What is Peace and Why Don’t We Have It?

What is peace?

The word peace is used in a variety of ways. It can indicate the absence of conflict or hostilities such as nations or a household at peace. Individually, it can describe a sense of contentment where there is no conflict within. The Bible describes Jesus rebuking a tumultuous sea, commanding it to be peaceful and a great calm followed, Mark 4:35-41. Similarly, following the command of Jesus can bring peace in our lives.

The desired state of peace most seek is:

  • Free of anxiety
  • Acceptance of self and one’s situation in life
  • Peace in our relationship with God
  • Harmonious relationship with others

Free of Anxiety

Anxiety steals internal peace

Anxiety disturbs peace. You may hear bad news or forecasts about national and world news, the economy, or uncertainty about your job, health, finances, or situation. Nothing bad has happened but the possibility of negative events can send us into a downward spiral of worry, negativity, and pessimism. Think of the times the news has predicted bad things that didn’t occur. Several years ago there were warnings of frequent super-hurricanes that would ravage the US but since then we’ve gone almost a decade without a major hurricane hitting our coasts. People waste much of their life worrying about things that will never occur and miss the opportunity to enjoy the good that is in their life.

Discontent steals internal peace

Part of this anxiety and dissatisfaction arises from the gulf between how things are and how we want them to be or think they should be. For example, if we are in a monotonous low-paying job but we think that by now we should be a high paid manager, that difference will cause grief, frustration, and dissatisfaction. If we feel like we are in the job we ought to be for our current stage of professional progression, we will feel satisfied. Likewise, if we feel that we should have close friends and enjoy good times but we are alone and bored, we will be discontent. It’s about the reality of our situation, how we think our situation should be (or dream it should be), and our reaction to that gulf. An alternative to frustration and anxiety is acceptance. We can acknowledge the decisions we made and the situations in life that brought us to our current state and accept our situation and be happy about the blessings we have. This doesn’t mean we give up for one can accept the situation and still strive to improve it by making different decisions. Those without peace dwell on the gap and blame themselves, God, and others for their plight, give up a hope that it can ever improve, and list all the things that will ensure things do not change. The key is how we react to the gap between reality and expectation. Even if the gap is broad, you want good health but you are fighting a disease, you can accept your situation and either make different choices from those that diminished your health or, if the problems are not of your doing, follow a plan to get the best improvement that you can. The better we get at accepting reality while allowing for improvement, the more peace we will have.

Finding peace with God’s strength

When faced with bad news or the possibility of bad events in your life, you must realize that there are some things that you can affect and other things that you cannot. Climate change, elections, the economy, and the job market are examples of things our of your control. You can turn off your lights, place your vote, make purchases, and improve your skills but you cannot control the bigger outcome of these large events. The Christian comfort is God’s control over the world for His purposes. When we realize that sometimes evil is allowed to prevail so a greater good may arise, we can accept the decline of civilization and trouble in the economy. God hasn’t promised paradise on earth so we should not expect it. Let me suggest four ways we can find peace in this:

