Monday, 4 November 2013
A Search for Peace and Joy
A year and a half ago I attended women’s night at my church. The theme was hope. My pastor was in the middle of a series of sermons about the same subject and we gathered at the beginning of spring to talk about hope and faith.
When I left I kept reading the little handout everyone took home. It had a few verses we’d talked about that night printed on the back. The one I kept reading over and over was Philippians 4:4-8. I wanted it to be my life. I wanted to to be full of joy again. I’d lost my joy during my college years, and I wanted to have a joyful life again. I clung to those verses hoping that if I read them enough they’d sink in and become true.
I posted it up in my home office. I tried to read it as often as possible. I thought maybe my first tattoo would be the word Joy so I could remember to be joyful.
4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
I tried to live the words I was reading. I tried to be considerate in all I did. I wanted to be praying about everything and thanking God for all he had done. I kept waiting for that peace it was talking about.
I willed myself to “fix my thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.”
But MAN was it hard.
I’d long forgotten about how hard I’d tried to make those words work for my life.
I’ve been thinking over the last few days about how I’m really at peace with my life right now. I’m content.
I read these verses again. And it hit me…
I’ve been praying about every little thing in my life. Everything.
I’ve let go of (most of) my worry and I take my needs to him before anyone else.
I’ve been thanking God for the blessings in my life.
And that list of all the things I should be fixing my eyes on? Well, I’ve been focusing on God and his word lately. They are all of those things and more.
Then I realized something…
No wonder reading the verse over and over again and willing it to take effect in my life wasn’t working. My heart needed to change before I could change my actions.
Until my focus was on the Lord, none of those things could be true for my life. I had to let go of myself. Of my selfish desires. Of my planning and thinking and wishing and hoping that things would be different in my life. I couldn’t just read the words and make them magically happen. My heart and motives and entire life had to change in order to bring about true peace and joy. As goal oriented as I am, there is nothing I, on my own, can map out or organize to bring me what I was looking for in those verses. I had to let go of myself and my will so that God could change me.
Because I let go and chose to “live in Christ Jesus” like verse 7 says, his peace now fills my heart and mind. These verses that I willed and worked to be part of my life for over a year, now come naturally since I’ve let go of myself and surrendered to him.
I’m so grateful for the shift in my thinking – trying to do it all on my own was oh so hard without any real results. I’ll admit, I was terrified to turn my life over in surrender to God. I
like love control. I was scared that if I gave up all the work I was doing to make a better life for myself I would end up with a pretty crappy life. Turns out the very opposite is true. The more I let go of my plans and ideas, the more satisfied and at peace I am with my life.
My life isn’t perfect by any means. I still have rough days and I still mess up. I’m not constantly in a serene and peaceful state of mind (I have two children remember?), but with God in control, no matter what the circumstances, deep in my spirit I’m at peace and full of joy in the Lord.