“Sarah, I need you to pray with me right now.”
That was how I ambushed a new friend at a writer’s conference just a few days ago. What had started as a joy-infused time of skill sharpening and networking had now ushered in my anxiety gremlins as I rehearsed a list of shortfalls.
Article ideas left unpitched.
Website updates still back-burnered.
A book idea living as a stack of sticky notes and nothing more.
Yes, the world won’t stop spinning on its axis over such things, but as a performance-oriented, people-pleasing gal, I scrabbled for a toehold of confidence against a rock-slide of insecurity. My peace threatened to go to pieces.
Have you been there lately? Whether your anxiety stems from a confidence crisis or something a lot bigger, you feel like peace is gone. If so, then we’re in this thing together. I can be a yellow-caution-taped disaster area when it comes to anxiety, and I never stop needing to be reminded of the spiritual fruit called peace.
As we’ve been learning this summer, we have access to vibrant Christ-qualities blooming like a garden within us. The Holy Spirit plants love, joy, and peace in us that can defy circumstances and even our own emotions.
Just as the spiritual fruit of love and joy are infinitely richer than their everyday counterparts, Jesus elevated His kind of peace beyond the “peaceful, easy feeling” of the classic Eagles’ song. Yes, I do relish a relaxed mood, just hanging with somebody I love while we stargaze. We forget about the tension in the news or our own homes for a moment, and it does feel good for a while.
But Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you; I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
The kind of peace that the world gives is at best, fleeting, and at worst, false. Jobs and money don’t hang around. Health fails. And relationships? I remember at eighteen being intoxicated by the quest to find the guy who was going to make me feel safe, secure, and loved, a.k.a. my definition of personal peace. I’d share tender moments, convinced I’d found the guy for me, only to watch that “peaceful, easy feeling” evaporate, usually about the time I realized that what I thought of as love and tenderness was just a guy trying to get laid. Heartache and turmoil.
Then, when I did marry the love of my life, guess what wasn’t a given in the relationship? That he’d be the answer to my need for peace. McLeod is the perfect match for me, but man oh man, have we had some soul-wrenching arguments and caused each other pain. Peace that comes and goes with circumstances and people? That’s not really peace.
Jesus said His peace was a permanent gift and something that would be an antidote to our distressed or frightened hearts. That’s why I grabbed the hand of my new friend Sarah the other day and asked her to help me stand up to those anxiety gremlins. She could have been any one of the Jesus-loving people at our table because she wasn’t the answer in and of herself. I do think God put us together right then, though, because she was someone willing to help me live out Philippians 4:6-7:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
With her prayers leading the charge, we rebuked the lies I’d started to believe about what God could or could not do with whatever gifts or opportunities He’d provided. That helped me bypass the world’s kind of peace, which is tied to transitory things like my performance, talents, or circumstances. (Note to self: when I focus on me, me, me, peace starts to flee, flee, flee.) Then, through thanksgiving, we focused on God’s power and purpose to train others to write and communicate His truth. Our prayers helped me tap into that peace that transcends all understanding. I felt like I’d been put back together as He set a holy guard around my heart and mind for the remainder of the conference.
In the week ahead, why not try asking God to show you His rich gift of peace? Take each anxiety to Him in prayer—I find journaling my anxious prayers helpful—asking Him what lie is behind it that needs to be turned on its head. Then, let God know what you need and ask Him to help you embrace the peace that transcends all understanding. I’m praying for you with the words Paul so often used for others and that our writing coach prayed over us, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Photo by Adam Śmigielski on Unsplash