Last week a conversation with a friend prompted me to think about the answer to these questions, “How am I receiving the peace of God in my life? How is peace possible in the midst of difficult circumstances?” My ultimate and obvious answer was that God is so gracious and kind to grant His peace in the midst of hard, painful, sometimes frightening circumstances. But the question begged for more. Not because that isn’t enough, but because our faith needs feet sometimes in order to carry us from the place of recognizing our need for God’s help to receiving His help. So I started thinking about how I receive God’s peace, as His child.
For much of my adult life I’ve been thrown into circumstances outside my comfort zone and, by God’s grace, have been able to push aside thoughts that could give rise to fear or anxiety by trusting in and having strong confidence in a powerful God. “He goes before me, His grace will sustain me, He is able and will enable.” (Deut. 31:8, John 10:4, 2 Cor. 12:9, Phil. 2:13 ). I haven’t allowed headspace for anything but His promises in the day to day anxieties of life. That would be #1 in a list of bullet points—know God’s promises and bank on them! Memorize Scripture! But, in addition to daily worries and nudges to do things of which we don’t feel capable, there are also unknowns and bigger issues that come along and darker circumstances that need resolving and want answers. All these things can prey on our minds and sometimes physically affect us. So the bulleted list is for all the things–the day to day stresses or worries and the much weightier issues of life.
- Know God’s promises and bank on them!
- Make those promises your GO TO any time fear or doubt creep in!
- Know who God is, know His attributes, and bank on them!
- Give thanks in all circumstances, ALL circumstances! 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says this is the will of God in Christ Jesus. I’ve made a practice of this, especially when it’s hard, stressful, I hate the circumstance, it messes with my day, or looks like no possible good could come from it. I give thanks, not just for the things that I can think of that are good in the situation, but for the situation itself. “Thank you, Lord, for this dark circumstance. I have no idea why it’s come my way, but YOU do, and I know you are at work accomplishing my good for your glory. So please give me a grateful heart and be glorified in the midst of this.”
- Know God! I know that knowing God really should top the list (and it does – you won’t know real peace until you know God!), but what I mean is keep going deeper with Him. Fellowship with Him. Read His Word and pray. But don’t just read His Word—READ His Word! Intentionally, prayerfully, asking Him to teach you from it as you read it!
- PRAY! Pray for wisdom, discernment, peace, the fruit of the spirit…
- Turn your mind to other things – pleasant, pure, true things unrelated to the fears or anxious thoughts.
- Sing – sing His praises, night and day.
I discovered at some point that at my most anxious times my prayers would tend to chase my thoughts. I would “pray without ceasing” in order to overcome anxious thoughts, but the anxious thoughts would break in; and then I’d break in with a prayer, trying to make it stronger than my anxious thoughts. I was like a dog chasing it’s tail, only getting more worked up in my spirit. I had to realize that I was chasing my thoughts with prayers (so much striving after the wind) and go straight to praying in a way that drove the anxious thoughts away. I needed to pray with intentionality (some might call it focused and fervent prayer)–take a walk and pray out loud; say it into the empty space of my car; close the door, get down on my knees and pray out loud all the attributes and promises of God back to Him, confessing my sin (my lack of trust being one of them), making my requests known and casting all my cares on Him. Sometimes I would pray out loud with my kids in the car, sometimes in the middle of a conversation with a friend. Whatever the case, the peace of God does just as Philippians 4 promises, it guards my heart every time (Phil 4:4-9).
I don’t mean that God gave me peace because I finally figured out the right things to do and worked at them until He decided to reward me. Not at all! God, by His Spirit, does all the work! The faith He gives me acknowledges His trustworthiness and causes me to call out to Him with my need. When I “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” I “Do not quench the Spirit,” but acknowledge my dependance on God, and the Spirit continues His work in me (1Thessalonians 5:16-19).
My most basic answer to all the questions of life is, “Know God. Fellowship with Him. Seek His wisdom. Ask Jesus to be near and to teach your heart to trust. He delights to hear the prayers of His children and answer them with every good thing! And prayers for Him to be near are NEVER outside His will and therefore won’t be denied!” (Jeremiah 29:12; 1 John 5:14). Just knowing that helps bring peace. My greatest desire is for His will to be done, not mine, so I pray to that end and let go of my desired outcomes in favor of His. When I relinquish control, since I have none anyway, peace abounds.
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. Phil. 4:6-7
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. Psalm 119:165
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18:10
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6
“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
©Erika Rice 2020