Need Peace?

One thing I wish was a constant in life is peace. On a superficial level, I just wish it wasn’t so busy during this season (and every season) of the year. I have to fight for moments of stillness and reflection. That sounds peaceful, right? Fight for peace!

On a deeper level I think we all long for peace and the absence of the stress and anxiety we naturally experience. We need peace in relationships, peace of mind, peace about decisions, peace about the past, peace in circumstances, and peace for the new year. A little peace goes a long way.

Though I knew little of Billy Graham as a child, I do remember him speaking about our need for “Peace with God” when I was a teenager. I didn’t get really what He was talking about, but since he was Billy Graham I knew it must true.

If I am truly honest, there are some fears and uncertainties I will be bringing into the new year. I really don’t know what the future holds. With an aging parent in declining health there is uncertainty in what tomorrow will bring.

So it is in this place I come back to the next part of Psalm 23.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I fear no evil;
For you are with me;
Your rod and your staff- they comfort me.

Even Though

As I said in the last post, Need Rest?, I am reading the verses twice to allow the familiar to seep into the crevices of my mind and heart. I read it like this:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
EVEN THOUGH I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I fear no evil;

The valley of the shadow of death sounds like a dark and desperate place- a place I need to avoid at all cost. As I talked about this with my dear friend, Amy, we agreed that even though things are possibly not as bad as they could be in our lives, we still experience the shadow of death by being on this side of heaven. Things are not as they should be. A shadow hangs over all.

Even though. These two words speak. They acknowledge that what comes next in the verse is true, yet there is an “even though” in the midst of that truth. There is something paradoxical and even baffling about it.

The shadow is real.
The shadow is dark.
Yet, there is like a big BUT in the midst of it.

If the Lord is MY Shepherd, there is an “even though” in the shadow.

With ME

The angel said that Jesus would be  “Immanuel,” God is with us. What the world needed most in their dire hour was for God to be with them. God to live in human flesh, to take on the sin and shame of the world through death on the cross, and to rise and give life eternal was the greatest need for all. God “with us” restores, renews and gives peace. I think Billy Graham knew what he was talking about.

Psalm 23 says this:

You are with me
You are WITH me.

“With me” makes sense of the “even though.” The only way not to fear this side of heaven is to have God with me. The only peace in the darkest shadow is found in the word “with.”

If the Lord is MY Shepherd then I do not fear in the shadow because God is WITH me.

What if?

Even though… I know these things to be true, I am tempted to still live in light of what could be, what might happen, or in light of the “what if’s.” The shadow triggers this response.

The “what if” is the voice in my head that says, “Maybe I should not do such and such because, what if …. (the worse thing happens). What if….. something goes wrong? What if…. I don’t get chosen?  What if… I don’t know what to do? What if I am uncomfortable or it is too difficult to handle?”  

The “what if”s” seem reasonable. They make sense. They are practical.

Yet, to live in light of the “what if’s,” is to live in light of my feelings instead of by faith or trust. Stepping out in faith seems risky, uncomfortable. When in the shadow I could spend energy preventing and controlling my space so that it is seems manageable and comfortable or I can believe what is true and walk by faith.

Next this familiar Psalm ends this section with this:

Your rod and your staff- they comfort me.
YOUR rod and YOUR staff- they COMFORT me.

How can something used to prod and pull be a comfort? These things, a rod and staff, are a comfort for they keep the sheep from harm. As uncomfortable as they might be they are used for the good of the sheep- keeping them on the shepherd’s path.

If the Lord is MY Shepherd, even uncomfortable things can be a help to me and not a harm.

Peace in the Shadow

In one of my favorite books, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom as a child worries about the future and death. She wants to know how will she endure it. Her wise father says this:

Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam-when do I give you your ticket?”

I sniffed a few times, considering this.

“Why, just before we get on the train.”

“Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need-just in time.”

She had no idea of what she would have to endure- the deaths and atrocities she would face. Nor did she know the blessing she would be to the world.

If the Lord is MY Shepherd I do not need to live in light of the “what if’s.”

If the Lord is MY Shepherd I will have what I need when the difficult times come.

If the Lord is My Shepherd I have peace in the most difficult and darkest of places because He is with me and only because He is with me. 

Book to consider: The Hiding Place

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