The Lord is My Peace
by Twila Smucker
This article first appeared in the May/June 2015 print edition of Daughters of Promise.
Hurry, hurry! Get the beds made, the house back to order, and a big batch of food stirred up! Company is coming again after two families left a day ago. Several more parties, a total of 21 people, will be here by suppertime. One daughter is off to her gardening job, another to the bakery, a third is desperately trying to meet her DOP photography deadline. Garden produce is popping and needs to be harvested. A disagreement breaks out between the two remaining girls at home about who is responsible for what jobs.
The refrigerator is on the blink for a few days right at the height of company season. A phone call asking for special prayers from a daughter far away adds to my worries ...she is being detained by policemen for hours in a Muslim country. Dresses need to be sewed for a friend’s wedding coming up. Loud piano chords and song practices add to our din. Having both students and teachers in the house creates crazy school schedules.... These are a few snapshots of life at the Smucker household.
After I was contacted about doing a “God is my..” article, I told my calm, steady husband that I felt God was laying on my heart to write about peace. When I expressed my concern that I was not qualified for this topic, he wryly commented, “Well, you aren’t exactly the picture of serenity sometimes”. Ouch! How true...but sometimes it is in our greatest weakness that we begin to grasp hold of the answer to our need.
With a household of 5 daughters, ages 21, 19, 17, 14, and 9, we have plenty of chaos and excitement happening around here. Add to that my tendency towards worry, anxiety and fear, and things can get pretty “unpeaceful” at times. I worry at how dark things look in the world today. I fear what my children will have to face in the future. Will all of them choose to serve God wholeheartedly or will they believe the deceptions of Satan? Are the health symptoms of one something serious? There are fears of rejection and abandonment, if people dear to me learn to know the real me and my issues. What will so-and-so think if they catch me in this huge mess? Sometimes I wrestle with the question of whether God or anyone else really cares about me. It is so easy to try to hide behind masks or attempt to control situations that I really can’t and shouldn’t try to control. I wish I could fix everybody and everything that is wrong, and can easily become distraught when life doesn’t turn out quite like I had pictured it would.
Jehovah-shalom....God is my peace. HE is the answer to my struggle to find peace in the midst of chaos and turmoil, in the MIDDLE of life’s greatest challenges. Peace is not found in idyllic conditions. You may picture peace as rocking on your front porch, drinking coffee and enjoying your hanging flower baskets; a perfectly obedient and orderly family; a long quiet walk through a wooded forest; sitting on a tropical beach being mesmerized by the turquoise waves; having lots of quiet and solitude to spend reflecting on God’s Word. I am sure you can imagine what you think a truly peaceful scene would be. We think of peace as tranquility; serenity; freedom from annoyance, distraction,and anxiety.
The first time in the Bible that God is called “Jehovahshalom” (God is Peace), is in Judges 6, during a very dark time in Israel’s history. Things seemed extremely hopeless for the Israelites. They had been given into the hands of the Midianites because of evil that they had done. They were living as fugitives in mountain caves. Their enemies came and stole their crops and killed their animals. Into the midst of this turmoil, God sent his prophet Gideon. He called him his mighty warrior, even though Gideon protested that he was from the weakest clan, the least in his family. He felt totally helpless in his own strength. God answered, “ I will be with you, and you will strike down the Midianites.” Gideon wanted a sign that this was really God talking to him, so he made an offering to God of a young goat and some bread, and the angel of the Lord came and touched the offering. Fire flamed from the rock, burning up the offering. In awe, Gideon realized that an angel of God had done this. God said to him, “PEACE! Do not be afraid! You are not going to die.” Then Gideon built an altar to the Lord there, and called it Jehovahshalom...“The Lord is Peace”.
If you think things were easy for Gideon after that, you are mistaken. In the next chapters, we see bloody warfare. Hard times. Ugliness. Criticism of Gideon’s leadership. His own brothers killed. Not exactly peaceful tranquility. But Gideon clung to God, and looked back on that altar, where God had promised to be with him. He fought the battles and won. And in the end, during Gideon’s lifetime, Israel enjoyed peace for forty years.
I think many of the hymn writers knew what it was to experience this kind of peace, confident in God in the midst of trials. I love many of the old hymns expressing this. One example is that of Horatio Spafford who penned, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul”, after he had lost his 4 daughters in a shipwreck, his only son to scarlet fever, and his wealth to a fire.
Cleland McAfee, whose two nieces died of diphtheria in 1903, wrote, “There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God. A place where sin cannot molest, near to the heart of God. There is a place of full release, near to the heart of God. A place where all is joy and peace, near to the heart of God.” This new hymn was sung outside of the quarantined house after his nieces had died. The words resonate so much with what God has been teaching me. Peace can be only found by drawing near to my Heavenly Father’s heart and letting Him hold and love me. Only there, close to His heart, can I rest from my fears and the need to control my own life. Only there will I find the security and comfort my soul craves.
There is a story of a painting contest, where artists were asked to portray a picture of peace. The painting that won the contest was of a violent storm at sea. High on a cliff, in the midst of lightning and crashing waves, there was a bird’s nest with a mother bird protecting her babies who were sound asleep. This is peace...not the absence of a storm, but rest in the midst of the storm.
God will sometimes strip us of all that we put our security in so that we no longer depend on shallow, circumstantial peace that comes from having a perfect life and great surroundings. He wants us to learn to depend on HIM as our source of true inner peace that cannot be ripped away from us no matter how scary life becomes. Jesus, in the last hours of his life here on earth, when his disciples were about to experience the worst thing imaginable, His death, assures them: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you...Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid...These things I have spoken to you, that in ME you may have peace.” John 14:27, 16:33.
The key to finding peace is to center my mind on God, refusing to let unbelief and fear rule. Ephesians 2:14 says, “He HIMSELF is our peace!” Trusting that God is good and loving, that He is in control and has a purpose for all things that are happening to me, frees me. Sometimes in the midst of especially chaotic times, I need to steal away for a solitary walk or bike ride or go work on my flower beds in the evening calm. Then I can refocus on who God is and what His will is for me in my situation. I am soothed by meditating on verses like Isaiah 26:3, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee,” or singing songs like, “Prince of Peace, control my will, bid this struggling heart be still, bid my fears and doubtings cease, hush my spirit into peace.” Refusing to allow Satan to rob me of my peace and filling my mind with God’s truth is active warfare. Sometimes it helps to write down the lies Satan is telling me and then write God’s truths beside those lies. God is teaching me, in the midst of my brokenness and heartaches, to be a prayer warrior, not a panicked worrier. Worry is not real action, PRAYER is!
Maybe you are distressed about your unknown future. Perhaps a loved one is dying and you are apprehensive about how you will survive without him or her. Maybe you are being called to serve in a mission in a place that terrifies you. Lack of peace can come from not wholly giving your heart to Jesus, from hanging onto sin, and from living for self, or because you are afraid and don’t believe that God is truly good. Humbly surrender that need to control your own life. Release your bitterness and worry, your anxieties about your own performance or your lack of strength. Jesus is the author and finisher of your faith. God wants you and me to experience deep peace that no person or circumstance can take away from us. Rest in the love of your Heavenly Father who longs to hold you safely and give you peace.