Christmastime is often portrayed as the most "peaceful" time of year. But it certainly doesn't feel that way to me this year.
There are still children starving for food and thirsty for clean water. There are still millions of families who are without a home right now because they are seeking refuge in a foreign country due to violence in their own. There are still thousands of people who lack the most basic posessions right now due to natural disaster. Just because it's Christmas doesn't mean all of these problems in our world are magically solved. There seems to be less peace right now than ever before--I know, I know...this is an exagerrated misperception. But, it feels that way to me.
No to mention that there are friends that I have disagreed with recently, there are deadlines to be met here at work, and there are a bunch of holiday parties that I must attend in the next couple weeks (which is kind of rough for an introvert). With all this in mind, I feel very little "peace" in my heart right now, and I think it's a problem. Because of our identity and relationship with Jesus Christ, a sense of deep-seated "peace" should always be present anyways, not just at Christmas, right? What am I missing? Can anyone else relate to this feeling?
Before I go too far off the rails into mind-meanderings, I believe it is best to dive into Scripture in order to enrich our souls with the Truth. In the midst of what feels like peace-less times, my own voice is probably not the one to listen to for advice. The question at hand is this: how do we find and practice "peace" during this season?
I recently read this passage, Colossians 3:12-17.
"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
What can these verses teach us about finding and practicing peace? Here are a few things I think we can pull out.
1) We should double-check our identities.
Why don't we feel full of God's peace? Perhaps it's because we are forgetting who we are--or rather, Whose we are. We are "God's chosen ones." He chose us and adopted us and cherishes us deeply. We are "holy and beloved" because of Jesus Christ's sacrifice to take away our sins. Have we been identifying more in our work, our relationships, or our hobbies than in Jesus? Maybe this is why I haven't felt very peaceful--I am seeking it somewhere other than the only place we can truly find it: in Christ.
2) We should analyze our hearts.
Are we "compassionate"--really and truly? When was the last time I went out of my way to help someone other than myself? Perhaps we would feel more peace in our hearts if we intentionally served someone else on a regular basis. Have I been "kind" with my words, my actions, my money? If someone were to look at us and the way we talk, act, or spend, would he or she see Christ in us? Whenever I have just acted selfishly, I may have a temporary feeling of peace in my heart, but it is just a false illusion--it quickly disappears. Have I practiced "humility and meekness" in regards to those around me? Pride can be blinding to us, unfortunately. We miss out on celebrating others' successes, on encouraging those who are down, and on seeking out ways to serve the poor or hurting--all of which are peace-making actions. I think we can probably agree that thinking so highly of ourselves does not lead to peaceful sensations in the end.
3) We should cherish our relationships.
Boy-oh-boy do I struggle with this one. "Patience" is a virtue indeed, but it sure doesn't come easily. Have we recently been in a disagreement with anyone that never got resolved? Is there someone I haven't forgiven or I'm holding a subtle grudge against? I think we have a tendency to take our relationships for granted--especially with those whom we know and love the most. The root of this one is ungratefulness. God has so blessed each of us with families, spouses, and/or friends that He didn't have to give to us. We all have our mishaps and arguments--but we must "bear with" one another's weaknesses, and forgive each other as God has forgiven us. Nothing takes peace away faster than bitterness or unresolved conflict.
4) We should let the peace of Christ rule.
Sometimes, I feel like the only thing keeping me from experiencing peace is me. Do we even truly desire peace? Based upon our what we think or do, one could possible make the argument that we don't desire peace at all. In order to find and practice peace, we must first be vulnerable enough and humble enough to let Jesus into our hearts, minds, and bodies. He is the source of true peace, afterall. If we "put on" his love, and let his peace "rule" inside of us, there will be harmony. This is what we are "called" to in "one body"--one body unified in faith, in desire, and in Spirit.
5) We should get in the Word and let the Word get in us.
The Word of Christ is most clearly spoken to us in the Bible. Plain and simple. Are we reading Scripture and meditating on it regularly? The more we do, the more richly the Word will "dwell in" us. A deeper understanding of and a more lasting affection for Scripture will put us in a place that we may "teach and admonish" each other, encourage each other, sing songs of praise together, and express our thankfulness to God together. This verse seems like a little glimpse into what heaven might be like. Surely we will feel peace if we pursue these things!
If you're anything like me, you might feel like the "peace" of the holiday season is almost gimicky in the face of all the stress. But, I challenge you to really let these words out of Colossians 3 sink into your soul today. If we take these words to heart and put them into practice, I believe that we will not only feel peace during Christmastime, but every single day. Our peace is found in Jesus Christ, and God has promised to "never leave or forsake" us (Deut. 31:6). Perhaps this "peace" isn't so unattainable and elusive afterall.
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director @ IDES