Peace is something the world desperately needs. All around there are stories of war, of terrorism, of broken relationships, of hurt and heartache- of people at war with one another, with God, with themselves.
One of the most beautiful promises of Advent is of Jesus coming as the one who will bring peace. Isaiah describes him as the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Zechariah talks of the coming of a king who will bring peace: “I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all weapons used in battle and your king will bring peace to the nations.” (Zechariah 9:10). Micah writes of a time when “Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore. Everyone will live in peace and prosperity… for there will be nothing to fear.” (Micah 4:3-4)
Clearly all of these prophecies have not yet been completely fulfilled. One day all things will be restored and made new, but this is not yet our experience.
On a personal level I have been struggling to experience Jesus’ peace this week. Anxiety, which rears its ugly head from time to time, has been more severe than it has been for a while. In the past it has been a lot worse, but I have found that my mind has been racing- worrying, overthinking, catastrophizing- despite my best efforts to control it, and this is not a path that leads to peace.
So what does the promise of peace actually mean for today? And where can we find peace now?
Here are a few thoughts that stood out to me as I looked at some verses in the New Testament:
Jesus has the power to bring peace into a chaotic situation. Just a simple word is enough as his disciples discovered out on the lake in the middle of a raging storm: Jesus “awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:39)
Jesus’ promise of peace does not mean we will never face trials or problems, but it does mean he is with us and he is stronger. “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Strangely, Jesus also said, “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) Everywhere his message is preached, it brings division- there are some people who believe but there are some who reject it and often fight against it. As followers of Jesus we can expect to face insults, lack of understanding and even persecution. We are also in a spiritual battle “against mighty powers in this dark world and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12) so we are called to put on God’s armour and be ready for battle. We can find peace though in knowing that God has already conquered: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20) That doesn’t sound like a very peaceful act, but it is necessary in order to achieve not just a temporary, superficial peace, but complete, eternal peace.
Most importantly, through Jesus, we can have peace with God. “He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross…You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body.” (Colossians 1:20-22)
Ultimately, I think we can find peace in knowing Jesus as the Prince of Peace, knowing that- despite the chaos in the world, in our lives, in our own hearts- he is in charge, he is with us, he is for us, and one day we will fully experience the complete peace that he has already won for us.
We find peace in choosing to fix our eyes on that, giving our worries to God, and instead of fixating on our anxieties choosing to focus our minds on him. Isaiah writes: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.” (Isaiah 26:3)
I’m preaching to myself here, but hopefully it is helpful for someone else as well!
“Lord, you reach out to the world in its deepest, darkest hopelessness. Through the shadows of my own anxiety, the dark doubts of night, I grasp at your promise: “I am with you always.” I whisper the words till they become my peace.”