As turmoil permeated my thoughts, every creak in my empty house intensified my anxiety. Extreme fear had settled into my life in my early twenties, and at times it was debilitating. My imagination became my enemy. Desperately desiring to be at peace, I would pace in my living room, repeating to myself, “God will keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is stayed on Him” (see Isaiah 26:3). But the stranglehold of fear broke only when my relationship with God grew to the place where my heart could grasp what it meant to truly trust Him.
As a 97-year-old friend and I discussed Horatio Spafford’s classic hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul,” she said the first line gives her reason to pause. The stanza “when peace like a river attendeth my way” doesn’t accurately depict all rivers, she explained, for “all rivers are not peaceful.”
The ceasefire began with the sound of singing on the battlefield. It was Christmas Eve 1914, along the Western Front of the fighting in WWI. German soldiers alternated singing Christmas carols with their enemies—British, Belgian, and French soldiers. This goodwill spilled into the next day, when fighters emerged from the trenches, unarmed. They introduced themselves and exchanged small gifts. Reflecting on that experience, one veteran said, “If we had been left to ourselves there would never have been another shot fired.” A short break in hostility allowed the soldiers to see their opponents as people, not merely enemies.
“Do you still hope for peace?” a Rolling Stone interviewer asked singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 1984. “There isn’t going to be any peace,” Dylan replied. His response drew criticism from certain quarters for being “fatalistic”. Dylan’s detractors aside, peace remains ever elusive.
Augustus, the Roman emperor mentioned in Luke 2:1, was a divisive figure. He instituted the imperial cult— religious worship of emperors—which would later cause the death of many Christians. But he was also the leader who established the Pax Romana, a period of relative peace in that part of the world. Before then, the Roman Empire was continually seeking to expand and conquer. Augustus’ idea of peace, for nations to seek to live in relative harmony, was completely novel to the aggressive Roman Empire.
In their book The Lessons of History, historians Will and Ariel Durant note, “War is one of the constants of history. . . . In the last 3,421 years of recorded history, only 268 have seen no war.” The United Nations was formed at the end of World War II “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” so the world could “live together in peace with one another”. But with more than 300 wars fought since 1945, we have yet to experience worldwide peace. Will it ever be realized?
Writing in the heat of the American Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned words regarding how we must go about the work of justice: “I am concerned that Negroes achieve full status as citizens and as human beings here in the United States. But I am also concerned about our moral uprightness and the health of our souls. Therefore I must oppose any attempt to gain our freedom by the methods of malice, hate, and violence that have characterized our oppressors. Hate is just as injurious to the hater as it is to the hated. . . . Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
BibleGateway.com allows online users to read the Scriptures in a variety of translations and languages. Over a twelve-month period ending in November 2016, more than 180 million unique visitors visited the website—resulting in around 1.7 billion page views. As people entered the ‘Gateway’, they searched for verses using keywords. The most popular search terms in order? Love, faith, and peace.
In our nightly prayers with our children, my husband and I like to end with the words Moses used when he instructed Aaron and his sons to bless God’s people (Numbers 6:24-26). This benediction reminds each family member that God loves it when we ask for His protection, favor, grace, and peace.
Brian Jackson lives for adventure. For years he’s led expeditions into some of the most extreme environments on the planet. Having trekked thousands of miles across many continents, he loves nothing more than setting foot where no known human has ever been before. In 2014, he and his team made the ascent of a previously unclimbed peak in the Himalayas, setting foot where no human has probably set foot before.
In the sixties, a mystical, upbeat pair of tunes lent voice to the better aspirations of a growing counterculture. “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” anticipated an era governed by peace and love.
I love the powerful song “We Shall Not Be Moved”. The song captures a unique vision of true peace. Like a firmly planted tree, being deeply rooted in God gives us the courage to stand firm for His justice—even when we’re surrounded by powerful forces of corruption.
A close friend lost his father unexpectedly. Though my husband and I both had responsibilities on the day of the funeral, we asked others to cover for us so we could drive more than 350 miles to be with our friend and his wife. Overwhelmed that we would travel such a distance in one day to be with them, our friends held us close when they saw us. Others had brought food, still others had taken care of details back home, but in this moment we found that our simple presence carried comfort.
In 2017, the morning after the mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert that resulted in nearly 60 fatalities and more than 500 wounded, the President of the United States quoted Scripture to comfort the grieving families and victims. This response to tragedy isn’t unusual; many people turn to the Bible for comfort following devastating events
Paying attention is one of our most underrated capacities. Our lives are greatly affected by what we do and don’t pay attention to. For example, if we’re inattentive to a bill’s due date, we’ll incur late fees. In the same way, if we ignore our emotions or try to blunt them, we’ll miss out on more deeply relating with others and God.