What is peace? Where do we find it, and how can we achieve it? These are good questions, but in the asking, we find the answer: nowhere. The peace we are referring to, the peace we think we want, is not peace at all, but simply the absence of conflict. For people of faith, peace is not the absence of conflict, not in the Christian sense. Peace is the actual presence of the Holy, the presence of God in our midst. You see, Jesus doesn’t promise us the peace we understand—that is the lie. He promises us peace beyond our understanding—that is the gift.
Sadly, over time, as we grow to accept the “the lack of conflict is peace” lie, the whole of our lives must compensate. This compensation is an acceptance of something that is not, and the damage it causes spirals out far from the lie that bore it. Like mold or fungus growing in the dark slowly covering and corrupting as it consumes, the lie spreads and demands surrender of any opposing view. As a result, a slow dumbing down of all the words of Christ begins: first as skepticism and in the end, unbelief. Bred by disappointment, the inward disquietude produced by the lie, the words become meaningless. This infection of distrust and disbelief dominates our spiritual life and soon, without realizing it, we are saying to ourselves (and others) that the Gospel is all metaphor or that it simply does not apply to us.
The truth is that Jesus promised us miraculous gifts and they are ours for the taking, but we must be able to recognize them in order to receive them; to be able to read the directions in order to comprehend them; to be willing to follow in trust, not to forge ahead on our own. The “dumbing down” of Jesus—His life and His words—must be fought with everything we have, every fiber of our being.
To accept His peace, we must stop trying to dictate the manner in which we will receive it. The truth is, we want it on our terms and in a manner that pleases us with as little effort as possible, but that is not how God has chosen to give His gifts. If we put as much effort into our lives in Christ as we do into our avoidance techniques; if we expend as much energy in our search for greater depth in God as we do suppressing our emotions during those periods of “lack of conflict,” then we would have all that we so desire—and more, more than we can understand.
What to do? Whether you are faithfully waiting, teetering on the edge, or have fallen to that place of unbelief, “The first step in solving the problem is recognizing it exists” (Zig Zigler). Truly seeking the “Peace which passes all understanding” requires we allow God’s peace to be more than what you know, have read, or experienced. You must accept and embrace your fear and disappointment and acknowledge the lie for what it is. Once you have admitted the slow and subtle misdirection, the usurpation of your hope, and the misdirection of your effort, then you will be free and able to accept what God so freely gives.
C.S. Lewis was fond of saying that if we live a certain way, we will soon be the way we live. The lack of conflict is not peace, and peace is not an effort of will. Seeking to deepen our lives in Christ, living the peace of Christ in the midst of our lives, the days of settling will be a part of the disquieted past, and the rest of His words, no longer regarded as metaphor, will ring with divine truth—and peace.
In the Peace of Christ,
Father Bill Burk†