Why can’t I feel any peace?

4 Comments

Why is peace so illusive, so fleeting?

Peace

My husband was asking these questions the other night.  He faces weekly writing deadlines, a new vocation for him here in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  As soon as he hits ‘send’ on his computer, dispatching one assignment to an editor, another one looms.  Writing does not come easily to him, although he writes well.  He rightly throws himself on the mercy of God each time, counting on our Father’s very nature as provider to make it possible to complete each article and radio piece.

He KNOWS that only empowered by Christ, can he do what God has called him to do.  And even though God ALWAYS comes through, that doesn’t seem to provide the sense of security that he associates with a feeling of deep peace.

It was at the tail end of dinner last week, on one of those still evenings when we were savoring supper ‘en plein air’.  The sun had already set in the autumn sky, but the rich crimson and golden colors lingered, dazzled our senses.  He sighed as he posed his existential question about holding on to peace.  Would he never be able to relax?

When I mentioned that life was hard and that I didn’t know ANYone who lived with continual peace, he retorted: “So basically, life sucks, is that what you’re telling me?”

I didn’t do a good job with THAT question and stood up to clear the table.  I knew he wasn’t really asking for an answer, but struggling with anxiety. Worded in that kind of confrontational way, no answer I could have provided would have satisfied him.  But it did cause me to think through peace since Thursday.

Video Game level

I’m reminded of catching past snippets of gaming boys’ conversations when young men still gathered at our house to spend hours sitting cross-legged in front of the TV, controller in hand.  As soon as they had mastered one level, they ‘graduated’ to another one of greater difficulty and danger.  I think life in the School of Faith is like that.  We pass one test and move on to the next class or grade level, all guaranteed to be more challenging than previous ones!  No time to just hang out, coast and enjoy one’s new skills and feel like THIS IS EASY!

When I questioned a more rational Mike later, when he wasn’t feeling so pressured and angst-filled, he acknowledged that he knows there are Christians who have managed to achieve a level of peace.  And he is correct.  But that is ‘in spite of circumstances’ not because of life’s details and arrangements.

Just looking at how the concept of peace is taught in the Bible, it’s obvious that the only lasting peace is that which is a gift from God.  When we KNOW that God is no longer angry with us, but that we actually belong to Him for ever, that we are loved, adopted kids, then we can FEEL peace.

But here’s the trick, at least for me.  That authentic peace is tangible as long as I’m meditating on my relationship and status with God.  As soon as I shift away from God and look at my circumstances, I plunge into SUB-peace, to put it mildly.

So what’s the answer? Are we doomed to this see-saw existence?  A ‘sucky’ life punctuated by moments of stumbling onto a pocket of peace and then the acknowledgement (aka re-remembering) that God alone provides true peace?

No!!!

Here’s where I draw comfort – if Paul can LEARN to be content, then we can LEARN to remember that we already ARE in a state of peace and can run back to it anytime.  Remembering is based on knowledge and it is up to us to direct our thoughts to what we know for a fact.

You ask: “Where does it say THAT in the Bible?”

The mercurial Peter passes on that truth from God:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

If you’re like me, I forget easily.  This is why we have to talk to ourselves and to each other, with plentiful reminders of truth we already know.  No shame in that.

I WAS ashamed, however, at how unwilling I was to engage with my precious husband that night of his flailing around looking for firm ground.  What convicted me (and entertained and inspired me) was the teaching of a pastor I heard via a podcast.  THIS IS THE VERY BEST SERMON ON AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANITY THAT I’VE HEARD IN A LONG TIME. If you know someone who has been turned off by the Church or Christians, then listen to this and consider sharing it with them. Link here

Question: So what helps YOU hold onto God’s peace? 

Shalom

 

 

What anxiety reveals about me and you

2 Comments

I realized during a busy period last week that my happiness was not based on Christ alone, but on ‘Christ Plus_____(fill in the blank)’

Christ Plus

That’s not something fun to admit.  But the realization came to me on Thursday, my grocery-shopping day, when I was feeling SCATTERED by all the tasks and details left unfinished at school.   There’s a lot of new tech at school this year and I’ve gained another class to prep to boot.  The workshop I had suggested presenting was staring me in the face with fewer than 40 hours to go and there just didn’t seem to be enough time.  You know the feeling!

But because God had sovereignly brought a blog essay across my path the week before, I was able to recognize and call out my sin for what it was – idolatry!  Just acknowledging that my anxiety in the form of feeling scattered and being bothered meant that I was living according to a formula for happiness rebuked by Jesus was enough to save me in the moment.

