By Marlys Burgett
It’s Advent–the season to be thinking about waiting. Waiting for the return of Jesus, who will redeem our broken world. Waiting peacefully for His peace to reign forever. I’ll admit it sounds so lovely, the peaceful waiting! I imagine myself in a Hallmark movie in a beautiful home, surrounded by lights and trees and falling snow, a warm fire with cookies and coffee; all my family is well and happy. Ahhh!
But real life isn’t always like the movies. There is joy, but there is also pain and heartache. So how do we embrace the peace of Christ in real life?
I took Colossians in our Equip Her Wednesday Night session this semester and also led a small group of TwentySomething women through a bible study in my home. Both studies have emphasized gratitude as one of the most important ways to begin developing peace in your own life. In Pricilla Shirer’s Armor of God study she says: “God’s peace is an inner tranquility and calmness of the soul. In Jesus, we have peace with God. Thanksgiving activates peace. Trust fuels thankfulness. Thankfulness activates peace.”
Col 3:15 reads:
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body and be thankful.”
Paul tells the Colossians to LET (or allow) the peace of Christ rule. This means we can also keep peace out of ourselves through worrying and thinking about things that are not true and do not develop peace within us. RULE is a strong word. It means to control or direct, exercise dominating power, influence over, and to be prevalent. That’s what the power of Christ can do for us as we tell Him our anxious thoughts. As we quiet our hearts and let go of control, our lives and the things we are worrying about will not fall into disarray. He is trustworthy to bring peace to our minds despite worrisome circumstances.
There is a reason prayer and silence are called disciplines. They take work. This is especially true when we live in a loud culture that never stops, because if it stops, it loses control. And if you lose control, you get behind in your pursuit of more. Our culture believes that more is better, and when we stop to be content, we disrupt the pursuit of more money, a bigger house, a nicer car, more things and clothes, more power and prestige, and more activities. All of these “mores” make it difficult to live a thankful and peace-filled life. Because we’re bombarded constantly with lies and messages telling us to always want more, renewing our minds and learning how to not worry and trust God takes time.
I have to seek Jesus deeply and intentionally to have His peace rule my heart and be thankful. For me, that means waking up and not checking my phone or email or Facebook, but instead opening up my Bible to read His Word about peace. Sometimes I look at the sunrise and go through the alphabet, thanking God for who He is. “God you are Adoni (my great Lord) and the All-mighty, Beautiful, Caring, Devoted, Eternal and Everlasting, Faithful Father. . . .” It means trusting Jesus, even when life seems so un-trustable, praying and asking Him “Jesus, help me be content with what I have been given already.”
And we don’t just want peace because it might make us feel better! Peace is very important to God. It’s mentioned about 400 times in the Bible depending upon which translation you read. I think about how much life I’ve missed out on because of worry. What if I had been focused, trusting that God tells the truth, when life got hard and painful as opposed to trying to control things or believing the lie, If I just get through this, my life will get better. Well, there is a lot of life that continues to come, and come, and come. . . .
How often do I experience God’s true contentment and peace in all my circumstances?
What would change dramatically if I lived in His peace each day?
Sometimes I wake up anxious and fearful. If I don’t pray and surrender these feelings to Jesus right away, they lead to a stewing and fretful day. Ever have a day like that? One name of God is Jehovah-Shalom which means the God of peace, the Lord send peace, I am thy peace, and He is our peace.
I’ve noticed that around Christmas time, people are a little more sensitive to believing in something or more willing to hope. It’s a special time where there are often open doors to share the good news of peace with others. We have much good news to share, but no one wants to listen to glad tidings from someone who is whiny, fretful, and unsatisfied. It just doesn’t add up. Peace? Really?
I also know that Christmas can be the most difficult part of the year for many people. The pretty lights, shopping, and all of the things we do can underscore the fact that we’re putting up lights or shopping alone without a family member. The cheer of the season can highlight just how sad we are. Here’s some good news: You don’t have to be happy to share the peace of God with others! In fact sharing hope with others brings peace to our own lives.
Isa 52:7 “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace, and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”
Luke 2:9-14 “And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’”
Most of you know that my dear sweet husband passed away this year. I now have a new and very different holiday to experience than in my last 38 years. One of my favorite parts of the season is decorating my house with evergreen branches and lights. Decorating this year without him brought up bittersweet memories and pain. Well-meaning people have shared with me, “you just need to get through these first holidays,” and while that is true, I believe God offers and desires more for me – to trust Him and to be content and at peace even though there is much pain and loss.
Yes, I am sad during the holidays. But being sad does not mean that I do not have peace. It does not mean that I cannot be thankful and look forward to Christ’s return. And honestly, some of my sweetest and most profound moments of appreciating Christmas and the fact that God chose to dwell among us have been when I’m hurting and sad. The lights look so much sweeter, and the Christmas carols hold so much more power for me because I’m seeking His peace.
So to practice what I have just preached, I’m working on thinking about what am I thankful for, despite the sadness. I am thankful Joel is in heaven and he suffers no more. I am thankful my son loves Jesus and is well cared for by believers where he lives out of state. I am thankful I have supportive friends and family and a wonderful church who offer me love and care. I am thankful I have a job I enjoy that has meaning and purpose. Most of all, I’m thankful for Jesus.
This Advent season we celebrate the birth of our Savior; the fact that God himself came to live with us. He has lived a human life. He knows our every joy and pain. He is very familiar with our struggles here on earth. His lovingkindness and mercies are real and are offered freely to us. Would you join me in the peaceful wait for His return when there will be no more tears and sorrow? I get excited about that! No matter what your circumstances, His Word promises, “I will keep in perfect peace, she whose mind is steadfast, because she trusts in Me.” [Isaiah 26:3 paraphrased].
Here are some other wonderful peace verses:
“’My lovingkindness shall not be removed from you and my covenant of peace will not be shaken,’ says the LORD who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10
“Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79
God is Jehovah-Shalom, our peace!