Fruit of the Spirit Series – Part Four (Peace)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law,” Galatians 5:22-23, (NIV).
Right now, we have been living under the COVID-19 quarantine restrictions for about 2 months. The news continues to be frightening with reports of deaths, joblessness, and national security scares between countries. There have been places where restrictions are easing and not easing, with predictions of second waves, and talk of the loss of our freedoms by politicians hungry for power using this as an excuse to gain control.
As someone working in the mental health field (school counselor), I see the strain on families, school teachers, and leadership who are trying to create a system for home learning while under incredible pressure. I have my own concerns for my personal family, and I am constantly confronted with the consequences and challenges many of us are facing. I won’t list all the difficult factors here. Let me just say, anxiety is high all around.
May is mental health awareness month. There are clinical practices that are truly helpful for those who have anxiety issues. Therapies and medicine can and should be considered for people who suffer from anxiety disorders. However, spiritual health is also part of our well-being, and I wonder if we can take a moment to see how some of what is practiced by mental health practices aligns with scriptural teaching.
Peace with Ourselves
Mindfulness is very popular right now. It is practiced in a controlled and calm environment so you can better understand what is happening in your body in response to different sensations and thoughts. Fear is a helpful and natural reaction to danger used by our bodies designed to keep us safe and alive. The problem is when that natural reaction becomes hyper vigilant, and there is an overreaction that prevents us from living a fully engaged life – anxiety. Mindfulness is designed to help people take a step back as an observer of self, to determine the next steps, and learn how to better regulate our reactions. It is not to stop anxiety from happening; rather, mindfulness works when acknowledge the anxiety, and we learn how to take control over our anxious thoughts and feelings.
Here’s what scriptures say:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9, (ESV)
“We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5, BSB)
I don’t think we are wrong to feel anxiety. I think when we feel anxiety, we can turn to the Lord, practice gratitude, and challenge those uncomfortable thoughts with what we know is true from God’s Word. All thoughts are not equal, valid, or wanted.
Peace with Others
I know it is hard to live in close contact day after day with others. It is also hard to see people respond to the “COVID crisis” in ways that are different than ourselves. Some might view others as being too fearful, and others as too risky. Both ends can behave quite ridiculously. I think we can all agree that a balance is necessary. And, I think we all have times when we get on each other’s nerves. Grace needs to abound. Kindness is necessary.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18, (ESV)
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
Peace with God
The fear of death is very real, and it is something we cannot escape.
“Remember how short my time is! For what vanity you have created all the children of man! What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah” Psalm 89:48-49
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; . . .” Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
Most of us will come through this time experiencing significant losses. Some have lost loved ones, and others have lost their livelihood, relationships, financial security, and the opportunity to celebrate things like weddings, birthdays, graduations, or even be beside someone who is facing the end of life in a hospital or nursing home. We need time to grasp and grieve the impact of all of these things.
Here is the bottom line. Jesus has overcome and conquered death.
We have an appointed time to live and die. Everyone gets to make the choice to accept or reject him. But the Bible also tells us that “every knee shall bow, every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord.” We will all face God on judgment day.
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55
“But God raised Him from the dead, releasing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for Him to be held in its clutches.” Acts 2:24
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20
We refer to Jesus Christ as our savior because he has made a way to be in a right relationship with God. He has made us righteous by paying for our sins through his death on the cross, and his resurrection.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:14-17
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
So, may we allow the fruit of the Spirit to live in us through peace with our God, each other, and ourselves. May we practice gratitude, kindness, and put our trust in the Lord, our savior. Meditate on what is true, and if at all possible, live in peace with one another.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
It’s OK to ask for help. We need to be there for one another. If you are considering suicide, reach out and ask for help. US National Suicide Prevention Hotline phone number is: 1-800-273-8255
May the peace that passes all understanding be with you.