  1. Trust God to take care of life’s needs. The answer is not to fold your hands up and expect God to do everything because He expects us to work. Jesus told believers not to worry about food and clothing, taking comfort that the God who cares for the birds and flowers cares more for our needs, Matthew 5:25-34. However, the scriptures also encourage us to do what our hands find to do with all our might and that one who doesn’t work shouldn’t eat. We have responsibilities that affect God’s provision for our food and clothing. But it is foolish to brood over the basics of life that God will provide. Jesus said to focus on His things (the kingdom) and the Father would focus on our needs.
  2. Trust God with the future. James warns that in making plans we must remember they can be fulfilled, “if God wills” it to be so, James 4:13-17. We should make plans to the best of our ability but realize that a different outcome may result and accept it and operate within that outcome. A song that gives me comfort says, “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand. But I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand.” I can face the uncertainties of the political, economical, and personal realities of tomorrow because the God who guided me through today will be there tomorrow. Despite the drama of the world stage, God is in control. Romans 13 tells me God controls the government and its affairs so God can help me navigate what he brings about. He may bring about things I perceive as negative but produces a greater good. God may allow the world to descend further into perversity and darkness so the light of holy people and the truth of His word may shine brighter.  I don’t need to know the future, I just need to know God.
  3. Learn contentment despite your situation. We must learn to be content despite our condition in life. It is easy to be content we have plenty and are in comfort. The challenge is to be content when we have little and are discomforted. From prison, Paul wrote the Philippians to be joyful and encouraged them with his ability to be content in any situation, Philippians 4:10-13. The popular “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is not written in the context of the “never say give up” attitude but is the power behind Paul’s ability to be content in any situation. We must recognize that we may be hard working godly people yet may struggle in life. Sometimes hard work does not pay off as well as we hoped but we can find joy in the results anyway. Sometimes things do not go the way we want but we shouldn’t give up or become negative. As others have said, we pray to God wanting Him to change the situation but God wants to change us. He is trying to make us better despite what we must endure in life. We are made stronger in struggle, develop patience through suffering, and gain endurance through trial. If God doesn’t remove your burden, pray for the strength to carry it and then rejoice in the gift you’ve received from God, 2 Corinthians 12:6-10.
  4. Trust God with everything in your life. Paul, in Philippians 4:4-7, described how we can have a peace that transcends understanding through trust in God. Notice the extremes described in this verse: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” If you want a peace that surpasses understanding and no anxiety, you must give everything to God. We often say we are putting things in God’s hands but then begin to worry about the outcome. Paul is commanding a radical step of complete trust in God. You can only have a peace that transcends understanding by giving your concerns to God in a confident way that transcends the world’s understanding. You can be free of anxiety when you truly trust that God hears your prayers, cares about your life and your needs, is actively doing something in response to your request (though the outcome may be something different from what you desire), and that His response will be the best because “all things work together for good for those that love God (Romans 8:28).” We can say it but do we really believe it? Do we trust God with the results? I recently talked with a lady whose cancer went into remission. She told me that she didn’t worry at all because so many godly people were praying for her, she was being treated by good doctors, and she would accept the results which either would be death (and going home to be with God) or life (and an opportunity to continue serving God on this earth). Her heavenly perspective and trust in God was such that she said, “I really didn’t worry.” Had she only been focused on a clean bill of health, she would have anxiety but she trusted the results to God and continued to live her life.

Peace Within

Sometimes we do not have peace because we are overly critical of ourselves or unforgiving of our past sins. It is important to learn from our failures and even use them to help others out of the mire of sin that we escaped, but we cannot dwell on the wasted time, damaged lives, and lost opportunities due to sinful choices. We must ask God to forgive us and forgive ourselves as well. No amount of self-loathing or despair will change one minute of the past and it steals opportunities from the present to accomplish much good. As we would find plenty of grace and mercy to forgive a brother or sister anguishing over sin, we should offer mercy and grace to ourselves. I’ve written elsewhere on the importance of forgiving ourselves that provides additional insight into this challenge. We are being perfected, we are not perfect and we must accept that. When we focus on trying to serve God diligently and don’t dwell on our failures, we will be more useful in God’s service.

Peace with God

The comforting words of Paul in Romans 5:6-11 remind us that Jesus died for us while we were in rebellion in order to reconcile us to the Father. If He did that for us when we were in rebellion, how much more can we enjoy the peace as children of God when we obey His will, enjoy His grace, and do His work (2 Corinthians 5:17-19; Colossians 1:21-23)? The Christian can enjoy sweet sleep and calm days because the greatest peace that can be obtain was offered by God through the blood of His Son and He will receive the faithful into glory when this life is over.

Peace Perfect Peace

If we reconcile with God through His Son, forgive ourselves for our failures, and put our cares and anxieties in His hands, we can have peace within, a peace that surpasses understanding. We can have peace though we live in a sinful world, though we have challenges and trials, though we often fail to get what we want, and though life is imperfect. Peace is a wonderful spiritual gift that we should savor and seek to regain if we allow our hearts or our lives to drift from its pleasant harbor.

Proverbs 15:17 – Fat, Rich, and Miserable

Funny how we look at beautiful houses in nice neighborhoods and think of how great our lives could be if we lived there. Without love it is a well decorated prison where even the best food loses its flavor.

“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” Proverbs 15:17 (ESV)

It was one of the nicest houses I’ve seen. Secluded with a view of the mountains, a clean blue pool surrounded by a beautiful garden, a porch made for celebrating outdoors, large immaculate rooms, and every comfort you could imagine. It was hard to believe that the husband and wife inside had such contempt for each other and were ready to divorce.

