INNER PEACE

They say that if you can remember growing up in the 1960's, you weren't there, an exaggeration to say the least but making the point that many young people did experiment with drugs and a lifestyle that celebrated "getting high" during the latter part of that decade. I have to admit that I was one of those experimenters and that while I don't have any blank spots in my memory, I do have some things I wish I couldn't remember! Nevertheless, one of the things that young people were seeking through their drug use was inner peace. The world was in turmoil with the Viet Nam war, the threat of nuclear annihilation, riots in the inner cities, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy and large-scale cultural upheaval. As the turmoil of that time seems to have returned and intensified in the years since "9/11", there is, understandably, a resurgence of desire to find some way to achieve inner peace. New-age gurus and practices of all kinds are being promoted, some of them by influential people such as Oprah Winfrey.

Tumultuous times may accentuate the desire for inner peace but the desire is basic to all people in all times. The great religions and philosophies all try to identify the source of our inner disquiet and provide an answer. I have studied many of their answers and even practiced, for a time, an Eastern spiritual technique that promised inner peace. In fact, they do provide certain kinds of composed or relaxed states of mind. But I have discovered that there is a false peace and a true peace. You have perhaps heard something like the following before: if you are the only one feeling peaceful and serene while everyone else is running around tearing their hair out then you obviously don't know what's going on. Yes, we can achieve a state of inner peace by withdrawing from the world of reality or by fooling ourselves into thinking everything is fine when it isn't. Drugs and alcohol can do this for you and so can a number of mental techniques and spiritual philosophies. Only the Bible faces all the painful facts and yet gives us a realistic basis for experiencing inner peace.

So let us go to the Bible and learn what it says about finding inner peace. The Bible begins by giving us the reason why the world is in such a mess and why human beings are plagued by inner turmoil. It tells us of how God created the world and humankind "in the beginning" and that everything was then, "very good". But then the Fall occurred, first in heaven, when some of the angels, including Satan, rebelled against God and then introduced that rebellion to the first human couple on earth. From that point on, nature fell under God's curse in order to constantly remind mankind that nature is not the ultimate good. Our bodies and our minds are not the perfectly ordered things God originally created and thus they produce much background "noise" in our conscious awareness. This part of the effects of the Fall will not be taken away completely until Christ returns in glory. But there is another source of disquietude in our consciousness that can be removed and replaced by inner peace. I refer to the fact of sin.

Sin robs us of the peace God intended for us. We are all sinners by choice because sin is a choice. It is the active preference of our own pleasure above the will of God and the highest good of His creation. The Bible says, "For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:5-7) Two states of mind are here described. One state of mind or will is centered on what brings us pleasure, enjoyment. Since the physical body is the main source of sensations of both pleasure and pain for us in this life, the mind centered on the body is naturally selfish and short-sighted. But God's law calls on us to love Him with all our heart and our neighbor as we do ourselves, that is, to regard the feelings of God and our fellow creatures as more important than our own. It does not mean our own feelings are unimportant; they have their place but they must not be the ultimate criteria for our choices.

While we are in this sinful state of mind we are obviously at cross-purposes with God's will. God has given us a conscience that retains a sufficient awareness of His Law to make us uneasy with our sinful choices. We are, in effect, at war with God and at war with our conscience. That is why the Bible says, "But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud. 'There is no peace,' says my God, 'for the wicked." (Isaiah 57:20-21) On the other hand, the Bible says there is a state of mind that is "life and peace", produced by the Holy Spirit. It is the "mind set on the Spirit." The mind that yields to the truth of the Holy Spirit begins to love what is right, true, good and beautiful, all that is in accordance with God's perfect will. This is because it believes the truth of the gospel of God's sacrificial and unselfish love for us demonstrated in His Son, Jesus Christ. This changes the ultimate preference of the heart from self gratification to pleasing God. This naturally produces peace of mind, especially of conscience. We are finally right with God!

I well remember the peace that came over my mind when I first yielded to the Spirit's urging to repent of my sins and receive Jesus as my Savior. In fact, I hadn't realized until then how discontented and troubled my mind had been. When I later read Romans 5:1 I realized that it had come true for me: "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…" Having obtained peace through faith in Christ, I have learned that this peace can be maintained through on-going confession, repentance and reception of God's love for me in Christ. When my soul is restless and storm-tossed, I find great help as I recognize my moral weaknesses, search out how I have departed from God's will, confess and forsake that sinful state of mind and receive the forgiveness of God. Peace is restored and I am empowered to do the will of God.

One of the many weaknesses I struggle with is the tendency to take over responsibility for running the universe from God. When I succumb to that particular form of insanity, peace goes out the window! But here again, confession, repentance and a return to trust in God restores the peace. Now, are you ready to experience God's peace? Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." (John 14:27) Come to Jesus for true inner peace!