“I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27
When you think of peace, of what do you think? Peace for many may be being at home alone with no kids, eating whatever you want with no interruptions, and no sibling rivalry. Peace could be a cup of coffee. A comfy blanket. A good book. When we think of peace we often think of calm. Relaxation. Quiet.
Perhaps to you peace is a place. A moment. Or even a person.
For many it’s often an escape they crave. Peace is how they tune out. Shut out. Numb all the thoughts and feelings about what is going on in the outside world. For a moment, anyway. Until even these practices-people, places, habits- can become destructive and lead us to anything but peace.
They become destructive because we seek what Jesus indicates we should be avoiding-the world’s version of what provides us peace, and it falls short every single time.
It could be these things, yes. But I think it is also so much more. Because there are spaces we can be in at any given moment that are not peaceful based on an average definition of peace. Our thoughts may be loud, and the spaces may not simply be quiet and calm around us. The circumstances we face may actually be full of chaos and turmoil, but we can still have peace and be facing really tough things.
Let’s look at the world. Jesus says he will provide a peace the world cannot give, yet that is often what we cling to-the peace we seek from the world. The kind we crave from the world’s approval. The applause we receive from accomplishments, fame, and likes. However, do something someone doesn’t like; and those things go away quickly. Because this world is also full of what we have now come to know as “cancel culture,” and if you don’t fit into what the world deems appropriate, well…you get canceled.
The kind of peace Jesus gives doesn’t cancel you. No, instead it’s the peace that is content in knowing that we all speak a certain way. Are interested in different things. Have different talents, passions and strengths. When we start to have peace with ourself and the way we have been molded and made by God, we walk different. We walk with our heads held high knowing that every experience, every thing that others may consider a personality flaw, every weird accent. It has a purpose. It is used by Him.
You no longer seek the applause of other people, or make decisions based on whether it makes someone happy. Peace allows you to boldly say and believe: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” You know that He will use all your traits for good! Even if now it doesn’t “look” so good.
Peace is simply this: even if.
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Even if this world is filled with trouble. Sickness. Despair. Worries and circumstances we don’t understand.
I don’t know the reason for a call from a bus that started like this: “I am heading to the ER.” I may never know the reason for an ER visit that resulted in a device just to keep my husband from going into cardiac arrest. Simply put-to keep him alive. I may never know the reason.
But I do know this…I was not without fear in those days. There were moments that I was definitely fearful of what could happen. The doctors were pretty specific and it was a little scary. I can’t say I was not fearful as I sat beside my husband on a Sunday morning in church as he shook in fear for His plan.
But God didn’t allow us to live there for long. We wrestled over the what if’s. Quietly talked to Him, went to sleep. In peace. Because at the end of the day, God knows the reasons for all He allows.
And He doesn’t leave us. He always gives us a message of peace, we just often have to shut off the noise to hear it.
Those distractions that rob us of peace. And it disconnects us from God. Whether it’s the endless scrolling we are doing to find that “calm,” or that approval we are seeking that we already know the world can’t provide. It’s robbing us of peace.
It’s accepting the past and all its mistakes. Moving forward. Knowing they shaped you into the person you are today. It’s accepting yourself. Your flaws. Your challenges. All the things He is still working out, and walking with your head held high in the grace He has given. Even if others don’t like you.
It’s knowing that life can be scary, and it is often filled with conflict. Once you get over one wave, another one crashes that you have to get over, but your Captain steers you back to shore.
It is a reminder that He is here. Walking all the broken roads with us. Never leaving our side. And that even if the mountains fall…even still it is well.
All is well with peace.
I’ve been waitin’ for breakthrough, I’ve been prayin’ for change; I know You’ll work it all for good but how long will it take? I’ve been asking for healing and I’m not gonna lie I’m ready for the miracle, God, let it be this time.
-Stay Strong, Danny Gokey
I was expecting it. The turn of events I had watched unfold for years. My hopeful soul always wished for a different outcome. Prayed for a miracle. A work of His Spirit. And yet, part of me expected hopes to be dashed.
Because, even though my prayers reached His ears, of that I am certain. They didn’t reach the soul for which I was praying. Change was not taking place. Actions were not moving in a positive, more forward direction.
