A Deliberate Peace

I’m trapped in a house of testosterone. One husband, two sons, and not a scrap of femininity in sight. As the sole female in a man’s world, I’m just about able to cope with socks on thewindup-remote floor, toilet seats raised and the ape-like slamming of doors and drawers. But I draw the line at television viewing. At the end of the day, when I’m trying to unwind and prepare for sleep, I really don’t think Die Hard III or Crime Scene Investigation is going to speed me to my dreams. So when we’re choosing what to watch I insist, time and again, “I want to focus on something that relaxes me!” And, of course, my definition of “relax” is seldom shared by my male co-habitants, but sorry; I simply will not set my mind on car chases and murder scenes before bedtime. I know that the channel I tune into will largely determine my level of peace.

Changing the Channel
The channel you tune into – what you focus on; what you turn your thoughts to – is largely determining the level of peace you experience right now. Just as watching a violent television show can leave you disturbed and anxious, so dwelling on the countless “what-ifs” in life leaves you distressed and uncertain. But the opposite is true, isn’t it? Watching a nice re-run of Little House on the Prairie instead of The Walking Dead will probably leave you soothed, because you chose to focus on something pleasant rather than something grisly. How much more, then, will turning your thoughts towards the Prince of Peace generate a deep, lasting calm? “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace”, Isaiah said, “whose mind is stayed on Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3) There’s the secret. Choose to set your mind on Him, and all that He is (and all that you are to Him!) and peace is yours.

Easily said; not so easily done. Yet Peter did it under the scariest of circumstances. Remember when he and the other disciples were rowing through a horrendous storm? (Matthew 14:23-31) They were exhausted after hours of striving against the gales, when suddenly Jesus appeared, which is just like Him. Peter called for help, and Jesus said “Try something impossible. Walk with me on the water.” No doubt desperate, Peter tried it, walking on water successfully until (and here’s the catch!) he took his eyes off Jesus and looked, instead, at the storm.

I’ve learned over many years of serving Him that internal strength is gained largely by what I look at. If I wait until I have everything figured out before I relax, then I may as well forget about relaxing. It’s not the level of stress, or the unknowns of life, or the ongoing trials that determine whether or not I’m a peaceful woman. Rather, it’s what I’m choosing to focus on: Them or Him. That’s what makes or breaks my peace.

Focusing on Him
Now, to “set your mind on Him”, as Isaiah said, is to remember Him while considering all that He is and all that He’s promised. So just try this next time you’re stressed: Take a few minutes alone to dwell on His many names and promises: Jehovah Jireh my provider (Philippians 4:19); Jehovah Shalom my peace (Ephesians 2:14); my Shepherd (Psalm 23); the keeper of my soul (I Peter 1:5); my Healer (Exodus 15:26); the one who kept repeating “Fear not”, promising that “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) No wonder Peter (who, as we just mentioned, knew a thing or two about this subject!) said to “Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7)

Many people talk about peace as though it’s something only the lucky get, like something determined by situation or standing in life. I’ve learned differently. Peace is hugely determined not by what’s happening to me, but by what’s happening in me. And that, in turn, is determined largely by what I choose to set my mind on. It’s a deliberate peace Jesus offers us, a constant assurance and security found by setting our thoughts on Him. All of which means that people who are truly peaceful aren’t all that extraordinary; they’ve simply chosen to take Him at His word, learning and practicing what that beloved old chorus admonishes us to do:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,Look full in His wonderful face.And the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.

Originally written for “my peeps” at Newport Mesa Church Women’s Ministry GIFT Series 2013

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