The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 4:7
Wherever God is, his peace draws near. His presence brings freedom from inner restlessness, dividedness, and hostile impulses; it brings harmony of heart, mind, and soul. –Eberhard Arnold
We’re preparing to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, but sometimes peace seems hard to find. The news is full of stories of war and its horrors, of murder, of starvation and injustice. For those of us who have not been visited by tragedy, peace in daily life is still hard to find. I hear many people fretting aloud about how they can make it through the Christmas get-togethers with relatives, worrying about the feuds and quarrels that are likely to resurface. When I slow down enough to listen to what’s going on in my own heart and soul I find a great deal of doubt, conflict, anxiety and resentment.
It’s tempting to seek out distractions, to avoid noticing the conflict around and within us. We turn on the television or hide out in a book, we go to the mall, we add unnecessary items to our to-do list. And the unacknowledged conflicts gnaw at the back of our minds, sapping our peace and our capacity for joy.
We can never experience God’s peace by distracting ourselves from the painful parts of reality. God is the very ground of reality. When we stop running and dare to look open-eyed into the darkness we find that God is there with us, and God’s light is not overcome. When we let ourselves see what is wrong, and work to right it if we can, we also allow ourselves to see what is right already: the courage of the peacemakers who keep faith in the midst of tragedy and crisis; the love present alongside the tension in our families; the earth’s bounty and resilience, as well as the damage it suffers; and the knowledge of God’s presence, the peace that passes all understanding, unifying and deepening us.