The Quest for Peace

Two Swans at Dusk
Photograph by Steven Pinker


The Quest for Peace

I heard a story recently about a nagging wife who kept writing complaining letters to her serviceman husband who was on combat duty in another country. Finally, after receiving yet another hateful letter, the husband wrote back, "Will you please stop writing me vicious letters so I can fight this war in peace?"

We all want peace, don't we? Personally and nationally we crave it. Yet, so few of us find it. I've read that over half the beds in our hospitals today are filled with people who have mental problems. These individuals have desperately sought for peace but haven't found it. At last, they have reached the place where they can no longer cope with life, and they have become ill.

A noted doctor once said that if all the tranquilizers were taken away from the American people, we would have a national nervous breakdown so big there wouldn't be enough well people to take care of the sick ones. People who take tranquilizers are trying to push the turbulence in their lives out of their minds. They have to resort to a little pill to put them in "peaceful" oblivion.

My heart goes out to those who do not know the meaning of peace. Each day is a repetition of the previous one, filled with hostility, despair, and loneliness. They are miserable, frustrated, and unhappy with themselves and everyone around them.

A picture of peace

Remember the story of the rich man who commissioned an artist to paint him a picture illustrating true peace. The artist painted a beautiful picture of a lake surrounded by trees. In the distance were majestic, snow-covered mountains.

When the rich man saw it, he shook his head. "It's very beautiful," he told the artist, "but it's not a picture of true peace. Please try again."

This time the artist thought a long time before he began to paint. On the canvas, he painted a huge, thundering waterfall. He showed the water churning over the falls and crashing onto rocks far below. Then, at one side of the waterfall, he painted a birch tree whose slender branches reached out over the roaring water. On one of the branches, he painted a little bird sitting quietly and contentedly on her nest, oblivious to the danger around her.

That is true peace -- not an escape from the pressures and trials of life but the quiet repose of a heart at rest with God. Jesus said, These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Jesus' life was anything but peaceful. Yet, His last legacy to His disciples and to all those who would follow Him was the promise of peace. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).

I love the old hymn that goes:

Trust and rest when all around thee
Puts thy faith to sorest test;
Let no fear or foe confound thee,
Wait for God and trust and rest.
Trust and rest with heart abiding,
Like a birdling in its nest,
Underneath His feathers hiding,
Fold thy wings and trust and rest.

I don't know the things in your life that cause you unrest and destroy your peace. But I want to remind you that there is a way to handle them. God has given us guidelines that can take us through these troublesome times.

Guidelines for troubled times

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God (Matthew 5:9). What does that mean to you in your everyday life? It means that if you will turn your thoughts to God, He will take control. Then, regardless of the conditions around you, you have His abiding peace, joy, patience -- whatever you need at the moment -- to draw on.

The Apostle Paul tells us that He [Jesus] is our [way of] peace (Ephesians 2:14). It's only when we follow after Him that the walls of hostility which surround us come tumbling down. He is our way of living at peace with others. Paul also speaks of those who do not seek after God, and he observes that they do not know the way of peace (see Romans 3:17).

A verse that has helped so many who were going through turbulent times is Isaiah 26:3, Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. When you keep your mind on the Lord and trust unwaveringly in Him, you can truly live in peace though the world around you be filled with turmoil and strife.

My prayer for you today is that... the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

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