Jaded, I guess I was. Praying, though I was…I was still expecting the outcome that came. Yet it didn’t make hearing it any easier. The realization of it any less painful to endure. The heartache less challenging to bear.
I hadn’t gotten my breakthrough. But I wasn’t going to lose faith in His miracles either.
In a conversation as I heard these words: “We will be dead before we ever see it,” I felt that pain. I even wondered if those words rang true, and later that day I heard the words in this song, that echoed that same feeling. But with far less hopelessness.
But if I never see the promise on this side of the grave, My hope might be shaken but my faith will never break; Because I know the day is coming when You’ll right all of the wrong. So I’ll praise You in the waiting and my faith will stay strong
There are many who have come before me that didn’t see their promise before the grave. I wasn’t the only one who held onto promises that were not ever seen in ones’ lifetime.
All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. Hebrews 11:13
Moses. God made a promise that the Israelites would get to the Promised Land. And they did…but Moses wasn’t there to see it. After 40 years of wandering in the desert, Moses died with the Promised Land just in sight, allowed to see it, but not to enter it (Deuteronomy 34:4).
David. He was promised that a temple would be built through him, but he had to give the blueprints of that temple to his son, Solomon. A temple he would never see built prior to his death (1 Chronicles 28).
And in the Old Testament, a Messiah is promised to redeem and save many times, and many died before this ever came to pass, but Jesus was sent as promised and became the Savior of the World, just as God said.
I don’t know what burdens God has given you to carry for others. I don’t know what prayers you pray for others for which you are desperately seeking breakthroughs. I do know faith is what allows us to continue to pray. To continue to cry out to Him, even when we don’t see change. Even when we don’t see a miracle. Even when we are afraid we won’t see the fruits of our laborious ramblings to God on this side of eternity. Faith is what gives us hope that He will make good on His promise in ways that we don’t understand, and we possibly may not ever see. That may not affect this generation, but perhaps one that reaches far beyond us.
Hopes may be dashed today. Your expectations may be more like disappointments, but His promises are bigger than any of those. Stay strong. Keep praying. Keep hoping. Keep the faith.
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5, NLT
I had started the morning kind of down, and my gratitude list looked like this:
Not the typical list of small, praise-worthy items I listed each morning during my moments of quiet and solitude. Just that first item to start.
It’s not that I wasn’t grateful. I had taken on too much. It’s one of those things I have been learning about myself-that I don’t say “no,” usually due to an effort to keep people in my good graces. Then after I say “yes,” I can find myself frazzled, overbooked, and overwhelmed. I am working on that. The saying “no” thing. Setting boundaries.
But because I hadn’t, and I was in this state of anxiety and unease, I was also consumed by thoughts. Some that were destructive and self-defeating in nature. Had me believing (inappropriately, of course) that beauty is an illusion.
That evening we took our Saturday trek out to dinner, and to grab a few items on the back to school list. On the ride I looked up. In the sky was a rainbow. Filling the entire sky. One in which all the colors shown brightly.
That morning, I could only think of one thing to list. One thing I forced myself to add…one thing the devil had used the previous week to beat me up with (“If you were doing so great, huh?? Your kids would be baptized”)…yes that’s what he does. He’s pretty awful.
And that evening I was given a much needed reminder that God was one who kept promises.
I didn’t snap a picture. I just watched the rainbow as we drove. Watched as the dark storm cloud tried to overtake its brightness, and the tail end of it become brighter. As the storm began anyway, and the rainbow faded, I was reminded of something a dear friend once said: “you are either going into a storm or coming out of one.”
And yes. We are. Whether we are willing to be honest or not.
Whether in our minds, or hearts. Whether we are battling voices of the world, or Satan
Whether the storms rage in our homes, at work, or in our bodies.
We are going to be going into one, at any given time.
And come out of it, too.
We went into two or three storms that night, and each time we were left with a beautiful rainbow.
I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. Genesis 9:13-15
Each time the storm came and the clouds took away the beauty that had adorned the sky, the rain would subside, and another rainbow would appear. We drove further, and another shower would start, the rainbow would fade, and as we sat in the parking lot, eating our meal-we looked over after the last storm and noticed right next to us was the biggest one we had seen that night.
