“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Phillipians 4:7
I’ve spent years watching the people around me exhibit visible signs of a peaceful life but I could never really comprehend how they were able to achieve this. They were happy, serene and content. Life wasn’t perfect but they seemed completely unbothered by its imperfections.
Philippians 4 talks of this kind of peace. A peace that comes from God Himself. A peace that passes all understanding. I wanted that peace. I prayed for it. I begged for it. But I never got it. And I couldn’t understand why I was not able to receive this promise that so many people around me were living in.
But I’ve got it all figured out now.
See, you can pray for peace all you like, but if you are not ready and willing to do what it takes to actually receive that peace you will never have it. You will not be receptive to that peace if your life is full of clutter. You need to create an atmosphere deserving of His peace. An atmosphere that welcomes and cultivates His peace. An atmosphere that protects it.
When your life and your spirit is cluttered with unhealthy and toxic people, situations and habits you cannot receive peace or live in the fullness of it. Toxicity is the complete opposite of peace and the two cannot coexist.
I lived a very toxic life for a long time. The sad part is that I didn’t even know it. My self-esteem was unbelievably low, I had no idea how to love or value myself and I attracted people and things that were equally as broken and toxic. Every relationship I had ever been in brought with it some level of toxicity. My friends were toxic. They too were carrying around spirits that were riddled with low self-worth, brokenness and fear. I spent my nights trying to fill the emptiness with sex, drugs, alcohol and excessive partying. But all that ever done was move me further and further from the peace I truly craved.
I spent several years trying to find that peace through these kinds of relationships, but they always failed. In an effort to find a man to complete me I continued to give away parts of my soul, sacred fragments of my being. And the more I gave of myself the less peace I had for myself.
I was a shell of human being. Hollow. Empty. Broken. Toxic. And peace could not exist within me.
As long as my life was full of toxicity I remained hopelessly rattled. My spirit continued to stay broken and while it longed for peace and happiness, it had no room to house it. It wasn’t until I started to make certain changes in my life that I slowly began to move towards the peace that I had coveted for so long. As I cleared away the things that cluttered my spirit I made room for the peace that passes all understanding.
The first thing that I had to do was recognize that I actually deserved that peace. I had become addicted to drama. The “fast life” and all the excitement that it brought fueled me. But there was no peace in that lifestyle. And so I had to adjust the way I thought about myself and my life to put my mind in a place that could even conceive of the idea of living in peace. I had to dissect myself to my core and acknowledge the broken pieces, while accepting that they do not define me. I had to look in the mirror and literally point out all the beautiful parts of who I am. I had to write down my assets and my flaws and accept that the asset list was always longer. I had to spend some time learning who I was. Figuring out what I want for myself. What kinds of things I actually liked, because simple things like my favorite colors were lost to me. So, like learning a second language, I had to learn me.
Then I started to set some goals, tangible and realistic goals. Peace was number one my list. And I woke up each day with those goals in mind and they started to fuel me and drive me in a more positive direction than I had been travelling before. I allowed those goals to dictate my decision making process and slowly but ever so surely, my life started to change.
I became able to make decisions that positively benefitted my life because I was so focused on finding peace. Often times these decisions were difficult to make. Sometimes I procrastinated making them. Other times I made them kicking and screaming or reluctantly surrendered after putting myself through much pain. But I made the decisions. And my spirit became more peaceful with each one.
And finally I had to let learn how to let go of all the bitterness from my past. The hurt, the failure and the fear. I just had to ask God to take it all from me. Replace the resentment with understanding, the animosity with forgiveness and the pain with peace.
But it has been a journey. Like everything else that I write about, it didn’t happen overnight. In fact it requires regular maintenance to sustain. I have to consciously choose to protect and preserve my peace. And when I make decisions that are not aligned with that, I lose my peace, even if only for a moment.
I have to regularly take inventory of my life. I check my surroundings, the people who I allow in my personal space. I assess the influences that I am allowing to infiltrate my mind and my senses. Things like television programs, articles and books that I read, conversations that I have. I look at how well I’ve been taking care of myself - the food I eat, the amount of exercise I do and the number of hours I spend in prayer and meditation. I assess all of these things and make adjustments on a regular basis in order to protect the precious peace that I have finally found.
And let me be completely transparent. I don’t always make the right choice. I don’t always do the right thing. I make mistakes. I fall down. But because of the peace of God that lives inside of me, I don’t stay down for long.
Do you want peace? I’m sure you do. That’s really what we all want. But are you willing to do what it takes to have it and keep it? Are you willing to distance yourself from that person who constantly causes you to second guess yourself? Are you willing to walk away from a relationship that does not bring you fulfillment? Are you prepared to sacrifice time and money to pursue your dreams? Are you ready to give up superficial things that contribute no real value to your happiness?
Are your ready for peace? That’s the question I had to ask myself, because God does not give us something unless we are ready for it.
Peace is given to us freely but it comes with a sacrifice. We have to sacrifice all the things that jeopardize it. All the things that threaten its very existence in our lives. And when we are truly ready and willing to make that sacrifice, peace will be ours.
Be strong…be courageous…BE GREAT!