We search to find our happiness in all the wrong places-shopping, sex, family, friends, alcohol, drugs, self injury, social media, food, sports, just to name a few-we’re looking for something much greater.
Highlights Magazine for Children asked a group of kids, “What is peace?” I love 9 year old Erik Dube’s answer. “Peace is inner happiness that shines through acts of kindness. Peace is the calmness of a beautiful garden that creates magical thoughts. Peace is the joy of friendship.”
In doing some research, I found that the Hebrew word for peace is shalom, meaning to be complete or sound; whole and living well. Shalom was used in both greetings and farewells. The Old Testament anticipated and the New Testament confirmed, that peace was indeed needed, and would be mediated through the Messiah, through His death and resurrection, sending “the Helper, the Holy Spirit” who will “teach you these things and bring remembrance to all He has said to us through His Word.” (John 14:26) We are told all throughout Scripture to have peace-we are called to it-peace that is found when we are governed by the Spirit-not by flesh which brings death. (Romans 8:6 paraphrase mine)
Let me tell you about a time I first felt peace-peace in the midst of my circumstances-peace in God’s Providence.
Depression and anxiety had over taken me. From an early age, the debilitating sickness of mental illness had grabbed ahold of my body. Panic attacks, rage, unexplained crying spells-it was obvious something had to change-just not to elementary school me.
Since my emotional meltdowns were getting in the way of my schooling at home, my parents transferred me midway through third grade to a private Christian school in the next town over. At school, I excelled, but then at home, all my emotions from the day would flood through my aggressive actions and behaviors-my poor family didn’t know what to do. After fourth grade, due to financial restraints, my parents had to resort back to homeschooling me, but midway through the year, things once again had to change-so to public school I went-my only semester of public school in elementary school before upgrading to middle school.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to fifth grade-me. On the outside everything seemed to go right for me-I made friends easily at school, had friends at church-I felt complete. But I wasn’t. And that was evident when my friends and I all went our separate ways, all of us at different schools, making my found dependence on always relying on friends to find my happy place, change.
Middle school is a rude awakening for everyone, but for me, the biggest revelation I had that made me stand out was that not everybody spends their free time at church. They don’t play tag and hide and seek throughout the church building and try to start rumors of older ladies in the church being “pregnant” on prayer chains. They don’t swim in the baptism tank and watch “Finding Nemo” or play Mario Kart on the big screens in the worship center. Not everyone’s dad worked for a church. They didn’t sing songs about Jesus and speak His words, in fact, they spoke words I had never even heard of! They spoke His Name, but when they would, they would usually mean the opposite!
I didn’t know what to think. I was definitely outside my bubble. I had no idea how to control my now, preteen emotions, mixed in with the fact that I stood out and everybody knew it.
This is how the bullying began. It began to torment me, and didn’t really stop, even when I was pulled out to be homeschooled again my freshman year of high school because of the toll it was taking on me.
The lies twelve year old me had grown to believe about herself-lies about my life being useless, and not worth living-now were spoken out loud, making it easier for my wandering mind to misinterpret Scripture to mean something completely different when told “This world is not your home.”
Fast forward ten years now, after a decade of believing the lie that my life was unlivable. The panic attacks were brutal. Crying spells everlasting. Rages never stopped. Searching for my happiness in all the wrong places had led me to addictions-addictions that were all rooted back to first being tried by that twelve year old, sixth grade me. Something needed to change, and I now knew that now. Medications, hospitalizations, shock treatments and short term rehab programs just were not working. I needed something more. That’s what led me to a year long residence that was a year God used to show me Himself.
I am so thankful for my evangelical upbringing and being so easily persuaded by anything my loved ones would say about me-for it was in one particular moment of crisis, miles away from my comfort of family, being swamped by the “feel good prosperity gospel” the world is being overtaken by, mixed in with abuse in the so called Christian long term residential facility I was in, that I was left with a HUGE hole deep in my soul-something that not just anything would fix.
After a suicide attempt I was subsequently made fun of for, I knew something had to change. This “happiness,” this “peace” that I had longed for I knew in that moment, I desperately needed. I knew I needed Jesus and suddenly the Scripture I grew up reciting in church, came to my mind and I believed to be true.
I can’t help but think of that life-altering moment almost two years ago, when now reading Romans 8:6. “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
It’s so true! From that moment on I knew where my true happiness would come from-Jesus! And I suddenly had life!
“Think about whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable…anything that is excellent or worthy of praise, think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Being bombarded with a theology that tended to lean against Scripture, I learned to lean into It, and press into Jesus-the Jesus who is true. The Jesus who is honorable. The Jesus who is just. The Jesus who is pure. The Jesus who is lovely. The Jesus who is commendable. The Jesus who is excellent. The Jesus who is worthy of praise-when I practiced setting my eyes towards The One in charge of my life, my beginning and my end, the God of peace became with me, as stated would happen in Philippians 4:9.
I learned that this practice doesn’t happen on my own-The One who is greater now lived inside me! Another one of the things promised to us in Scripture! All because the Father sent us the Holy Spirit, the Helper, sent in Jesus’ Name, to teach us and bring us peace. (John 14:26 paraphrase mine)
This inner happiness the world sees being shown through “acts of kindness” (aka the Fruits of the Spirit,) “creating beautiful thoughts as calm as a garden and the joy of friendship”-true Friendship in Christ Jesus, is real.
So, how do we get there-rather, how did I get there?
“Be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15b) “Keep your mind stayed on Him, because of your trust in Him.” Isaiah 23:6) “Rejoice in the Lord…do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” THEN “the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Philippians 4:8-9)
My friends, it is THEN in life’s hard moments, the battles we fight in public or in silent, we can find peace. Peace that is much MORE than a salutation or a greeting.
Our peace has a name.-Jesus!
The peace-speaker says, “Peace I leave to you, MY peace I give to you-not as the world gives, do I give to you.”
Because of my journey with life’s hardships, I know Jesus-the peace-giver and peace-speaker…But I also know it’s easy to slip up. To let your troubles overtake you. “But take heart! [He] has overcome the world!” The cure is right at your fingertips! He can live INSIDE you! This peace-giver and peace-speaker…I know Him by Name, and He knows mine!
Can YOU say that about YOUR peace?
I pray that you can and will. It is a choice to be made. Every second of every day, running to The Father with all your might. Being thankful in all circumstances and rejoicing always.
This will set your minds on things Above. This will bring you peace-peace found only in Christ Jesus. Trust me, life does NOT suddenly become easier-but is DOES become more bearable.
Open up your heart to Jesus. You’ll be glad you did!