“You will keep those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.” – Is. 26:3
I’ve always identified as a relatively peaceful person. Sure, I’ll weather a bout of emotional instability now and again, but for the most part I would identify as being “at peace” more often than not. At least I did until I brushed shoulders with an unfamiliar sort of peace. This new peace was shockingly consistent. It didn’t fluctuate at all, which made me question its sincerity. But upon further investigation, it proved to be true.
You might be thinking that peace all looks the same, and I would have agreed with you until this encounter. They certainly look the same from a distance. The best way to describe the difference between unwavering peace and unstable peace is to liken it to nondairy ice cream versus the real thing. Full disclosure, I developed a dairy allergy after college and it is quite literally the ever-present thorn in my flesh, specifically in the stomach region. If you’ve only been exposed to almond milk ice cream, you may (with prayer and petition) develop a taste for it; having never beheld the glory that is Jenni’s ice cream or Talenti’s gelato, you wouldn’t know what you were missing and so you’d manage, perhaps believing that your version of ice cream was superb. You wouldn’t know any better until you tasted the real thing. Upon tasting a fully leaded ice cream cone, the scales would be removed and you would recognize that the Promised Land was not flowing with Almond milk and honey, but the good stuff. From that moment on, you would know that all dairy-alternatives, no matter how good they may taste, would still fall short of the real thing.
Such was the way with peace and myself. Until encountering authentic peace, I was convinced that I was a peaceful person. But it wasn’t until I met my coworker Bob that I realized that my version of peace was entirely conditional.
I had always defined peace by negation: peace is the absence of stress, anxiety, and chaos. Bob had a consistent peace that seemed to transcend circumstances and didn’t waver– the kind of peace that could withstand a storm. His peace wasn’t defined by absence of this or that, but rather by the presence of something, someone. It wasn’t a matter of him getting his ducks in a row, but a matter of perspective. Upon seeing what genuine peace looks like, I became very aware of, and unsatisfied with, my nondairy alternative.
I mentioned that my definition of peace was the absence of stress and anxiety, and I’ve learned that this stress-free peace isn’t exactly realistic: it’s wholly contingent upon control and care. I’ve come to realize that I can only “be at peace” if everything is under control and I can predict the outcome or if I have enough apathy to make up the difference. There’s a correlation between the amount of control I have and the amount of care I have. Typically, if I let myself care about something, I’ve already manhandled it enough to have some perceived semblance of control over it. So the amount I’m willing to let myself care about something has everything to do with my control over the matter. However, if I have no control over the outcomes, it’s likely that I’ve detached myself enough to have no skin in the game and therefore no risk of being disappointed.
Neither of these shoddy alternatives yield true peace—it’s easy to feel the absence of stress when you’ve got everything under control and it’s easy to maintain composure when you simply don’t care. For years I have been certain that peace was the result of being in control or being apathetic.
But this year I have become a connoisseur of peace, both fully leaded and the nondairy, down at the School of Hard Knocks. This year has been anything but under control, and, since my salary and reputation depended on my maintaining control, I cared immensely. All of my ducks have been adrift. Not only have they not been in a row, but rather they’ve been scattered to the ends of the earth, wreaking havoc on mankind. Needless to say, apathy wasn’t an option and wrangling the ducks was nowhere in the cards.
Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.”
To be steadfast is to be dutiful and unwavering. This verse doesn’t call us to get our ducks in rows, and gives no mention to the absence of stress or waiting for ideal circumstances. Instead, it says to trust the Lord without wavering, and this trust– dutiful and resolute trust– will yield perfect peace, not perfect circumstances. So peace is not contingent on the absence of difficulty, but on the presence of God. This yields unwavering peace.
I want to be unwavering, but I’m finding that there are several areas of my life that are contingent on something other than God. My faith is contingent on my logic, my obedience is contingent on my desire, my love is contingent on reciprocity.
Where do you see contingencies in your life? I would love to hear about them!
Over the next 3 weeks I will be diving into these topics in-depth and would love for you to join me.