Anxiety has a way of unpacking its bags and moving into our lives unexpectedly and unannounced. Although it is often misunderstood and ever-changing, the truth is that we all struggle with anxiety in different forms and degrees.
In a season of uncertainty and unrest, have you ever noticed how quickly the worry and fear can stack like a game of Jenga? Worries tend to capitalize on themselves: stacking like wooden blocks, countlessly ascending to the sky. With one false move, it can all come tumbling down. Some will say “live with faith instead of fear!” Some will roll their eyes and say there’s nothing to worry about at all. But all too often, most of us are left wondering what to do with the building blocks of panic we find ourselves assembling.
In moments of panic, we long for moments of peace.
Peace is something that has seemed to elude us all in many ways the past several months. Maybe for you, the isolation has begun an unraveling in your mind that has led to loneliness or depression. Perhaps you are a parent, longing for some peace and quiet when you are surrounded by noise. Grocery shopping and curbside pickup have gone from simplicities to stressful errands. The systemic racism, unrest and brokenness we see in our world is rightfully convicting our hearts and awakening us to how we must continue to challenge our biases and unlearn our prejudices.
All in all, in seasons like these, we pray, we long, and we crave peace.
Push and Pull
There is seemingly a push and a pull to peace and panic. We see these two emotions as adversaries at odds with each other. But, what if there is another way? I’ve always found it interesting that Jesus used these words when He was speaking to His disciples:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27)
At first glance, we may think that Jesus is being repetitive here. What is the difference between “leaving” and “giving” peace? My mind wanders to receiving a Christmas gift. If you’ve given me the gift, I would sure hope you would leave it with me, too! It doesn’t make too much sense if you steal it from me at the last second.
But, within this short verse could be the key to unlocking a peace that is not at war with panic, but a peace that is promised through panic.
Jesus was speaking to His friends and reminding them there would be trouble ahead.
He was informing them that although He was leaving for heaven, they didn’t have to live in fear. They could, instead, receive a gift.
He would leave them with peace.
Absence or Awareness
Jesus never said things would be easy because of this peace. He was saying that the promise of His peace would make the impossible feel more possible.
Often, we look for peace to solve all our problems. We sense that if we could just grab hold of peace, we would finally be at rest. Yet, peace is not the absence of problems; it’s the awareness of a promise. This is why Jesus continues: “My peace I will give to you.” The intrinsic peace that Jesus experienced with the Father all the way through His journey on earth is now the peace that He offers to you and me. The peace He possesses is the peace He now promises.
This means that when the Jenga pieces start building, you can slow down, and you can start breathing in grace. Jesus promised every one of us that He would be present with us in times of trouble. So even now, you can slow your breath, count to 10, and know that where Jesus’ presence is, His peace will be also.
Peace is not the absence of problems; it’s the awareness of His presence.
Solution or Source
Peace is not the absence of chaos, but it’s knowing there is no chaos Jesus can’t calm. Like drinking water from a fountain, we can return to His promise and His presence again and again, and we can find deep relief in the gift that He left behind for us. It doesn’t mean we’ll be quenched forever, but we know where we need to go when we find ourselves thirsty again.
Jesus is the source of peace. In panic, pandemic or the promised land, in the sunshine or in the storm, remember these words and let them calm your racing mind, tense body, or heavy heart: Peace is not an ever-elusive solution; peace is a never-ending Source.
We can return to the Source again and again, knowing that we will find the gift He left behind. When anxiety unpacks its bags, we can start to learn to breathe deeper.
Breathe it in today.