How to End This Chaotic Year with a Sense of God's Peace
How are you handling 2020?
While most people I know are getting by, I think we are all excited to put this year behind us. Let’s hope 2021 is better.
From the pandemic to the presidential election, this year was full of chaotic disorientation. And it’s still going.
We’re not out of the woods yet. And, as the holidays draw near, there are still plenty of opportunities for more frenzy, chaos, and disorientation.
Thinking about the distinct lack of peace in the world, I recently turned to one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Psalm 34 invites us to experience God’s peace, even as we wait for Him to deliver us from difficult circumstances.
Keep turning your back on every sin,
and make “peace” your life motto.
Practice being at peace with everyone (Psalm 34:14).
This was the first time I read Psalm 34 in The Passion Translation, the footnote for verse 14 blew me away.
Twice the Hebrew uses the word shalom. This word means much more than peace. It means wholeness, wellness, well-being, safe, happy, friendly, favor, completeness, to make peace, peace offering, secure, to prosper, to be victorious, to be content, tranquil, quiet, and restful.
While most of us think of peace in the negative sense—as in the absence of problematic things like war, riots, sickness or political aggression—the Bible talks of peace in the positive sense, as in the addition of every good thing.
Donald Gowan, in Shalom: A Study of the Biblical Concept of Peace, says, “Shalom is thus a word with a strongly positive content. It is not just the absence of war, of danger, of worry, of fear. It is much more appropriately explained as the presence of prosperity, of health, of happiness, of success.”
Biblical peace, the shalom of God, means having the freedom and power to live a good life filled with wholeness, wellness, and contented well-being.
Now granted, I don’t think many of us would call 2020 a year of “wholeness, wellness, well-being” or anything like that. In fact, as I think about it, most of life I haven’t lived with this kind of peace.
So, what do we make of that? Is it really possible to have that kind of peace?
Before I try to answer that, let me give you the rest of Psalm 34’s footnote:
The pictographic symbols for the word shalom (shin, lamed, vav, mem) read “Destroy the authority that binds to chaos.” The noun shalom is derived from the verbal root shalam, which means “to restore,” in the sense of replacing or providing what is needed in order to make someone or something whole and complete. So shalom is used to describe those of us who have been provided all that is needed to be whole and complete and break off all authority that would attempt to bind us to chaos.
Destroy the authority that binds to chaos? Wow, I like that!
It means that God’s peace gives us freedom from bondage to chaos.
But it doesn’t mean that the chaos stops. It hasn’t. And it might not. After all, we are not in Heaven yet.
Bill Johnson talked about this in his book Hosting the Presence, Unveiling Heaven’s Agenda, “The world thinks of peace as the absence of something: a time without war, a time without noise, or a time without conflict. For a believer, Peace is a person—the presence of someone.”
It’s the presence of God in our lives, not the absence of conflict, that gives us peace. Our peace isn’t dependent on the world around us—it depends on the world within us.
It’s our inner world that is free from bondage to chaos. We have the power to bring a sense of peace and well-being within, no matter what is going on around us.
The year isn’t over yet, more chaos may still come. But even if it does, you don’t have to be a slave to it. We have another option.
God loves choices. He honors free-will. You see this best when Jesus always offers a third option to a dilemma. Whenever people would try to trap Jesus with “it’s either this way or it’s that way” kind of arguments, he had a habit of presenting a third way that nobody had considered.
He never allowed himself to get painted into a corner. Jesus enjoyed having options.
That’s because God honors free-will. Part of the shalom of God is having the freedom to make choices—to not be restricted by sickness, poverty, or slavery.
God likes choices. It’s the enemy who tries to take away our freedom. It’s the evil one that tries to put us in bondage to chaos.
One day that will end—all the death, disease, desolation and despair will be a thing of the past. But, even as we wait for that day to come, we can still live in peace.
We may not have the kind of peace that comes when we get everything we want. Yet, we are still free to know peace even when everything goes wrong.
We are not bound to chaos. We always have the power to choose peace.
That’s because our peace is rooted in something eternal, something that will outlast our present circumstances. Our peace is comes from our connection to God.
As this year continues, and as the bustle of the holidays ensues, take some time to nurture the peace of God within. Cultivate that grounding and rootedness in your soul.
While I pray that life brings you abundant blessings, I encourage you to enjoy the good life with God, and find peace within your own soul, regardless of what life may bring.