But I’d seen it before. Beautiful houses, well furnished, and miserable occupants: a husband and wife who barely talked without arguing, children alienated from their parents and one another, and little happiness to be found. They drove nice cars, were successful in school, business, and the local society clubs but had contempt for one another within the walls of their suburban mansion. One daughter told me, “everybody at church thinks my parents are so great but they would cringe if they knew how they talked to each other and us kids at home.”

I’ve been in homes where guests sat on hand-me-down furniture,  sparsely decorated, and if there was a garden it was probably for vegetables to provide relief to the grocery bill. The working TV might be on top of the non-working TV and, if the gathering was sizable, the place setting at dinner wouldn’t match. Yet you would often find particle board bookshelves filled with religious books and pictures of family past and present on the walls throughout the house. Arguments would be the exception, not the rule, as mutual respect and affection were evident in their interactions.

Not all rich houses are occupied by miserable people who loathe one another and some humble houses have contemptible abusive people. The size of the house is not important nor is the prestige of the address or the furnishings. The love the occupants have for one another makes a home. The finest food loses its flavor if eaten in a house filled with hatred. A dinner of herbs found in the yard will seem like a feast for royalty if you are surrounded by love.

Happily, the couple in the opening paragraph rekindled their love for one another,  found a deeper love for God, have used their house and their home to be a blessing to others, and help the cause of God in so many ways. And there is love at their table.

Proverbs 22:29: You Do Your Job BUT Do You Make a Difference?

Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank. Proverbs 22:29 (NIV)

The modern workplace is blessed with unambitious reliable individuals who are content to provide solid output and dependable service. I honor people who do good work to receive fair compensation and good benefits. Work is a part of their life but not a life calling. Their income and benefits support personal ambition and passions. Managers should recognize such individuals and provide them sufficient challenge and fair compensation without pressuring or chiding them for a lack of professional drive. Take care of these rocks in your organization because they can be a good foundation of a stable business if you don’t let them stagnate.

The Curse of the “But I Did My Job!” Employee

Occasionally you will find the employees who, as they tell it, keep their heads down, do their jobs, and provide generally consistent output and predictable results. Yet these same employees are perplexed when overlooked for promotions or receive nominal pay increases. They protest the apparent injustice with “But I did my job!” They fail to see that the reward for “just doing your job” is simply a paycheck.

office workTo advance and excel in the workplace one must go beyond “doing their job.” All workers, especially knowledge workers, must be engaged with their job and its impact on the organization. Consider how you would answer the following questions:

  • In what specific ways do you bring value to your company, customers, and work group?
  • Are you content with knowing the minimum processes of your job and work tools (i.e., software) or do you become a power user of your work tools and an expert in your field?
  • Do you whine about inefficiencies or do you meet with managers to explain inefficiencies, make suggestions for improvement, and demonstrate the value of changes on productivity and profitability?
  • Are you involved with professional organizations related to your job or industry and read trade publications?
  • Do you work with your team, managers, and other organizations within the company or do you prefer to fight territorial battles and complain about how everyone makes your job more difficult?

I have heard the complaints and excuses:

  • “The company will not pay for me to join professional organizations.”
  • “I’m not paid to read books, blogs, or magazines outside of work hours that will expand my knowledge of my job, industry, and company.”
  • “The company doesn’t pay enough to buy my loyalty or engagement.”
  • “The company will not pay for me to become a power user of Microsoft Office or other tools.”

If you keep yourself warm with excuses and whining, don’t be surprised when you managers and co-workers are deaf to your complaining. Your professional development is your responsibility. Only you can increase your value in the labor marketplace. The time you invest developing productivity and general business skills, industry knowledge, and job skills will likely be repaid by advancement within the company, job offers from companies that see your value, or becoming your own boss.

Don’t just do your job, make a positive impact in your organization, industry, and professional life.

Book Review: The 5 Simple Truths of Raising Kids

The author expounds simple truths that seem grounded with research and common sense but it mainly reinforced what I’ve read in other parenting books. If you want to see the latest research on young people’s behaviors and related parenting principles, it is a good resource.

