The Search for Peace
When we hear the word peace we tend to think of quiet or stillness. I think of children sleeping, coffee brewing and birds chirping, but not too loudly. Or, perhaps when we hear the word peace we think about the absence or ceasing of some conflict in a relationship or between warring nations. Whatever images the word peace conjures up in your mind, I think we can all agree that we need more of it; peace can seem like a rare commodity in our fast-paced society.
The Biblical Understanding of Peace
The Biblical understanding of peace comes from the Hebrew word Shalom. And shalom is not just the absence of conflict, it is the presence of blessing, wholeness and harmony between God and people, people and people, and people and creation. In the Biblical story, the world began in peace and the world will end in peace. We live in the in-between time. Because of sin, an alien invader in God’s good creation, we find ourselves at odds with God, at odds with others and at odds with ourselves.
The Apostle Paul says in the book of Romans that God, through Jesus, makes peace between Him and us. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” (Romans 5:1,2) This peace between God and people is meant to extend, as far as possible, to peace between people and people, including those who may be very different than us. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:17,18) Then there is also a subjective peace; peace as an inward reality that God gives to people.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? The truth is we probably all have a long list of adjustments we would make to our appearance or lifestyle. Taller, thinner, stronger, smarter, sexier, the list could go on and on.
Donald Miller once wrote that one of the saddest parts of our lives is how little we remember of them. I’m not sure. I think the sorriest part of our brief time on earth may be how much of our lives we spend wishing we were someone else. I mean, how much of our mental space is taken up wishing we were stronger, smarter, better looking, more popular, more desirable, more of whatever we are not? It doesn’t help that our culture so often forces us to think about what we lack. Many advertisements seem focused on creating a sense of inadequacy, exploiting the chink in our armour of projected self-confidence that a given product is guaranteed to address. The amount of annual dollars being spent by marketers to make us feel discontent is mind boggling; after all, content people aren’t nearly as vulnerable to the next best thing.
The journey towards emotional wholeness and subjective peace is, in part, a journey towards accepting oneself the way that God made us and learning to find our affirmation and worth in Him. As long as I remain perennially at odds with who I am I will be out of step with my creator. It is probably fair to say, as many have said, that we will never achieve peace with God (subjectively speaking) until we are at peace with who He has fashioned us to be.
We should, of course, feel free to hate our sin all we want. Our sin distorts who God has made us to be. But if you continue to hate yourself, what you look like, how you talk, your height, your hair, your intelligence, your temperament, whatever, you will continue to hurt your relationship with God. Peace in life and subjective peace with God will elude you. As James Hufstetler writes:
“You will never really enjoy other people, you will never have stable emotions, you will never lead a life of godly contentment, you will never conquer jealousy and love others as you should until you thank God for making you the way he did.”
Do you think God knew what he was doing when he created you, or do you believe that God made a mistake? Are you willing to trust him? If you don’t have peace with yourself, you will never feel peace with the God who made you.
So, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope!
 James Hufstetler, “On Knowing Oneself,” The Banner of Truth, Issue 280, 14