Yesterday, in preparation for Christmas, we began a conversation about Peace. If you didn’t read my post, you can do it here, and it will help you put your life in context for today’s discussion.
One critical element of Christmas is supposed to be peace. Jesus would be called the “Prince of Peace” (see Isaiah 9). To his followers, Jesus later said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
But many of us actually struggle with a ‘troubled heart’ and we often wrestle with fear. For the follower of Jesus, who is supposed to have the peace of God resting on our lives, how can we practically find that peace and live in it?
There are several things you can do, actually. They work best if they work together, but I’d like to break three of them down and let us chew on them – one a day – for 3 days. I offer them to you in no particular order – they are all critically important if you want to have peace in your life.
First: Strain Ahead.
Don’t check out. I’m sure you think you’ve heard something like this before. But I think about it differently than just “try harder”. In fact, ‘strain ahead’ are specific words are from the Bible:
“…one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13-14)
Most of our anxiety surrounds things and people that are outside of our control. You cannot make someone do something. You cannot make someone who is sick be well. You cannot print money that you don’t have. (well, I don’t recommend it, anyway!)
When I find myself with an anxious spirit and the presence of peace is absent from my soul, a quick analysis usually finds that my worry is about things that are completely out of my hands.
But there ARE some things that are not out of my hands, and naming them helps up my Peace quotient.
When I’m not at peace, it’s often because I’ve moved my focus off of this critical factor: God wants to do something in me and through me today – and I am the ONLY person who can control that! Peace comes when I strain towards what is ahead by putting my focus on what I CAN ACTUALLY DO something about: My actions, My words, My thoughts, My time.
In this way, I move my mind away from the anxiety of what I cannot govern and towards the things I can.
I had lunch with a friend this week who had a lot of anxiety about the strife in the world today. We had both seen the story about these Syrian orphans who were wandering around the war-torn country, trying to evade bullets and looking for a way out. My friend’s heart was burdened to the point of real anxiety.
So I asked him what he could do, and he couldn’t think of anything. Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything directly related to THOSE kids that he could do either. So I encouraged him to expand his mind a little and consider that those are not the only kids in strife, who need help, who are desperate. The more we talked, the more he realized that – while he couldn’t go to Syria or mobilize the Army – he could help some other kids who were also in serious need. There was a visible reduction in his anxiety as he shifted his attention to strain ahead towards something he could do instead of focusing on the thing he couldn’t affect.
If you’re anxious – which I would define as the opposite of peace – try this: Write down the things over which you have dominion in your life. What do you actually control? What areas in your life can you direct?
Ask this: What do you think God wants to do in you and through you today or this week? Now strain ahead towards those things! You’ll find your soul settling as your mind and actions focus more on what you can do than what you cannot.
There IS more to this, but spend some time on the ‘strain ahead’ concept today and we’ll look at attaining peace from another angle tomorrow.