Storms come and they go. They are a part of the life we will have here on earth, and some are scary; while some come and go as quickly as they began. Some bring few problems, while others bring many-destruction, chaos, and pain. But through every storm, even if you can’t see it, God is there. Helping you get through it, and waiting on the other side with joy and bright promises for your future. And equipping you to get ready for the next one. Because there will be another. But this time, we know what beauty waits for us after the storm.
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT
I have been decluttering our home little by little for a few months. Though no one else seems to be bothered by it, and the rare visitor we have doesn’t care…clutter causes panic in me. It causes my brain to feel overworked and less at ease, so I am trying to eliminate it in my “safe space.”
As I was going through the number of cups in our cabinets, I noticed the 3 wine glasses I had been holding onto. I gently removed them, and packed all them all in a box. Loaded them up to take to our local Goodwill, and thought back to a conversation I had a bit ago related to weddings and wineries. My choice to attend, but to leave when the wine started pouring. During this conversation, I was told this was “judgmental and unloving.” Say what? To attend the wedding, but not the reception?
Was I really being judgmental by making a choice to stay sober?
I have been vocal in the past about my journey to living a life without alcohol. In written words, of course. Words on a page, or on a screen feel safe when something like your “vice” are being bared to someone else. Unlike others I have been spared the “staring in your face judgment,” though I know the words spoken off-screen to others about this choice have not been filled with grace.
When I have spoken in person about my decision to remain sober. This chosen lifestyle and the choices I make because of it…grace isn’t something I have received, either.
My choices are a choice to preserve that life. Not judge another’s choice to partake. Yet it’s often seen as the latter.
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12, NLT
As I packed up those glasses, I also recalled providing my reasons…revealing wine was my “vice” of choice. I spent weekends away from my family at wine festivals, getting sloshed at all the tables, sometimes not remembering my actions or being appalled by them later. I would drink sometimes before my kids got home. My son at the time was hard to manage. Wine helped me manage his tantrums. Two or three glasses to “help me sleep.” Claiming it “calmed” me, or all those festivals were because I liked the “taste.” No…I was addicted to the substance that was allowing me to escape real life. A slave to the belief that it could make everything OK. The “Mommy-juice” that helped me cope.
Wine is a huge trigger. For me. Maybe not for anyone else, but for me-I can’t be around a bottle. And in my decluttering adventures, and on my path to who God has been revealing me to be-it was revealed that the glass is, too.
See, I filled them with tea. Or sparkling water. I was continuing to play the part of the past days when I drank a glass at dinner. Cleaned with glasses and glasses to rid my mind of anxious thoughts, and as I drank from one I longed for just one glass of the syrupy substance. Like the wine-filled bottles that were poured down the drain two years before…the glasses had to go, too.
It may not be your trigger, but it’s mine. You may be able to keep these glasses with no problem. The wine in your cupboard even. But not me. I had to make a choice to get rid of anything that could be used as a salve that could soothe. A salve that was not Jesus…ever again.
Is this judgmental? Or healthy?
And, I wonder…would you judge the woman who 2 years ago, was filled with confusion, doubt, a lack of faith, and riddled with anxiety and despair. The one who found herself falling down drunk in an out of town bar, broken bones and all. 6 years sober, and now not. All because she was triggered. Would you judge her choices harshly then? And knowing what she chooses now, would you continue to judge her choice to never get to that place again?
Or would you celebrate every step she makes to forward progress as she, or anyone who struggles daily with walking and living sober, so hope you will. As we so desperately need those around us to. Because what is good for you isn’t good for me, and that’s ok. I don’t need you to change what you do for me, or act differently around me, what I (we) really need is grace. Not judgment. I need understanding when I leave the party. I need understanding and support when I choose to grab water. I still want to be invited, but I need you to know I may not come. I need you to know I’m still fun, even better actually…because the alcohol doesn’t fuel my thoughts, behaviors and actions. I still need you to believe in me, not believe I think I’m better than you.
