Boosting myself over the side of the rubber raft, I slipped into the icy water, a shiver going down my spine despite the sunny day. A large boulder protruding from the river’s rocky bottom had stalled our adventure floating down the Truckee River. As the person with the most rugged shoes, I’d been elected by my fellow passengers to jump in the water and push us off. My sandals had thick rubber soles that protected my feet from the many jagged stones. They also provided stability for walking on the river’s uneven bed and maintaining balance in the moving waters. Once I pushed us off, I hoisted myself back in as the raft got swept into the river’s current. Without my shoes, I would have been more tentative and fearful about jumping in to help. The chances of cutting my foot, stubbing a toe or losing my balance in the river’s flow would have made me think twice before taking action. Yet having the right shoes gave me confidence and enabled me to accomplish the task quickly and easily.
Similarly, the swift-moving pace of life would be difficult to manage without putting on the shoes of peace described in Ephesians 6:15. God’s peace guards and guides us, enabling us to face anything that comes our way with confidence because we know God is trustworthy. Priscilla Shirer explains, “Shalom, the familiar Hebrew word for peace which permeates the Old Testament, does not refer to the absence of chaos, bur rather to an overall, deeply entrenched sense of harmony, health, and wholeness in the midst of chaos.” (The Armor of God, p. 98-99)
This explanation is contrary to the worldly definition of peace, which the dictionary describes as “freedom from any strife or dissension.” This kind of peace is based on exterior circumstances being harmonious and agreeable, which isn’t always possible to control. The “readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” provides the inner tranquility and stability we need to navigate life when things don’t go according to plan. (Which is most of the time, isn’t it?)
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle to strap on the shoes of peace. Sure, I have ultimate peace knowing that God wins in the end and that I’ll spend eternity with him. But some days, I forget to let that deep-seated peace sustain me as I navigate different challenges life brings my way. As I was looking up different Scriptures about peace, I found a repeated phrase that caught my attention: “seek peace.” (You can find that phrase in Psalm 34:14, Psalm 37:37, Jeremiah 29:7, Ezekiel 7:25 and 1 Peter 3:11).
To seek something is to go in search of it, to attempt to attain it, to ask for it or to try to find or discover it. Action is required. Peace doesn’t just come to us by accident; we must pursue it, not hope and wait and wonder if we’ll ever receive it. Like all of the other elements in the list of Spiritual Armor, it is already ours, but we must take steps to activate it within us.
Peace is one element in the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22. And the only way to produce this kind of fruit is by abiding with Jesus, which he explained by saying, ““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV) So in the end, the key to having peace and letting it guard our hearts and guide our steps is to spend time with Jesus, the Prince of Peace. It is only through him that we can maintain steady footing and stay balanced amidst the swirling waters of our chaotic lives.
If you find yourself feeling anxious, start your time with Jesus by applying the wisdom Paul offers in another one of his letters: “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.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV) Along with your requests to Jesus, spend time thanking him for the things he’s done for you and the answers you’ve received to earlier prayers. Doing this not only re-aligns your focus, it also provides reassurance in your current struggles. Remembering where you’ve seen him move on your behalf before gives you confidence he’ll do it again.
Sometimes I feel discouraged that all of this is so hard for me. It’s as if I’m pushing the re-set button every day to activate the peace God has given me. My natural inclination is to be anxious, so anytime I feel peace I know it must be from God. I’m thankful that it’s just one more opportunity to rely on him to supply what I can’t provide for myself.
Rend Collective has a great song called “My Lighthouse” that inspires me to seek God for peace. Click on the link and let it encourage you today.
The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer; Lifeway Press 2015.