Here’s what I realized:  I have made my happiness and peace of mind dependent on getting through my daily agenda, that is

 ….getting stuff done!

To Do List

 

 

Guess what?  All it takes to disturb my happiness is to interfere with my ability to get stuff done.  That’s a pretty precarious position to be in since it means I have basically handed over to the vicissitudes of life the power to block my contentment and peace.

My husband often points out that:

  • unmet expectations are the source of frustration, disappointment and anger

I should know better about all this.  After all, I’ve listened to enough sermons by Pastor Tullian Tchividjean to know and explain his thesis about justification.  His main message is that we don’t have to do ANYthing to secure our justification (salvation) or identity since Jesus provides both.  But I had missed the corollary that Jesus also is the only/alone source of our happiness and contentment. Our formula for true happiness is to have Jesus, aka ‘to be had’ by Jesus.  And anyone who is ‘in Christ’, that is anyone who has given up his ability to help and save himself and who has handed over to Jesus the right to run his life autonomously is ‘in Christ’.

Here is the coolest thing. Once I SAW my sin and asked for forgiveness from Jesus, I felt light!  I was able to do my shopping and interact with the employees that I see every Thursday.  Because I wasn’t fuming about my day, I could focus on them and show interest in how their day was going.  And the more I meditated on this reality, I also was able to hand over all the stuff I needed to do and to realize that THAT LIST had nothing to do with my ultimate happiness.

By the way, the workshop on Saturday proceeded just fine.  The participants enjoyed it and were engaged in discussing God’s command to be free from covetousness and how He helps His flock to find true and lasting contentment.  All went off without a hitch, thanks to God working through the prayers of many of you!

If you’d like to read the blog post that set me to thinking freshly about true happiness, here’s the link

 

 

What to do with fear, worry, doubt and self-pity

Leave a comment

Francis Frangipane quickly put his finger on just what fear, worry, doubt and self-pity are:  tools in the hand of the devil.

Frangipane - the 3 battlegrounds

In his book on spiritual warfare, Link to Amazon here, Frangipane explains how by recognizing when there is a disturbance to your peace, you can turn away from all those SELF-feelings and submit to God’s will.  The supernatural gift of peace that will flood or trickle back into your consciousness is actually a blow against Satan.

 

 

 

Here’s how this teaching has helped me during the past week.

Multiple times I caught myself worshipping the false God of the What If (that is – meditating on imaginary fearful scenarios – some of my temptations to worry focus on the safety of my kids and their families driving….)

When I caught myself worrying/fearing, I stopped and said:

  • This feeling is a tool from Satan
  • I’m serving a false god by spinning out these thoughts
  • Let me run back to the only true and living God
  • He tells me: “Don’t fear what they fear; do not be frightened” (1 Pet 3:14b)

A brief parenthetical explanation – I learned last weekend at the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference in Orlando that to eliminate the satanic fears that plague us (what one speaker called ‘servile fear’ – akin to what a prisoner might experience being dragged off to be tortured and/or executed) we must replace them with the healthy, life-giving fear that God bestows on us when we are saved.  This is a ‘filial fear’.  This right view of God, called the Fear of the Lord, is similar to what a beloved and secure daughter or son feels toward the parent whom they want to make smile.

  • My God reminds me of the healthy kind of fear by saying, “Instead of those deadening, depressing fears you’ve indulged in, fear ME, the God who created you and who sustains you.  Then you will see clearly and be reminded that I have everything under control.  Keep your eyes on ME and step by step I will guide you because your heart is focused on submitting to my will.
  • Once I have thought this through (takes about 30 seconds), I breathe deeply and the peace flows back into my consciousness.

fear of the lord

 

 

 

 

 

*

As encouraged as I am by this new way of thinking, I want you to know how often I bow down to the god of fear and worry. I catch myself falling back into life-sucking thoughts multiple times in the day.  But I’m beginning to feel more powerful, now that I can talk back to the Master Liar and step back into the light.

talk back to the devil

Psalm 34: 7 to 9  The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing

What do you do with your suffering?

1 Comment

Suffering

 

 

 

If you can commit to reading one ‘meaty’ book this summer that will bless you, invest the time in Tim Keller’s work:

Walking with God through pain and suffering

Here’s what resonated this morning during my 10 minutes (I’ve been reading just a few pages at the end of my quiet time):

Boiled down….

  • Either God is the ‘supporting actor or accomplice’ in the drama called Me or He is God and I am not guaranteed that I’ll understand all His ways in my life.

