What is peace? And where can it be found? Maybe you, like me, are asking these questions a lot right now. We certainly know what , and where, peace is not.
I’ve learned a lot about peace from the ocean. If we have a “peaceful” passage, it usually refers to the sea state: a gentle swell, a nice breeze and smooth sailing, sunshine sparkling on the water, maybe a pod of dolphins playing in our bow wake. Or it might indicate the condition of our crew: no one suffering seasickness, everyone occupying themselves and getting along well with each other. Likewise, a peaceful anchorage is a quiet respite from the motion of waves, the promise of a good night’s sleep at the end of a long day.
But sometimes “peace” is what we have despite circumstances. In the middle of storms at sea, I have felt an amazing inner calm (after the initial panic, of course)—I understand that the situation is dangerous and that my life is fragile, but can accept with tranquility whatever may come. Peace can also mean running from a storm and finding an anchorage in the lee of an island. The wind still howls, the rain pelts, the lightning flashes all around, but our anchor is buried in the sand, the motion of the waves is stopped by the island, and our boat is still afloat. Despite the noise of the storm, we can relax.
For me, inner peace is a supernatural occurrence—a state contrary to my normal, anxious, internal monologue. It’s a sense that no matter how bad a situation is, I don’t face it alone or without hope; I have an anchor for my soul. It takes conscious effort not to focus on the outward circumstances, but to take a deep breath, pray, and change fretting into meditating on the positive. This has helped me access this peace-in-the-midst-of-chaos. I still have an embarrassing tendency to freak out, but I’ve learned to pause and find this place of peace with a little concentration.
Many times over the last few months I have had to draw on this well of peace—as I see and hear of turmoil both around the world and close to home. Chaos reigns on personal, social, and political fronts, but I have not lost the hope of peace. Sometimes after receiving bad news, it feels like my anchor is dragging, but in life, as on the water when we experience a sudden shift in wind or tide, I reset the anchor in a firm place, pay out some chain, and go back “inside” to find rest.
I don’t know whether you are experiencing a personal crisis, whether you are feeling isolated or afraid, whether the country you live in is experiencing disasters natural or man-made, but I know that we are all touched by the storms of life at one time or another. We can seek and ask for peace—inside our own hearts, with God, in our relationships, and in our spheres of influence. We can pray that our leaders will seek peace. Maybe circumstances will change, or maybe we can effect change ourselves, but if not, then the only thing we can control is our response. Let these words anchor your soul as they have anchored mine:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” –Jesus, in the gospel according to John (14:27)