps they will. But until they do, the mind can choose thoughts that are pure and lovely and admirable.
Those possible situations and scenarios and heartaches may indeed happen. The mere thought of them is unbearable! The mind needs to remember that God has freely given grace for TODAY. He has promised it for tomorrow, but has not yet given it. If and when the unspeakable happens, His grace will be sufficient when it is needed. Until then, the mind can focus on what is true and lovely today, and can rest in today’s abundant grace.
Focused minds rejoice.
But what about the cloud of Weariness? How can joy be found when exhaustion overshadows the sincerest endeavors? When the runner has become weary of the race, and the prize, the goal, is no longer visible?
I can do everything through HIM who gives me strength . . . And my God will meet all your needs according to HIS glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Even when feeling battered and torn and defeated - even then the HEART can choose to rejoice. When the limited physical, emotional, and mental strength of human effort has been depleted, that’s where joy is found. It’s when, in humility, self-reliance is finally recognized as insufficient, and it surrenders. When the heart looks, not inward, but upward. It’s when the Lord says, “I will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)
The heart rejoices, fully trusting in the Lord’s immeasurable strength, in His never-ending supply of riches that meet every need. The hopeful heart can rest secure, having full confidence that now that all of the available resources, wisdom, and abilities have been expended, it is time for the Lord of the universe to display His glory.
Surrendered hearts rejoice.
Thankful eyes. A focused mind. A surrendered heart. They rejoice! In the midst of impossible circumstances and overwhelming burdens, joy triumphs! The clouds begin to lift. A ray of hope pierces through the darkness. And the most amazing thing happens . . .
And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus . . . And the God of PEACE will be with you.
Isn’t peace the desire of every heart? Perhaps it isn’t so elusive after all. Not only has God revealed the secret to finding it, but He has promised to give it. Abundantly, beyond all understanding.
May the God of peace Himself shine through the clouds - forgiving regret, removing fear, and strengthening the weary. May He daily, moment by moment, continue to be with all those who quest for peace.
“Anxiety Attacked” by John MacArthur
“One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp
The many promises in God’s Word, especially in the book of Psalms