Framing God as MY helper results in the following:

  • ‘desperate, doomed, exhausting effort to control all the circumstances of my life’
  • anxiety about how my life will turn out – Maybe God won’t answer my prayer THIS way!
  • the burden of thinking my life is up to me and my prayers
  • the fear of ‘bad stuff’ happening to those whom I love: what if?????

what if

 

 

  •  By planning out how God should act in my circumstances and solve the problems of those I love, I’ve actually created an IDOL, a version of God that suits me, despite the anxiety I experience.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

The one and only true and living God offers a way out if I…..:

  • Acknowledge that He alone is God and there is no other
  • His ways are best.  He IS the Creator and Sustainer of all life
  • He doesn’t owe me an explanation; after all He is transcendant and I’m finite.  I doubt I’d understand all that He is doing even if He told me!
  • There can be only one Happy Controller, King of Kings & Lord of Lords – and that job is taken! (1 Tim  6:15)

Tim Keller draws from Elizabeth Elliot’s writings.  She’s the widow of Jim Elliot who was murdered by those to whom he was witnessing.  She has known more suffering than a lot of us.  Out of the richness of  lessons learned through pain, she cautions against figuring out God’s reasons for suffering.

When we find ourselves praying from a belief system we’ve created ourselves, “My God would never do XYZ!”, then we should be alerted to our own idolatry.

Idolatry

 

 

 

Elliot recounts the story of a missionary who lived in constant anxiety:

  • ‘Margaret realizes that the demise of her plans had shattered her false god, and now she was free for the first time to worship the True One.  When serving the god-of-my-plans, she had been extraordinarily anxious.  She had never been sure that God was going to come through for her and “get it right.”  She was always trying to figure out how to bring God to do what she had planned.  But she had not really been treating him as God – as the all-wise, all-good, all-powerful one.  Now she had been liberated to put her hope NOT in her agendas and plans but in God himself.  If she could make this change, it would bring a rest and security she had never had.’  (p. 172, Keller)

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for a while,  you might recall that two years ago I read another book about letting God be God called Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow: Link to her book here.  That’s where I learned about handing over the reins of my life to God.  Obviously reading one book and discussing it with a friend was not enough to cause lasting change!  Thank you Tim Keller for providing another reminder of the burden/sin /illusion of control.

Question: Do you really want to control your own life? 

Controlling my life

 

 

Fraud and Freedom

2 Comments

What if we could take off the mask and let the world see us for who we really are?

Fraud - 23 Feb 2014

None of us is truly transparent.  We present our best foot forward and then go on the defensive when called on our less than accurate self- projection.

I heard the story told of an older pastor who had given a talk at a PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) conference.  A young serious pastor approached him after his delivery and said that he had been much ‘grieved’ by both his attitude and his talk.  The mature man nonchalantly acknowledged his comment but didn’t say anything else.  The earnest young man continued with something like: ‘You shouldn’t be teaching those things in that way!’   Again….the bait wasn’t swallowed.

Finally the exasperated mininster sputtered, “Well, don’t you want to know what I think of you!?”

“Not really,” came the response, ” but if you really feel you have to tell me, I’ll listen…for about 15 seconds!”

At that invitation, our young man spit out, ” You’re ARROGANT, SMUG and WRONG!”

The calm older man looked at him in the eye and said one word – “Bingo!”  Then he continued, “You’re right, but you should have seen me 5 years ago!  I’m a lot better now, thanks be to God!”

Bingo - 23 Feb

**

Can you imagine how free you would feel not to have to pretend, project or protect?  No reputation to be maintained….no persona to nourish…no posturing to keep up?  Just safe and secure knowing that you’re chosen by God, loved by God and being sanctified by God.  And since God knows everything and it’s HIS opinion that counts, you wouldn’t have to care what others would think.

I can SEE that and TASTE that…but I am not there yet.  But, boy, do I sure want to swim in THAT ocean of freedom and grace.

Dear Lord, translate this vision into something I can grasp and live in!

Grace upon Grace - 23 Feb 2014

How do Christians make decisions?

Leave a comment

Do Christians make decisions differently than non-Christians?

I ask because I think that all of us, pagans and Christians alike, want to make good decisions and have peace.

It seems to me that within the Christian community, there are two approaches.  I have tried both and am now a practitioner of the 2nd kind.

The first decision-crisis I ever lived through was when our oldest son, a new Christian, was faced with a significant intersection in his life.  He was a freshman in college and had applied to a different one for his sophomore year.  When he was accepted in January, he faced a difficult choice.  And as a baby believer, he wanted to trust God.  He explicitly announced that he was going to wait on God to give him an answer.  That got ME worried!

