Things were not going well.
I was trying – or at least, I thought I was. Building a relationship with them was like trying to scoop rock-hard ice cream out of a pail as soon as you take it out of the freezer – you really want the ice cream, but you have to give it some time and let it soften up if you want decent scoops. I wanted to have a good, healthy relationship, but it was taking a long time for hearts to soften – in fact, the longer I waited the harder hearts became. Instead of building trust and confidence in each other as a team, the reverse was actually happening. Criticism replaced encouragement. Doubt replaced trust (whatever little bit of trust had ever actually been there in the first place). Anger replaced patience. A sense of fear and uncertainty took over and pushed out nearly any sense of safety and security I had.
And then one day there was a conversation that I wasn’t part of, but that I knew dealt with me. They didn’t even have to tell me what they were discussing. I knew. And the horrible feeling came over me – more anxiousness, anger, fear and stress than I’d felt in a long time. My heart beat fast and my hands shook as I walked alone to my car to drive home for the night. My stomach was in knots. I knew there really wasn’t much I could do to fix my situation, but I didn’t want to feel this awful. So I did the only thing I could think to do – I prayed. I prayed for the people in that discussion – for wisdom to do what they needed to do and for God to guide their decisions. And I prayed for myself – that I would be okay with whatever happened as a result.
The feeling of peace and calm and safety that rushed over me is one I won’t forget. It was as if, in that moment, God was in the car with me with his hand on my shoulder whispering to me that everything would be alright. Of course, I know God is always with me, but there are times he just feels so much closer, and this was one of those times. Almost immediately after praying my stomach knots eased up. My mind quieted down. My heart beat at a more normal rhythm. God had given me his peace – maybe even a little extra measure of it that night. He showed me he was listening and he was there.
Have you ever considered how stress and peace are correlated? When we feel heightened stress, we tend to feel less peace. It's hard to find peace in the middle of a crisis or a stressful situation. It's easier to dwell on the issue or worse, try to solve it ourselves. And when we try to fix our situation when we're already on edge, it doesn't usually end well.
Is it any wonder we need God's peace? Especially at Christmastime, we search for it, crave it and try to hold on to it when we feel we finally have it. The great thing about God's peace is that we don't have to try so hard to find it - it's lying, wrapped in cloth, in a manger in Bethlehem. We don't have to constantly crave it - it's ours because the baby in the manger is Emmanuel, God with us. We don't have to do our best to hold onto it - those tiny fingers and chubby arms reach out and hold on to us.
God offers us this peace in the middle of our stress. It's a peace that only he can give. It's a peace that's only possible through a life with him. It's a peace that gives our hearts assurance and safety in a world full of uncertainty. Jesus brings a safety and security to our souls like nothing and no one else. That true safety also brings true and lasting peace.
Peace that's true and lasting... there's something our world definitely cannot offer. But it's real. It's as real as your stress. It's as real as your problems. And it's not only offered to you at Christmastime. This peace that only God can give is with you right now and forever.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7