I need understanding when I come but then quietly depart your event. I love you. I want to celebrate you, but I love my sobriety even more. And I hope you celebrate with me the path I have chosen, along with so many who do daily.
Can you choose to celebrate those who make the daily choice to refrain? To remove triggers? Celebrate, even if missteps happen, without judgment, but with grace? We do need more of this-all around. In each and every one of our lives.
Really…it’s what helps keep moving any of us forward. It’s what helps us step out of our own judgement and into His grace. It’s what sets us free.
Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. Galatians 1:10
I have got to get balanced. I said to myself.
I had said something of the same nature a number of times. Maybe even felt it once or twice over the course of the year, and if I was being honest with myself it was probably when I was on vacation, or was only spinning one plate. I rarely spin one plate. I spin multiple. In the air. At the same time. Usually on the same day. And through the years, with the help of therapy, self-awareness, and most of all God…I know I don’t do well with spinning plates.
Some plate eventually falls.
The one that does is usually me. And what happens is I become a person I don’t like very much. I know in these moments I have to focus on that plate, and let the others sit down for a bit.
And in my search I found it, that thing I was looking frantically for. Not the balance I so desperately wanted, but some idea of it I remembered was sitting on a shelf staring at me. A book. It’s title? The Worn Out Woman: When Your Life is Full and Your Spirit is Empty.
I had read this book before. Well, actually…started and not finished. I was worn out. Check. My life was certainly full. Check. But was my spirit empty? Not yet. But I didn’t want to get here, either.
So I started reading it, doing all the assignments the end of each chapter suggested. Because these things only work with follow through. Reading is wonderful. Knowledge is great, but its true power comes from action.
And then, I got to this…the core of most of our problems with balance: people-pleasing. Now…someone needs this today. I know, because I used to be that someone. A people-pleaser. According to the authors, you can determine if you are doing things in an effort to please people by asking the following questions:
Do I work overtime to impress those around me? Do I often say yes when I really want to say no? Do I depend too much on compliments and affirmations to make me feel good? Do I let others schedule my priorities and activities? Do I try too hard to be nice? Do I take criticism too personally? Do I find it too hard to be firm? Do I feel bad when someone is upset with me? Do I apologize when I don’t need to? Do I bend over backward for other people, even when part of me is protesting or resentful? (page 46)
If you answered yes, you, my dear, may suffer from the disease to please.
And if you need a personal and vulnerable testimony to help it sink in. To not feel so alone, here you go:
My people-pleasing came in the form of expectations. Meeting unrealistic expectations, because they were expectations of others. Boxes I was trying to check-off that others had deemed necessary for me, and I wanted desperately to fit into them. To be liked. To be approved. To feel like a part. I did this in most spaces-work, friendships, even people I didn’t like very much. I did everything to figure out why they didn’t like me. Tried to change it, and eventually lost who I was. I even did this…yes, at church.
People-pleasing did not save me from rejection. I did not make people like me more. It did not make me feel a greater sense of belonging. It made me feel less connected, less genuine, and less like my true, authentic self. It also wore me down, and made me feel no sense of purpose.
Pleasing people can leave you worn out. Feeling as if you never measure up. Feeling completely lost, and wondering where you fit in. You will not please every single person here even if you try, and the desire to do so will leave you depleted. It can also leave you questioning your call. I know, because I did. I almost completely left it.
Now, back to those questions. Let’s go back and insert “God” into the originals: Do I work overtime to impress God? Do I often say yes to God? Do I depend on God to make me feel good? Do I make God a priority over other activities? Do I respond to others with honesty? When criticized do I seek God in prayer and handle conversations with care? Do I speak the truth in love when I need to be firm? Do I seek to make ammends when someone is upset with me? Do I apologize and take accountability when I need to? Do I seek God’s will for assignments and priorities, and set boundaries with my time if needed?
Are the answers different? If they aren’t and you find yourself saying “no,” then perhaps you need to change your priority and focus. Is your focus on likes and approval from those around you, or on what God has destined for you? Praying for God to reveal this and for Him to shift your priorities will help in shifting from people-pleasing to God-pleasing.
And isn’t this what we really want, anyway? To please Him above all others?