Fruit of the Spirit: PEACE.

Galatians 5:22-23 - "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, PEACE, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Against such things that is no law."

Maybe it's just me, but the first three fruits of the Spirit seem to be the most sought after and elusive of all nine attributes.  If I could just experience the first three, I feel I would be eternally content.  I start the day determined to love with the alien love of God, a love comepletly other and outside me...I fight for that rare affection from above to motivate and animate and activate my mortal flesh.  If there is a smidgen of energy left, I seek to marinate that love in joy so that every action is impregnated with this almost extinct antidote.  What good is love if it is somber and stoic?  So I soak it in the joy of Jesus as best I can.  I choose joy even when I want to go off.

And then comes along this pursuit of peace, the expectation that walking in step with God's Spirit will make me a conduit of peace.  Few are the days when I nail all three.  It seems I have to choose to get a C- on one of them, sometimes two.  To get straight A's a third of the way into these 9 fruits is seemingly impossible.

Peace is not ease.  That's the first thing I should say.  I think we confuse these as synonyms, but they aren't bedfellows.  Just like happiness has very little to do with joy, peace infrequently hangs out with ease.  It's not the result of pleasant circumstances.  Peace isn't the lack of stress, it's the presence of God.  But I kown that can sound like a platitude and certainly doesn't make it any easier to navigate.

I resonate with David when he was writing in his journal on the run as a fugitive.  Mind you, he had already been anointed king, but the 12 years in between the anointing and his appointing weren't exactly the best days of his life.  However, they didn't lead to his best Psalms, the most honest and human ones, I should say. One entry in particular has always stood out to me...

"My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me.
Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.
I said, 'Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest."
              - Psalm 55:4-6

When you're having a panic attack or a emotional breakdown, wishful thinking is sometimes all you got. You wish you had wings and could fly away to a peaceful space, a place of rest.  A heart filled with anguish, terror, fear, trembling, and horror is no fun.  To feel beset and overwhelmed.  Yet this is where we find the great King David.  He is entangled and strangled with anxiety and panic.  Peace seems like a quixotic pipe dream.  When you're jealous of birds fantasizing about having their lives, you know it's time to see a therapist or to talk to someone other than yourself.  I wish I could say I've never experienced what David is describing, but that would be a lie.

There have been days when I've felt like the prophet Jeremiah saying, "My soul has been rejected by peace; I have forgotten happiness." (Jer. 3:17)  It's been called "the dark night of the soul".  The valley of the shadow.  The thorn in the flesh.  But whatever you call it, it's paralyzing.

For the first 36 years of my life, peace and freedom were abundant.  I would often wonder why people were so down, so discouraged.  To my shame, I felt like they needed to just snap out it and look at the bright side.  They needed to trust God.  They needed to compare themselves to others who had it worse and let that align them and give them perspective.  I was ignorant and naive.

At age 37 this Psalm happened to me and the peace that I always took for granted escaped me.  I waited for it to come back as I had known it before, but that day has never come.  Really, what I'm waiting for is ease, not peace, because peace is often found in the bow of a nearly capsized boat sleeping on a pillow.  The Prince of Peace is found in the valley of the shadow of death.  He is in the fiery furnace.  He is in the lion's den.  He is the belly of a fish.  He is in the dungeon of his disciples.

The peace I'm taking about doesn't make passes understanding as Philippians 4 says.  Peace feeds off of truth when betayed by feelings.  For over 5 years I've literally been in the middle of a panic attack on certain days all the while accompanied by unexpainable peace.  I know that God is with me even when all gives way.  I sense his soveriegn hand even when my spirit is vexed within me.  When my mind and heart are having a civil war and I don't know which is which, I breathe deep and say to my soul, "Bless the Lord, and all that is within me bless His holy name."  I talk to myself, my soul saying, "Why so downcast, oh my soul, put your hope in God!"  It is quite fascinating to find that the Bible is a book of stories written by people talking their souls in and out of things on the basis of truth.  When their souls would wax and wane, they would bolster them with promises and precepts that transcended mere emotions.  They would speak truth to the lies produced by their minced minds assaulted by fiery darts of the devil schemes.

This fruit is one that is hard to fake.  I've seen people feign love and joy, but never peace.  That is why it's born of the Spirit and born again each day by the Spirit's calming presence.  Without the Spirit, peace is hard to come by, next to impossible.

Jesus is called the Prince of Peace and I think it's because we are all damsels in distress needing that knight in shining armor to rescue us from the rat's nest of our restless minds.  Can you hear him whispering, "Peace, be still" to your harried and hurried soul today?

I pray you will know his peace in this moment.


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