Peace? What Peace?
Hello again from Nicaragua! Over the past week I have had the opportunity to experience two national elections, one in my home country of the United States and one in the country in which I currently live, Nicaragua. These two experiences brought up a very revealing question in my mind- where does my peace come from?
Where does my peace come from? It would be really easy for me to give the “church answer” and say, “it always comes from God”, but then I would be lying and quite a few people would probably be tempted to comment on this post with other opinions. If I am honest, I seek out and rely on various other things to bring me peace. Whether it is personal financial security, the condition of the economy, relationships, people’s opinions of me, or my personal success, I find that I can easily find comfort in things other than God. Another big one for me is the ability to be in control and for all circumstances to go as I have planned. You would think I would have learned the flaw in this the first time I decided my way was better than my parents way and was quickly reminded, at two or three years old, that I wasn’t the king of the world. The reality is, however, I have been beating my head against that wall ever since. All of these “peace providers” do deliver some level of inner tranquility, that is, until something unexpected happens. Well, if you have been alive for more than five minutes, you can see the problem with this strategy, everything I have listed, and more than likely most of the things you would list, are circumstantial, temporary and ever-changing. This creates a serious issue as enduring peace can never be found in something that could be here one day and gone the next. I believe that creates quite the opposite, enduring anxiety. So, then, what is the answer?
I believe the answer is found in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV 1984). Paul is telling us that true contentment and peace is found beyond the things of this world. It is found in the only unchanging being to ever exist, God. I know you may be thinking, “But, James, isn’t that the church answer?” Yes, it is, but we can’t stop there. Paul’s life wasn’t content because he knew the answer; it was content because he lived out the answer. To find peace in God, we first must be in a relationship with him through Jesus Christ. Then, we must live out our faith by surrendering everything to Him. This means being really honest about the other things we are counting on to give us peace and then, one by one, telling God to do with them what He pleases. I have found and am still finding that this is not a short process. It could take a long time for you to truly surrender something to God and trust that he is bigger than the circumstances, but it will be well worth the effort. Additionally, we need to be actively putting our peace in God by growing our relationship with him. It is very hard to find peace in something you know nothing about or in a relationship with person that you do not know. That is the beauty of our God. He reveals his nature to us through the Bible and gives us the opportunity to be constantly reminded of who he is through the Holy Spirit. It is hear that we can find a peace that, as Paul says, “transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 NIV 1984).
I have found this to be especially true over my eight months in Nicaragua. I am reminded on a daily basis of how little I actually have control over in this world. This has driven me to a place of reliance on a greater peace, that which comes from God. In a week filled with uncertainty, I hope you too can find this peace.