Where Is Real Peace Found?
Last night my wife and I were talking about my journey through chronic pain, which in reality has really been our journey through chronic pain (in some ways I think her life has been impacted in even more profound ways than my own). In the fall of 2011 I started treatment at the Swedish Hospital pain clinic in downtown Seattle, and the clinic had just started a 2-day class to help people get a better understanding of the science behind chronic pain and how people could be more successful in managing their condition. There were about fifteen people in the class, and we all sat at tables of two. My seat was in the back corner of the room, next to the door, and my table partner was a silver-haired 50-something woman. Her eyes were bloodshot, skin mottled and blotchy, and her hair was a frazzled mess - to start the class we went around the room, introducing ourselves and sharing a bit about what had brought us to the clinic.
The woman next to me shared that she’d been living with chronic pain for 11 years - wait, WHAT?!? ELEVEN YEARS?!? I’d been dealing with severe pain for about six months and was pretty sure I couldn’t last another six months, let alone another six days. Could I live with pain for eleven years? “No Lord! Please, Please God - please anything but this. I can’t do this - I CAN’T” These thoughts screamed over and over in my head and for awhile I heard nothing the instructor said as I wrestled with my tormented emotions. They would remain tormented for several years as I obsessed about the “why’s” of my condition - why did it happen, why wasn’t I being healed, why me… I was a giant ball of fear and anxiety, trapped in the prison of my own mind, barely able to utter a “God help me!” as a prayer, let alone actually stop and talk to my Abba Father.
Then, a little over three years ago things started to change. It took hitting rock-bottom in my life, but I’m so glad those really hard days didn’t go to waste. The “why” questions started to fade away and in their place I began asking “How - Lord please show me how to do this.” It hasn’t been easy (especially late this summer when for two months my pain came back full-force and at times I wondered if I was going to make it), but I carry with me on a daily basis a peace I didn’t have in those early days, trusting God with all those things I don’t know instead of chasing after answers I might never find.
Peace has been on the mind of Randy Alcorn lately; his wife just got some difficult news about her cancer diagnosis, and he writes about their experience in his blog entry “Where Is Real Peace Found.” In their search for peace in the midst of their trials, Randy and his wife have found tremendous comfort in meditating on GodIr ’s attributes. Randy writes:
Nanci and I have both found that great peace comes in meditating on the attributes of our God and His care for us. Puritan Thomas Watson noted, “God the Father is called the ‘God of peace’ (Hebrews 13:20). God the Son, the ‘Prince of peace’ (Isaiah 9:6). God the Holy Ghost, the ‘Spirit…of peace’ (Ephesians 4:3).” It’s really true that “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11, NIV).
He then turns to to the book “New Morning Mercies” by Paul David Tripp; Tripp focuses on Isaiah 26:3-4, where the prophet writes:
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.
A mind focused on the Lord will find peace, even in the storms of this life. Tripp explains why understanding the truth in Isaiah 26:3-4 is so important in our search for lasting peace:
It is never found in trying to figure out the secret will of God. It’s not to be found in personal planning or attempts to control the circumstances and people in your life. Peace is found in trusting the person who controls all the things that you don’t understand and who knows no mystery because he has planned it all.
I know it feels counter-intuitive at times (especially for us control freaks), but surrender to the Lord is an important key to unlocking the door to peace. Is it scary at times? Absolutely! Difficult? At times incredibly so - but such a rich reward awaits when our hearts are yielded to our Savior and his sovereignty over our lives. We’re finally able to rest, freed from fighting battles we can’t win and carrying burdens too heavy to bear.
Tripp leaves us with some powerful words on how we can experience God’s peace:
How do you experience this remarkable peace—the kind of peace that doesn’t fade away when disappointments come, when people are difficult, or when circumstances are hard? You experience it by keeping your mind stayed on the Lord. The more you meditate on his glory, his power, his wisdom, his grace, his faithfulness, his righteousness, his patience, his zeal to redeem, and his commitment to his eternal promises to you, the more you can deal with mystery in your life. Why? Because you know the One behind the mystery is gloriously good, worthy not only of your trust but also the worship of your heart. It really is true that peace in times of trouble is not found in figuring out your life, but in worship of the One who has everything figured out already.