The 5 Simple Truths of Raising Kids: 1The 5 Simple Truths of Raising Kids

by R. Bradley Snyder

As the parent of 4 kids (and having raised 2 others), I am an avid reader of parenting books as I seek tips and ideas for being a good father. This book has a lot of psychological reporting and survey information for those who value research-focused information over anecdotal advice. However, data must be interpreted properly to yield good advice. The basic concepts in the book: “kids are good” and “parents need to parent” is sound but not new.

The research data provides great insight into the habits of young people that often contrasts with sensationalized media stories and TV/movie dramas. There are probably more positive trends among young people than we realize; however, we must be diligent to direct children towards good decision making.

The author expounds simple truths that seem grounded with research and common sense but it mainly reinforced what I’ve read in other parenting books. If you want to see the latest research on young people’s behaviors and related parenting principles, it is a good resource.

Buy at Amazon (affiliate link)

Proverbs 27:21: Will Praise Destroy You?

A challenging task for one’s character is receiving praise. Some will deflect it because they have such low self-esteem and discount what is said. On the other extreme, some let it inflate their pride. Do we chase it? How do we handle it?

“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.” Proverbs 27:21 (ESV)

“The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, And a man is valued by what others say of him.” Proverbs 27:21 (NKJV)

The two translations of this passage provide insight about the virtue and danger of praise. Other proverbs encourage humility and discourage boasting about oneself. As promoters, we are biased when marketing ourselves even cushioning acknowledgement of our flaws with reasons, excuses, and reminders of our virtue. The wisdom of the collection of proverbs on humility, pride, and praise encourage us to not seek praise and, if it is to be voiced, let it come from another.

The introductory couplet compares man’s praise to the refining process for silver and gold. This is  a common theme used for faith in 1 Peter 1, the word of God in Psalm 12, and numerous other places. The intensity of heat melts gold and sliver releasing impurities to be removed. Likewise, through the heat of moral and physical challenges, a person’s character is either strengthened or weaknesses exposed. A “trial by fire” purifies the one who allows for improvement and sheds what is weak and wicked.

Praise for enduring tests

As the NKJV observes,  a man who receives genuine praise, not flattery, from others is one who has distinguished himself by his character, character developed through trial. Most men and women who are considered praiseworthy have overcome obstacles, endured trials, demonstrated self-discipline, and have distinguished themselves through achievement and excellence. One does not have to accomplish something great, as the world counts greatness. A person may be praised as a good parent, coach, or friend for what they have accomplished despite the challenges of life.

The test of enduring praise

The ESV and NIV provide another view of this passage. How a person reacts to receiving praise is also a test. A common quote in the business world is

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”*

An equally challenging task for one’s character is receiving praise. Some will deflect it because they have such low self-esteem and discount what is said. On the other extreme, some let it inflate their pride. It is best to accept praise graciously, thanking the person for their kind words, and move on with life.

A person can become so addicted to praise that they start to make decisions and act in a way that encourages praise. They need it like air and food. They wrestle with self-doubt and insecurity when they do not receive it and can’t enjoy when they do receive it because its pleasure is fleeting. The futility of chasing followers, likes, and views on social media arises from this warped sense of one’s worth by the clicks of strangers and friends. Some will neglect those who do care and are with them physically by staring into their phone, skipping across social media sites, feeding the need to feel significant. I encourage you to read my article, Could You Live Without Internet Celebrity for more insight into this danger we face.

One of my internal reminders is that I’m not as bad as my critics say nor am I as good as my fans say (I don’t know where I borrowed this from, perhaps Abraham Lincoln or Einstein). I enjoy praise as much as anyone but I do not let that define me nor is it the way I evaluate myself. As a Christian, my value lies in the relationship with God, not how men judge me. I must be careful, as I have written in this article, not to do my Christian service for the praise and honor of others. Some compromise their principles so they will not receive criticism. Others let praise for their godliness rest on them instead of directing the glory to God. Let us have the attitude of Paul in Philippians 3:8, who said “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” (ESV).

Can you handle the praise?

*Note: Most sources attribute this quote to Abraham Lincoln. I have not had a chance to verify this and am skeptical of attributing it since it appears most of the Internet quotes are attributed to Einstein or Abraham Lincoln.

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