The Peace of Forever
Entire books have been devoted to the subject of how we can enjoy more peace and less stress in our daily lives but practical ways for managing stress will take us only so far. These may work well for the average person dealing with average levels of stress. But for someone who is severely depressed or who is living in abject poverty or who is fighting a terrible illness, or for all of us during this pandemic, stress management will fall woefully short of the mark.
Whatever measure of peace we now enjoy, all of us will benefit from learning to focus on what I like to call "the peace of forever." But doesn't this contradict what I said last week about staying in the present moment? And doesn't it sound rather impractical?
Perhaps at first. But I believe that focusing on heaven is one of the most practical things we can do to infuse the present with greater hope and meaning. Praying through relevant Scripture passages, reading a book about heaven, doing a Bible study on heaven--all these can help us gain an eternal perspective on the life we are living now. No matter how difficult our circumstances may be, those who belong to Christ are headed for an eternity in which God's shalom is not something we taste for a while, but something that will characterize our lives forever. By exploring the peace of forever, we are merely remembering the last chapter of the story on which our lives are based.
In an address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Martin Luther King Jr. offered a wonderful prescription for hope when he said this,
"When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."
And because it bends toward justice, it also bends toward hope.
The peace we desire, the peace God promises, transcends whatever techniques we may employ to diminish the stress and tension of modern life. In the end, only a life that is surrendered to God will discover the shalom that he alone can give. Wherever you are on your journey, I pray that you will begin it with God, sustain it through prayer, and end it in peace. And this is my prayer for you, taken from an ancient Celtic blessing:
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the smiling stars to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the watching shepherds to you,
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.