  • what if God didn’t answer him; how would he decide?
  • what would an answer even look like?
  • how might a lack of response impact his fledgling faith?

Graham, himself, didn’t know what to expect, but he plunged ahead with this ‘experiment’ in what he thought was biblical decision-making.  He vacillated for about 2 weeks and finally got mad at God. Then God graciously gave him a consistent FEELING of rightness about staying at the current college and NOT transferring.  After living with the FEELING that staying was the right choice, Graham declined the offer from the other college.

I, too, had a feeling-based decision-making experience.  I decided I wanted to leave a current job.  But on the assumption that I should wait for a sign from God, I did nothing but pray.  What would a sign from God look like?  That was the scary part!  Would I even recognize God’s prompting?

Graciously, God indulged my immature view and gave me a feeling of, “I’ve had it!” at the current school. With my husband’s approval, I told my supervisor that I would not seek a contract for the following year. My Christian friends supported this decision-making method by quoting me the verse from Colossians 3:15…Let the peace of God rule or umpire in your hearts.

It seems like Christians live by feelings and not by faith.  And I was one of them.  But reading Kevin DeYoung’s book, Just Do Something,

on decision-making started to change how I make decisions.     Link to Amazon

His premise is that as we soak in God’s principles from the Bible, we gain wisdom.  And God actually wants us to put that wisdom to use.  We are to grow up as we practice walking by faith in Him and not by sight. If we wait on a sign from Him, then we risk nothing.   But if we make a decision, having prayed and sought counsel, then our acting IS a step of faith. And God promises to guide our ‘ship in motion’ if we head in the wrong direction.

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord guides his steps. Prov 16:9

Elizabeth Elliott, a godly and mature older Christian, addresses that perennial topic: How do we know God’s will for our life.  Like Kevin DeYoung, she also counsels wise action when she says, DO THE NEXT THING.

Actually God’s will for our life really isn’t about whom we should marry or which job to take.  It’s our growing up in godliness that He’s after.  At some point, the training wheels come off and we walk on our own.  (But Abba-Papa is always near)

Next week, God-willing,  I ‘ll talk about our experiment with the ‘step out in faith’  type of decision-making.  In the mean time, I’d love to hear about YOUR experiences in dealing with decisions as you have grown in Christ.

The fallacy of multi-tasking

Leave a comment

I used to take pride in being able to multi-task…

…and  feel smugly superior to those who merely did one task at a time. Of course I never considered the quality of my work; the only purpose of splitting my focus was to move more stuff off my TO-DO list in less time.

Gradually, in the past 3 years, I have come to admit that I can’t multi-task at all! Whether it’s because I”m over 50 or I’m growing spiritually, I am seeing my limits and not railing against them.

Actually, multi-tasking is not the way God calls us to operate.

Eccles 4:6 – Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. 

So if we aren’t to toil double-fisted, how ARE we to work?  

  • Consciously, with His glory in view,
  • Depending on HIS energy,
  • Remembering that we serve both as an ambassador of Christ’s AND a servant of God.

If people can judge us by our work, then we want it to be representative of the family we belong to! Moreover it is axiomatic that completing or performing a job well takes time. 

My husband’s colleague used to quip, “Why is there  never enough time to do something right the first time, but there is always enough time to do it over?” 

If we’re just fooling ourselves about our ability to do more than one thing at a time, does that mean NO ONE can handle simultaneous activities?

Actually there is someone who can – God!

Here are two illustrations – one from the New City Catechism –  Catechism link  and the other, a quote from John Piper.  First the catechism – this comes from Question 37 – How does the Holy Spirit help us? 

Answer: The Holy Spirit 

  1. convicts us of sin
  2. comforts us
  3. guides us
  4. gives us spiritual gifts
  5. and the desire to obey God
  6. and he enables us to pray
  7. and to understand God’s Word

When I meditated on that, I realized that He is doing that ALL the time, perfectly.  And we aren’t even addressing what God the Father and God the Son are doing at the same time. Our triune God is the ultimate multi-tasker.  And that is how John Piper views him.

His comment below in the picture comforts me.  I can trust God to accomplish far more than I can ask or imagine simply because He IS God and a good one, to boot.

So take heart, dear ones.  We were never meant to do more than one thing at a time.  It’s okay to do a task well, completely, thoroughly and excellently (without striving for perfection).  Let’s resolve to slow down and trust God’s sovereign control over our time.  And leave the multitasking to the Godhead!

Older Entries Newer Entries

%d bloggers like this: