The Elusiveness of Peace

In the midst of my struggles and years of depression, peace was an elusive thing.  I don’t think I remembered what peace actually felt like.  My way of dealing with all of the frightening issues I didn’t want to think about was to keep myself (and especially my mind) busy at all times.  I was literally afraid to stop and think about how my life presently was and what my future may be.

Peace is defined as “the absence of struggling or striving”.   For me, it means I can sit still and no thoughts can place me in a panic.  I treasure peace above all other things in life, because I CAN enjoy it regardless of what is going on around me.  Happiness depends on “happenstance”,  circumstances and situations.  However, peace can be eternal, because it comes from the inside, and more specifically, from the Lord.

Numbers 6:24-26 is a priestly blessing that the Lord told Moses to speak over Aaron and his sons.

24 ” ‘ “The LORD bless you
       and keep you;

 25 the LORD make his face shine upon you
       and be gracious to you;

 26 the LORD turn his face toward you
       and give you peace.” ‘

Imagine what it would be like to see the face of God turning toward you, smiling, saying:

  • I will bless you with all that you NEED,
  • I will keep you in My sight and take care of you,
  • I will graciously forgive your mistakes and empower you to live for Me.
  • I will give you peace.

This blessing meets our deepest psychological needs, and God knows it.  Compare it to  Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” which people need to mature, survive and prosper psychologically:

  • Physiological Needs (I will bless you)
    These include the most basic needs that are vital to survival, such as the need for water, air, food and sleep. Maslow believed that these needs are the most basic and instinctive needs in the hierarchy because all needs become secondary until these physiological needs are met.
  • Security Needs (I will keep you)
    These include needs for safety and security. Security needs are important for survival, but they are not as demanding as the physiological needs. Examples of security needs include a desire for steady employment, health insurance, safe neighborhoods and shelter from the environment.
  • Social Needs (I will be gracious to you; love and forgive you)
    These include needs for belonging, love and affection. Maslow considered these needs to be less basic than physiological and security needs. Relationships such as friendships, romantic attachments and families help fulfill this need for companionship and acceptance, as does involvement in social, community or religious groups.
  • Esteem Needs (I will empower you) 
    After the first three needs have been satisfied, esteem needs becomes increasingly important. These include the need for things that reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition and accomplishment.
  • Self-actualizing Needs (I will give you peace)
    This is the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Self-actualizing people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others and interested fulfilling their potential.
  • God gives peace by promising to take care of our physical needs, protect us, love and forgive us, and empower us to do great things for Him and for others.  I think the self-actualizing needs are where we are so secure in Him that we don’t care what others think and are only concerned about pleasing Him and serving others.

    So what are we normally struggling and striving about?  If peace is the absence of struggling and striving, what is going on in our minds that keep us scurrying around for solutions, even if only in our minds?  Whatever is torturing us must be something which is out of our control, or we’d be handling it and be done with it. 

    So what can we do about something that is out of our control?   We can only ask God to take care of it.  

    What can we do once we have put it in God’s hands?  As Oswald Chambers says, “Trust the Lord and do the next thing.”  Move on to do whatever you CAN do today. 

    In my case, I have to ask myself these questions:

    1. Is there anything I can do in my own strength about this problem RIGHT NOW?  (99% of the time, the answer is “no”.)
    2. Have I asked God to take care of this already?
      1. If I said no, I pray and ask God to take care of it.
      2. If I said yes, I ask God to show me what other things I CAN do something about RIGHT NOW, and I purposefully move on to those things.

    I have found the following combination of actions helpful :

    • acknowledging my powerlessness in the situation
    • making a conscious decision to trust God in matters out of my control, and
    • getting up and DOING something that IS within my control (that could be laundry, work, reading a book, watching tv)

    Of course, while you are reading, working, etc., those thoughts can creep back in.  In that case, I have to say, most of the time out loud,

    “I can’t do anything about that now.  Thinking about it won’t change the situation at all.  Don’t waste another moment in misery – do something constructive or that brings you joy.  God is in control, even though I can’t see it.”

    I have a placque on my office window sill with Jeremiah 17:7 on it.  It reads:

    Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and has made the LORD his hope and confidence.

    If only I could stay that way – continually hoping and being confident in the Lord at all times.   But I forget, I get distracted, or for some masochistic reason, I enjoy the fear or distress I feel while imagining the worst, as if it was some movie playing out in my head.  Maybe it’s my flair for the dramatic?  Who knows. 

    That’s why it is so important to fill our minds, time and social situations with faith-building activities, such as listening to Christian music, reading scripture, praying, meeting together to share our struggles and encouraging each other.  That’s what these posts and http://ChristianWomenWithDepression are for. 

    So what is it that robs you of your peace?  What thoughts keep creeping back into your daily routine?  What are you doing to put those fears in perspective and combat them?  Or are you simply giving in to them?

    I’d love to hear how you deal with this struggle to live in peace.  Leave a comment on this post, or in the Facebook group we have created:  Ask to join and I’ll let you in.  Then we can also have live chats within the group as well.  Sometimes it really helps to have someone to talk to at the moment the struggle is occuring.

    Penny Haynes