The second verse of the enduring hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” states, “Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth.” There is something to be said about peace, especially in a society in which peace is difficult to find.
Peace can mean many different things. It could point to political truce or agreement between two nations; peace also points to an inner sense of calm. Peace can be relational: Passing the peace is a mainstay in many churches these days.
From a biblical perspective, peace only exists when a person or community becomes one with Christ and with the purposes of God. It was through Jesus that God brought peace into the world: “Through Jesus God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20).
God called Jesus to be a bearer of peace, and God calls us to peace as well (Col. 3:15). Why is it, then, that so many Christ followers still struggle with peace that surpasses all understanding?
Perhaps the greatest misnomer is that faith or a conversion experience will simply do away with all anxiety. In fact, anxiety about anxiety can lead to greater guilt and self-doubt. Some people say, “If I am anxious, then I don’t have enough faith in God or don’t really have a saving relationship with God.” That is rarely the case.
Anxiety is a complex animal. Some anxiety is chronic from chemical imbalances or predispositions; other forms of anxiety are behavioral or habitual. Knowing the difference between the two–and the proper road to treatment and healing–is something that any good counselor or therapist can discern.
Assuming that statistics about anxiety are true–that nearly a quarter of Americans suffer from some form of anxiety–we may have to look deeper into what it means to be at peace.
Being at peace, especially under the lordship of Christ, does not assume that the storms of life or the issues that plague all of us no longer exist. Even Paul, the author of Colossians, suffered a “thorn in my side” and complained of eye trouble.
Yet, peace persisted. Even in the storm, Christ’s calm can foster a vision that allows us to see the bigger picture in life. God’s future becomes the source of our hope, and we can long for the blessings that tomorrow brings. Christ’s call to redemption and sanctification allows us to look beyond ourselves and our immediate situation.
If faith is the assurance of things unseen, then peace is the act of living in the realm of trust to that reality. We trust in things unseen because we believe God is a promise-keeper that holds us in His love and guides us through “the darkest valley” (Ps. 23:4, NRSV). Peace is the stillness that lingers in the depths of our hearts, the unyielding joy that persists even on our unhappiest days.
The other misnomer is that the world can provide peace. We seek the pleasures of the flesh and material wealth in order to be happy: “If only I had a million dollars, I would be happy and at peace.” Unrest does not discriminate; it ails people of all socio-economic levels.
In Paul and Jesus’ day, the Roman Empire prided itself on being a place of peace. “Pax Romana,” or Roman peace, was the illusion that the monarchy had it all together. Jesus, Paul, and John, the author of Revelation, warn their readers not to buy into this false sense of hope. The government social net can provide only so much for its citizenry.
Jesus gives the only peace that can sustain us through the hardest times: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). And when anxiety rears its head, Jesus’ voice will echo in the background, “Peace be with you, fear not.”