Most everybody is looking for peace.
Paradoxically sometimes, after a little while of trying to live the Christian life seriously, we find ourselves having less peace. And, what’s more, we get bent out of shape about it. The little thought of “It’s not supposed to be this way” sits like a pebble in the shoe of our mind and heart. When we come to Jesus, touching the whispers of Heaven and being foundationally stilled by Love, it can be confusing when we find ourselves still restless, still ill at ease, still not quite at peace.
We can forget that we are in a battle – that we have enemies. Our expectations can get skewed. And expectations can be everything.
Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable. (CS Lewis)
Attacks on peace and joy are inevitable. Why should we be totally at peace in this world?
I would say [the majority] of the depression we experience as Christians is depression over our depression. We’re sad that we’re sad, we’re surprised that we’re surprised, we’re upset that we’re upset. At least half of being upset is the anger and the guilt and the frustration of saying, “It’s not supposed to be like this!” That’s because you don’t have the proper expectations. Christians do not come into the Christian life with the proper expectations. The Christian has got more enemies. You have more enemies than when you were non-Christian. (Timothy Keller)
Once someone turns to follow Jesus, the world, the flesh and the devil become real enemies. And they are nasty enemies. So of course there are going to be attacks on our peace! Our expectations shouldn’t be that we’ve “arrived”. Consider this letter from Thomas Merton who wrote gently to a woman whose husband had left her and who complained of loneliness.
I know from my own experience that the loneliness and confrontations with death only become intolerable when I have unconsciously argued myself into a position in which I am in fact refusing to accept them and insisting that there is some other way. But there is no other way… I wonder if you are not doing what so many of us do: acting on the assumption that one ought not to be lonely and that one ought not to be traveling towards death, in fact that one ought not to be tempted to faithlessness and despair. This is unrealistic… The Christian is one who knows that without the constant help of grace he cannot help but despair. And he knows that no amount of agitation and struggle on his own part can exempt him from this temptation. But once we have the gift of accepting our existential situation, everything is likely to come along with it. (Thomas Merton)
We are in a battle in which our peace will be tested. So we shouldn’t freak out when it is.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12)
But, what are the world, the flesh and the devil after in these assaults on peace? They are trying to disturb our assurance of our salvation. They are trying to 1) disrupt us, 2) accuse us and accuse God within us (“You call yourself a Christian? You’re not cut out for this. God doesn’t care. He is far away”), and 3) convince us to abandon faith, to yield to despair and to not love God. In effect, they try to get us to look at anything else but our Savior and spiral downhill from there.
So, accepting the fact that our peace will be attacked in this life, how do we still protect it in the moment of attack?
The great principle of the interior life is the peace of the soul. It must be preserved with such care that the moment it is attacked all else must be put aside and every effort taken to try to regain this holy peace, just as, in an outbreak of fire, everything else is neglected to hasten to extinguish the flames. (Wilfred Stinissen)
There’s a sense in which the world, the flesh and the devil will always try to keep you away from the Gospel. And the way to deal with [these enemies] is to keep telling yourself the Gospel and keep preaching the Gospel to yourself. (Timothy Keller)
Therefore, when our peace is under siege, we must cling in faith, hope and love to what Jesus has done for me and, “Regardless of how disquieted I feel right now, Jesus has me and will one day bring me home, for good”. We must soak in the Word, the Gospel and let our very selves be reduced to Jesus. For, only in the saving work of Jesus Christ, can I find my peace.