And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
We all want peace: peace of mind, peace of heart, financial stability, health in our body. No one wants to be lacking peace in any area, yet finding peace seems more difficult than any other moment in history. This is because our world is more uncertain than ever. 2020 was a year for the books. On the macro scale, a global pandemic, massive global debt, civil unrest, and a contentious US election created a state of collective anxiety unequalled since the height of the cold war. And on a micro-scale, our lives have become increasingly complicated, our brains continually bombarded by our smartphones, mass media, and relentless advertising. Depression and anxiety cases are on the rise, and many are struggling with a deep sense of purposelessness. Our attention spans, happiness levels, and ability to focus are decreasing. All these trends are getting worse, not better. With all that is against us, individually and as a society, how do we go about finding true peace?
The word for peace in Hebrew is “shalom” (Strong’s H7965). Shalom means wholeness, completeness, prosperity, health, and purpose. Shalom-peace is having everything in its right place, and relationships in order. In short, this peace means that nothing is missing and nothing is broken. Sadly, this kind of peace is absent from many Christians’ lives, let alone those outside the faith. Regardless, Jesus has promised us his peace. In John 14:27, He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” This gift of peace available to every child of God. So then, how do we access this peace?
The Person of Peace
The Angel of the LORD was God’s manifest presence on the earth in the Old Testament — the presence of the Lord in bodily form. In Judges chapter 6, Gideon had an encounter with this Angel of the LORD. The Angel gives Gideon the impossible task of defeating the Midianites before vanishing from his sight. When Gideon realized that he had been talking with the Lord, he feared for his life. But the Lord said, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” Gideon then builds an altar of worship and calls it “The LORD is Peace.” Peace is a person. Namely, peace is the person of the LORD.
While in the Old Testament, he appeared as the Angel of the Lord, in the New Testament, God’s manifest presence on the earth was the person of Jesus. Jesus carried peace wherever he went. Fear, sickness, pain, and disease left at his touch. The word of his mouth restored mental and emotional health — physiological peace. And Jesus’ realm of influence was not limited to the lives of people. In Mark 4, the disciples were on the sea of Galilee, and “a great windstorm arose.” While they were trying not to drown, Jesus was sleeping in the stern of the boat. The peace that he carried allowed him to sleep in the storm! The disciples woke him up, afraid for their lives (like Gideon was). Jesus responded by rebuking the storm. “Peace! Be still.” He released what he had within him into his environment. He was able to create peace because he had peace — because he is peace.
Today, Jesus is not on the earth; he is seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for you and me. The Holy Spirit is the person of the LORD who dwells in and brings peace to the believer. Just like Jesus slept in the storm, the Holy Spirit wants to bring peace to our inner world. Just like Jesus calmed the storm, the Spirit of God wants to empower you to have peace in whatever situation you find yourself. This is what it means in Galatians 6 when it says that “the fruit of the Spirit is peace.” This gift of peace comes from continually walking in communion with the Holy Spirit. By continually cultivating communion with Christ through the Holy Spirit, we experience an increasing influence of His peace within, enabling us to respond to and influence our circumstances with that same peace.
“He was able to create peace because he had peace — because he is peace.”
It’s essential to recognize that while we all have access to the peace of God, many things will steal it or limit us from walking in its fullness. We must be aware of what interferes with our connection to the source of peace. We must be aware of what keeps us from connecting with Jesus and make conscious decisions to safeguard that connection. These are not merely good ideas but practical habits that, if cultivated, will aid us in finding the peace we need to get through life’s many challenges.
In an age of fake news and divisive politics, it is often difficult to determine which stories are true. There are two narratives vying for our attention: God’s narrative and the narrative of the kingdom of this world. The two are opposed to each other, but God’s narrative is the true narrative, and God’s kingdom is the one that will last. The sooner we understand this, the clearer our perception of the world becomes. We can’t expect the mainstream media to tell us what God is doing in the world. So if we’re constantly feeding on social media and the news cycle, we can end up with a warped view of reality. When the way we see and understand the world becomes skewed, we will inevitably experience a lack of peace. It’s not wrong to follow the news or the media, but it’s important to balance our media intake with a solid intake of scripture in order to understand what God is doing in our time.
Our phones are often the first things we look at when we wake up and the last thing we see before going to bed. Most smartphone users between the ages of 18 and 24 spend between 3 and 5 hours a day looking at their screen. Multiple hours of social media content a day will keep us from walking in peace. Although most of us know this, we still get sucked into the refresh game. We are drawn back because those bright red notifications set off the brain’s dopamine reward centres, giving a momentary feeling of happiness without true fulfillment. There is only one thing that we were created to gaze and meditate upon continually, and that is the Lord and His beauty. If you desire to experience God’s shalom-peace, it’s imperative to set limits for yourself and your screen time.
If it’s not an external force that steals our peace, it is an internal one. Many of us struggle with continually looking inward at our own issues: our weakness, failures, and sin. Being self-focused and analyzing ourselves based on our feelings does nothing to improve us or the way we feel. The opposite is true; excessive introspection leads to only more unrest. This is not the same as self-reflection. There is a difference between a healthy self-awareness and a constant mulling over our anxieties and insufficiencies. An ongoing critique of ourselves leads only to shame, leading us to act and think out of a negative self-image, which causes more shame and anxiety. This negative feedback loop is only broken by looking outside of ourselves to an external reference point. We must choose to focus on the source of eternal love, the true determiner of our worth and identity, the person of peace: King Jesus.
Communing with Peace
Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.” The word for “stayed” in that verse is “Samak” (Strong’s H5564), which means “to rest, to lay upon.” As we direct our thoughts to rest in our assurance of God’s steadfast love for us, he keeps us in perfect peace. The verb for keep is “Natsar” (Strong’s 5341), which means “to guard, to watch.” Grace is accessed by faith, and those who believe that God is watching over and protecting them are the ones that he watches over and protects. When we keep our mind on the Lord, the Lord keeps us in a place of peace. No one can do this for you. In a world of distracting external stimuli and pessimistic narratives, inner communion with the Prince of Peace is the very thing most at risk, and this is why it must be guarded at all costs. If fellowship with the Lord is lost, we will have lost our only hope for finding lasting peace.
“In a world of distracting external stimuli and pessimistic narratives, inner communion with the Prince of Peace is the very thing most at risk, and this is why it must be guarded at all costs.”
Peace as a Witness
Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. People are looking for peace. It is the thing that the human heart desperately longs for but rarely finds. As believers, we have the unique opportunity to bear witness to the reality of God and his goodness by carrying his peace. Speaking peace to the storm is a byproduct of sleeping in the storm, and sleeping in the storm only comes by being connected to the source of peace. Like Jesus calming the storm, believers can walk in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring peace into any situation. And when people see someone who truly carries peace, as Jesus did, there is an undeniable attraction. Remember, it’s not just our circumstances or inner life that changes when we walk in peace, it’s an incredible blessing for everybody else in our boat. People around us are blessed when we carry His peace. As we navigate our world, we won’t just survive, but we have the incredible privilege of changing it for the better. Peace is a person, and that person can be you.