I showed this study to a friend of mine and his response was, “only 27%? That’s not bad.”
Yes, it says 27%; but that’s 27% of people that are so stressed that they “CANT FUNCTION!” The numbers for debilitating to distracting daily stress range 60 to 80%. Politics, the economy, the environment, personal relations, job security, educational opportunities, and so many more reasons were given as the sources of fear and stress. In a world that is breeding chaos and uncertainty, how do we find peace?
(see full report here: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2022/concerned-future-inflation )
Anxiety or Peace: It’s Your Choice
To find the answer to this question we start with St. Paul. While Paul was in prison in Rome, facing probable execution, he wrote a letter to the Church in Phillipi. Paul, more that most, had legitimate reasons to be anxious, but he wrote to comfort the Philippians in their need.
In Philippians 4:6, Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything,” implying that anxiety was a choice. Paul reminds the Philippians, and us, that living in this world will present challenges and unavoidable confrontations. The reality of living is to be in conflict; the question is how we will deal with this truth. So, how do we get “the peace that surpasses all understanding” that Paul speaks about?
Paul directs us to call on God through prayer. We can turn to a lot of different people or places or philosophers to try to get help with our anxiety. The best place is to turn to God. Like all things, calling on God is a choice, we decide what call we make. We can make a call to Google, or artificial intelligence, or some book that we have read, or some person. Or we can turn to God in prayer and call out for help and comfort.
We know that anxiety is created in us as we respond to events around us. Our response is the root of fear and anxiety: by choosing God in prayer, peace becomes the possible outcome of our choice. Communion and fellowship with God leave no room for anxiety!
Picture a raging storm around a mountainous rock-face, anywhere up in the highest peaks. In the middle of that rock-face, is a crevice, which extends far enough into the rock to enable a bird to sit on her clutch of eggs in a firmly secured and comfortable nest without so much as a puff of air ruffing her feathers. The storm is raging all around her, but here she sits, in absolute peace and quiet, patiently waiting for the storm to pass.
I would suggest that this illustration describes the peace that surpasses all understanding that God promised.
Peace is not the absence of war, turmoil, and trouble, as the prophet Isaiah promised. It is in the midst of a raging storm that Isaiah references, the days of God’s people during the terrifying Assyrian aggression in Isaiah 9. Isaiah promises a Son, given by God and being born into the human world; specifically, the Jewish world (Isaiah 9:6). The phrase “unto us a Son is given”, in the Old Testament emphasizes a unique gift of God. In Isaiah 9:6 this Son is given four names: Wonderful Counselor (Pele-Yoeitz), Mighty God (El-Gibbor), Eternal Father (Avi-Ad), Prince of Peace (Sar-Shalom).
These four names are all used elsewhere in the book of Isaiah and in each case, they are used of God, never of man. For example: the name “Prince of Peace”: Isaiah 26:3 says “The steadfast of mind you will keep in perfect peace…” The object and subject of the sentence is God’s self. Again, in Isaiah 26:12 the work of peace is attributed to God: “Lord, you will establish peace for us…”. Indeed, in the Book of Isaiah, the title “Prince of Peace,” always refers to God and the works of God.
Isaiah 9:6 presents us with a Being who is both God and man. Isaiah 9:7 shows us that this person is the Messiah of Israel: He is to sit upon the throne of David. Isaiah 9:7 is a reaffirmation of the Davidic covenant. In the Davidic covenant, God promised David four things:
So, how do we get “the peace that surpasses all understanding” that Paul speaks about?
Like the bird, sitting comfortably in her nest in the midst of the storm, believers in Christ know that, because of sin, the storms will always rage around us. We know that we are unable to manufacture peace in a world where there is no real peace. We seek a peace beyond and above the world; we seek peace from God, through the sacrifice of Christ.
Prayer is the key to peace, but in truth, the peace we seek and can receive, is simply a byproduct of the real action of prayer. Prayer is the path to intimacy, the conversation of love—with Jesus. The closer we get to Jesus the greater our peace and eventually, a peace which is not affected by the world we live in. Our peace is from God, which is freely given and absolute, though we may not understand it.
Our familiar New Revised Standard translation of Philippians 4:6-7 says,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I love the Passion Translation; live through these words and be at peace.
Philippians 4:6-7 The Passion Translation (TPT)
Don’t be pulled in different directions by the world or worried about anything. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ.
In the peace of Christ,
Father Bill Burk†