Peace Like a River

Hold tight, this one may be a little heavy. My mind was racing last night as I was praying about what to write this week — sometimes my thoughts just overtake my mind, and I can’t sleep until I write them down. I pray that I can write this all out clearly and that whomever needs to hear it will be encouraged.

As I think over what happened in the world last week, my heart just breaks for the sadness and desperation in the lives, and deaths, of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. They were each icons in their own circles, and enjoyed fame and notoriety for their achievements and extensive careers.  They had fan followings, accolades and stood for brands that they had established from the ground up. They had nice houses, families, and enjoyed professional success. In the eyes of the world, they had it all. But the people around them are as stunned as anyone, never knowing that their secret sadness and discouragement would lead them to this end.

We all fall into a similar trap, if not to that sad extent — I know I do on the regular! I think, if I can only get that outfit that I have seen trending, I will feel good. If I can only organize my house and get my decor just so, I will feel at peace. If I can only be productive and knock 5 more things off of my to-do list, I will be valuable. If I can only get to a certain number on the scale, I will feel worthy. But the truth is that we can chase all of these things until we are on our last legs, and they will not bring joy, peace, value, fulfillment or worth. “He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16:15). Jesus is the only thing that can bring about peace, fulfillment and joy in our lives. Philippians 4:6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Even thought it doesn’t make sense to us, Jesus dispels despair, sadness and grief, and brings joy and peace to our lives in a way that worldly things cannot.

I think one of the most unhealthy things in our country is that we have built up this ideal of strength and independence which leads to shutting our real true selves off from those around us. If someone asks us “How are you?” we respond with “Fine!” even if the answer should be “I am having a terrible time and I don’t know how to go on“. It is not socially acceptable to not have it all together all the time, and to not be successful and impenetrable at all times.  We feel like people don’t want to know the real answer, and maybe they really don’t.

I think some of the most humbling and liberating experiences of my life have been when I have finally admitted to myself and to my loved ones that I am a mess. I don’t have it all together, I have some serious issues and weaknesses, and I need help. I need Jesus.  I need support and encouragement of other believers. Like Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” When I am overpowered and about to be broken, it takes a lot of Jesus and the love of fellow believers to pull me back and make sure I am ok and able to go on.

If you are reading this and you’re trying to look like you have it all together, don’t. Just let it all go. Jesus is the only thing that will hold you together! First, talk to Jesus, and then reach out to someone you trust and just talk with them. Just admit that you have struggles. Sometimes, you admitting that is going to help someone else more than it even helps you! If you struggle with pride, or with feeling that vulnerability must equal weakness, I challenge you to read through the books of  1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, and then Psalms. The first two give you an idea of the kind of man King David was — he was a soldier, he was a leader and he was a powerful king. But if you keep going and read the book of Psalms, he cries out repeatedly to God and bares the dark corners of his soul — he had deep sorrow, lifelong struggles and very real grief and wrote it all down as songs to his God. He writes “When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (Psalm 94:18-19). Even big, strong, manly-man King David struggled with anxiety — the difference from us may be he that knew where to turn for joy. 

We have had a lot of rain lately, and with that, has come some pretty devastating flooding. But if I think of it as a picture from the Bible, it is actually very encouraging — Isaiah 48:18 says ‘If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.”   And Romans 15:13 says “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” What if we sought God above all else, and followed His way? His peace would just flood our lives like the rain has flooded the ground, relentlessly washing away every anxiety and every desperate thought with the waves of His peace.

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If we could all just admit that sometimes we are a hot mess, maybe we could break down this stigma of perfection. Maybe there would be a lot less desperation and sadness in this world. Maybe we would get back to having an honest community and be filled with real humanity, love and empathy for our sisters and brothers. Reach out to someone, whether you see them struggling, or you are — sometimes amazing healing can start just with a little bit of love.

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