Peace Rediscovered During Advent
Sometimes, I get so sick and tired of repeatedly learning the same lesson about peace over and over again. It is as if I am a two-year old. I touch the stove. I get burned. I touch it again. I get burned again. So…I wait just a little more time so that a nice callous has formed over my blister and I reach out and touch that blame stove again. I get burned again.
It is this way with anxiety in my life. I know that the antidote to anxiety is Christ’s peace. I know this and I have experienced this in very deep ways. But I forget. Again and again, I forget and I try to go my own way in this world – seeking the peace of the world rather than the peace that is Christ.
Apparently, I am not the only one having a difficult time finding the peace of Jesus amidst the anxiety driven merry-go-round in which we exist. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, close to 50 million Americans experience anxiety in one form or another within a given calendar year. Two new meta-analytic studies involving thousands of children and college students found that anxiety has increased so much that typical schoolchildren today report more anxiety than child psychiatric patients did during the 1950’s. (American Psychological Association’s (APA) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology). Just wow.
The second candle lit for the season of Advent is called the Bethlehem Candle of Peace. This candle reminds us of the preparing made to receive Jesus in Bethlehem. The prophets told of His birth and said of Him, “He will be their peace.” This sits in a deep place of my heart today. You see, I have been wrongly accused. I think we all have experienced this type of situation at one time or another. It incites a visceral response of anger, of violation of self, of helplessness – of anything but peace.
In the courtroom of this earthly life, there are gavels of injustice being slammed left and right. They meet some of us when we walk into our own homes and are betrayed by our spouses. They meet some of us in hurtful words of loved ones. They meet some of us at work when our colleagues or superiors criticize our hard work out of pure spite. They meet some of us in the immature snarky and hateful comments of our own beloved children. They meet some of us when we are judged based on appearance only according to race, culture, gender or religion.
If you have entered such an earthly courtroom – you likely looked at the judge and pleaded with your eyes as he looked away and slammed that gavel on his big foreboding desk. Guilty. Guilty because I say you are! Now, you must pay the price. You have a debt and though you may repay it, it will not be forgotten. Not ever- and it will forever be held over your head on this earth!
The idea of peace in any of these situations is simply mind-blowing. How can peace coincide with ugly untruths and deceptive accusations made from a truly sinister place of evil? These kinds of wrong doings are the farthest thing from peace that a human heart can experience. But what does it look like when we fully understand and embody the peace of Jesus instead of the peace of this broken world? What if we truly embrace the fact that any of these earthly judges have no authority beyond earth?
I suggest that it may look like this – taking the accusation, wrestling with it and ultimately lifting open hands to the heavens in confident trust though your earthly head begs to hang low with anxiety that others will believe these false charges. This type of surprising response is one of confident resolve that Christ is in control and knows the final outcome of this life. His ways will not be thwarted, no matter the earthly verdict.
Once of my favorite verses in the Bible is when Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27. Jesus says it clearly – His peace is NOT the world’s definition. He then uses fear and anxiety in a place of direct opposition to HIS peace. The NIV Study Bible’s commentary on this passage talks about Jesus’s peace as confident assurance in any circumstance. This type of peace combats anxiety and fear and enables us to live freely and confidently in the present and the future. We can only experience this peace if we are willing to accept it. This type of peace matures when we release the hold that anxiety and fear have on our hearts. We simply must accept that there are evil forces circling above like vultures around our hearts, pecking away at any window of vulnerability. We must “pray up” and prepare to throw out any negative thought or word that is contrary to the peace of Christ.
So just why is it that I allow myself to touch that hot stove again and be burned and even scarred by the very idea that this world can offer true peace? I know it cannot. I seek it again and again. I trust the peace I feel when things are “right with my world” instead of right with my soul. I believe that my peace is able to be achieved by that happy feeling “peacemakers” in families always try and often achieve temporarily. And I am burned every single time. No matter how thick my callous becomes, the burn stings, it blisters and oozes pain all over my being.
Jesus’s idea of peace is only able to be fulfilled if we accept His Holy Spirit’s presence as the only guiding force in our lives. We cannot fear the earthly gavels. We cannot fear a break in community to “keep the peace” for this is not Jesus’s peace. His peace is based on truth, love and kindness. It is based on forgiveness, humility and a willingness to admit wrongs and remove the planks in our own eyes before pointing out specks in others. It is found when we swallow hard, take a step away from the wrongful accuser and let them be “right” on this earth, trusting that God is the ultimate judge.
Peace of this world and how we view it, seek it and grapple for it falls miserably short of the pureness of peace experienced when we understand the peace of the Jesus. May this coming week of preparation for the birth of Jesus enable you to experience peace like never before – THE peace that is deep within, confident at all times and completely freeing of all earthly anxiety.