Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Day Nine: Peace

The WORD of the Day:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." 

--Philippians 4:6-7

Let Me Give You a Lift:

Our culture has imbued the word "peace" with many connotations.  For some people, it evokes images of the drug-addled 60s, modern day hippies, and tie-dye.  It makes others think of anti-war protests and civil disobedience.   Others think of solitude and nature.  And still others, Zen and other Eastern traditions. The interesting thing about any of these interpretations is that they not only evoke vivid images in our minds, but also an emotional response (positive or negative). 

God's kind of peace is a little more difficult to put a picture to. One reason for this is in the text: it transcends all understanding.  Like many other attributes of God, peace is beyond the human intellect to fully grasp. But I think stopping there would be kind of a cop out. There are plenty of things in this world we try hard to understand even though they are bigger than we are. And we don't need to fully understand peace to know its purpose for us.

Paul's message to the Philippians was that we need peace to "guard our hearts and minds." In practice, we know this to be true. Worries and stress can take a major emotional and mental toll. When we've had an especially rocky day, there is always something/someone we rely on to help us let go of the mental and emotional strain: family, friends, a hobby, etc. But there are two problems with getting peace from these sources. First, sometimes the source of our strain is actually the people or things that ordinarily provide comfort.  Second, these things are finite: there is only so much that anyone (or anything) can do to help us cope with life, because even the best "helpers" cannot be with us everywhere we go. That's why we need God's peace--it is wherever we are; it is able to help, whatever the trouble; and it will not let us down.

Many years ago, a teacher of mine was talking about how to pray. She said that she has never thought of prayer as something that she does at a particular point in her day. Instead, her entire day is one continuous prayer. Anytime something came up she needed help with, or she heard of someone hurting, or she wanted to praise God for something she did it right then. And each of those little things added up to one big prayer every day. Ever since, this is something I have tried to do too. Some days I'm more successful than others, but on those days that I continually put things on God as they come to me, there's some great peace there.

In practice, my teacher was doing exactly what Paul suggested: presenting her requests to God in everything. Why, you may ask, should we do that when God already knows what we need? The first reason is simple: he has asked us to. But the second, and perhaps more important reason is that it teaches reliance on God, just as confiding in a dear friend teaches confidence in that person. The more we put everything in front of God, the more we see His hand in every aspect of our lives.

Have you been weighed down by care and worry lately?  Give this "laying everything on God" thing a try.  And when you do, I mean really lay it down.  When the Almighty shares your load, it's no wonder that the resulting peace "transcends all understanding."  

Give it a Listen:

Today's song is called "I Will Rise" by Chris Tomlin. I love this song.  It's about the glory of heaven, and how thinking about heaven can be "an anchor for the soul." For those of you familiar with old gospel hymns, you will hear snippets of a couple of them in here. My favorite words come from the chorus:

I will rise when He calls my name, 
no more sorrow, no more pain. 
I will rise on eagles' wings 
before my God fall on my knees 
and rise.

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