Peace

Personal Peace

“Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

It’s a good idea to pray often to God for personal peace in these weird and frantic days. There are a lot of distractions that will not only draw you away from God but also from your spirit and from having peace. The Bible describes us as being made up of three distinct and primary parts: spirit, soul and body. But what’s the difference between soul and spirit? Most don’t know anymore. We are taught to be materialistic. Identity is falsely rooted in the body. As Allan Bloom noted in The Closing of the American Mind, we know the ideal body but not the ideal soul. And with the current levels of academic madness, the stifling of reason, we are rejecting healthy bodies for sickness, and wander lost and without personal peace in the name of individuality.

True individuality isn’t found in a punk-rock-rejection of apparent norms. True individuality is embodied when our souls (personalities) choose first the life of the spirit. This does not debase the body. We must guard against this immoderate pendulum swing: body as either all good or all evil. The body, the flesh, the things of this world have their place, but they are not primary. They are more like the leaves of a tree and not the roots. The spirit is the roots and the soul is the trunk and branches. Without the soul mediating between the two (your free will to choose the life of the spirit), the leaves depart and die while the roots are chopped off and cannot nourish the tree.

We need all three parts but first, let us choose the spirit, and that which is of the spirit and can give lasting, personal peace: God. Our souls are distressed when we live primarily for the body. We grow nobly in peace when we live out of the spirit. And it’s God’s Holy Spirit that enables us to live in the depths of meaningful and experiential prayer. Communion with God through our spirit gives us a life of peace and maintains the health of our soul. I know this first hand. It’s not merely principles. It’s reality.

There have been times when I’ve neglected to care for my soul and been without true peace. Temptations abound, and it’s easy to give into the things of this world as if they were all there was, is and ever will be. I know better, but sometimes I get lazy. Or sometimes I’m working through some sort of pain or loneliness or frustration, etc. Other times I’m overwhelmed with people’s problems and the evils of this age. It’s easier to distract myself and neglect soul care. Occasionally I’m half right in forgetting myself. It isn’t wise to get caught in the labyrinths of the self without a map and a way out. However, distractions cannot rescue; they merely numb our puzzled distress and freeze us in a state of spiritual confusion. It’s only life through the spirit - prayer and communion with the Holy Spirit - that can get us out and cause personal peace.

My prayer is that we are willing to turn to God and trust His way of peace through the spirit. “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 4:7).

Life is Not a Dead End

People feel like life is a dead end and you wouldn’t even know it. They appear to be moving towards peace, love and joy, but the awful truth is they are great at disguising their stalemate. The postmodern world necessities it. There isn’t time to talk about what troubles them, nor many ears to hear. And those who could hear are too distracted or overwhelmed, or when they finally do have time, they haven’t an answer. Or, perhaps, they have a solution but it isn’t congruent or desired. And so, people feel like life is a dead end.

Growing up, I knew of a dead end. A paved street amidst rows of houses, some two story and old as the Great War with flush green yards and chain fences. The street came to an abrupt end. That’s it. If you’re driving, turn around or sit there and stare at the concrete curb or the white barrier or the clump of trees overshadowing the dead end street. There isn’t many options in a vehicle, but on foot you’ve got a host of possibilities. For beyond the curb and barrier lay a path, into the trees and beyond the dead end. So too is the Christian life. Here are three approaches to life that lead to dead ends and three counter approaches that lead to life and the Author of life.

Ambition

Ambition moderated will suffice. Yet left on it’s own, and apart from virtue, it becomes a demanding steward of your very life. The overly ambitious constantly complain. They are never content and always critique the works of others. They envy and gossip with jealous zeal. Friendships fail to mature because the primary focus is on the acquisition of a good yet attained. Though once achieved the focus shifts to another mountain to climb. There isn’t time for rest or the view. One must march on. The overly ambitious tire those around them, and finally themselves, successful or not, into a retreat of depressive anger. They are without peace.

Peace

“His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7b). The road of ambition is thrilling but requires a lot of energy. It burns people out. Anger wells in disappointment. Everyone has disappointments. Guard yourself with the peace of Christ. Redirect your ambition to be a person of peace. Moderate it with self control and you will walk the path of life with peace in your heart and a mind clear from the weight of failures. You will walk with Jesus and hum, “it is well with my soul.”

Approval

Approval moderated will suffice. Gaining the approval of those who discern the difference between good and evil is a boon worth more than a million likes. But those who seek constant approval are desperate for affirmation. They haven’t the resources of inner strength and the knowledge of who they truly are to walk with sure steps. They constantly forget who created them and who gave purpose and order to their steps. Wayward, inconsistent, unreliable, and always in need characterizes their end of the friendship. They take and hastily give but take the wrong things from the wrong people and give to their determent. They are in need of love.

Love

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love” (Jn 15:9). The road of approval is a promise never kept and a burden always felt. It’s mysterious in that it causes people to shrink the further they travel. Less of them is possible. They require affirmation from confidants and then acquaintances and then strangers in person and online. Take the easier path and surrender to the love of Christ. Moderate your need of approval with first hand experience of His love. If you haven’t yet had His love, ask for it. Seek it as you had with approval and lo, the path will open to you and you will walk with Jesus and hum, “Jesus loves me.”

Appetite

Appetite moderated will suffice. Yet left on its own, and apart from virtue, it will destroy your life. Those overrunning with desires chase pleasure with reckless abandon. They love to pursue and feast heartily on amusements but are never amused. They demand more. They’ve seen it all, usually by the age of sixteen, and slink along with guant souls, starving for meaning and joy. They become jaded, approach friendships with unapologetic shallowness and thus instill life with nihilism. “Paths are just paths to nowhere”, they conclude. Eat and drink merely, for tomorrow we die! They believe this sentiment because they are at a joyless dead end and cannot see the path nor the One who bequeaths joy. They are in need of Him and His great gift.

Joy

“You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet 1:8-9). The road of the appetites is fraught with unseen peril. A fog of delight engulfs and sleepily confuses. Just to lay down for a moment turns into an eternity of missed opportunities and regret. All of which is overcome when we venture towards the higher grounds of Christ and take up the glories of His joy. Vision is gained. Gladness beams from the soul. Seek the joy of the Lord and be delightfully amazed as you walk with energy and a bounce in your step amidst the presence of Jesus, humming “I’ve got joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart”.

Because of Christ, life is not a dead end. Realign your ambitions, need for approval and appetites with Him, and you will walk a good path of peace, love and joy.