My experience of peace often looks like a bell curve.
Starting with my level of peace at zero and overwhelmed with worry, I solve my anxiety-inducing problems, or, more often than not, they just become less worrisome to me as time goes on.
From this, my peace levels then begin to move up and to the right until they reach their height. At this point, I’m feeling fantastic.
For a moment.
Quickly, new problems emerge. I handle one problem well without losing much peace, but then another appears and another and another and another. Soon enough, I’m being overcome and overwhelmed by the feelings, the thoughts, and the fears.
My peace levels fall. Sometimes it goes slowly down and to the right. Sometimes, or oftentimes, it’s a fast free fall to the graph floor.
From there, I faithfully copy the bell curve and paste it again:
So, what am I to do?
If I only have peace when there aren’t any problems, I’m going to be rising and falling on a graph until my (elctrocardio)graph flat lines.
Enter this excerpt from Paul of Tarsus’ prison letter to the ancient Macedonian city of Philippi:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6–7
From this ancient piece of writing we learn that…
- True and lasting peace is something that human beings can not manufacture on their own.
- Peace is the result of an authentic and dependent relationship with God.
- True peace, what is here called, the peace of God, is something that surpasses all understanding.
And that word sums up the problem in my bell curve…
The peace that I try to manufacture and that gets destroyed by any and every slightly negative circumstance, is based on my understanding of my circumstances.
This is a very, very difficult concept for most of us to accept.
It’s not difficult for children to accept that their parents are the answer to their problems.
This is why Jesus asserts that “unless [we] change and become like little children, [we] will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3, NIV).
It’s difficult for us to accept that letting go, becoming like a child, speaking with God, and trusting him to take care of things, is better than figuring it out.
True and lasting peace does not come through understanding the circumstance or the problem, it comes through trust and dependence.
Trust and dependence always look like letting go.
That’s the point of the prayer, the petition, and the presenting of requests. You’re invited to give your worries and the stress about your circumstances to God.
What’s assumed in asking and giving is that you trust God to take care of the anxiety in the same way that the child trusts their parent.
By letting go of the worry and anxiety and the need to understand, we can experience peace.
It’s completely logical that peace would be beyond understanding because worry and anxiety are beyond understanding as well.
Anxiety almost never actually makes sense — that’s why it’s difficult.
Our anxiety is almost never universally anxiety-inducing and it would not cause all of the people around us the same amount of worry that it’s causing us. It’s beyond understanding.
An anxiety beyond understanding needs a peace that is beyond understanding.
This is for me and it’s for you.
The path to peace is exceedingly simple but especially difficult.
When this peace is found it becomes a protection for your heart and mind from future onslaughts of anxiety.
When we find this peace, it’s for others as well. Our world needs people with this kind of peace.
With peace comes the ability to solve difficult problems faster and more creatively.
Those of us who can find freedom from our individual cycles of anxiety and worry can enter the deeper problems of our world with this same peace, confident and excited to be a part of their solutions.
Kill the bell curve by acting like a child and letting go of understanding.
This is my daily project where I write about diverse ideas.
This is Dose #39.