Is it possible to experience peace, and live it spiritually, when things in your life seem to be imploding?
Yes. Not only can you remain in peace yourself, you can bring it to others—regardless of your circumstances.
Sacred Scripture repeatedly calls us to be at peace. Here is one particular verse:
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.Colossians 3:15
Such interior peace does not depend on the absence of conflict, strife, or suffering. It is completely unrelated to the events taking place in our lives. It exists at such a deep and soulful level—an otherworldly level—that it remains untouched by whatever swirls around us.
Yes, in the midst of our greatest sufferings, we can still have this peace of soul, this biblical peace. It is a peace that we come to know, over time, as we learn to entrust every circumstance of our lives to the Lord.
Every. Single. One.
Suffering Is Not Wasted
Have you ever heard the saying “God uses everything”? I have recognized and lived this truth many times in my life, but perhaps most powerfully in the last five years—for it is in these last five years that Our Lord has begun to teach me so much more about His peace.
It all began when one of my children was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. The shock and fear of that moment—and the many shocks that followed—are something I can’t describe, but anyone who has gone through moments like these can understand.
The last five years have been difficult, at times threatening our peace in every way imaginable. Yet we are still persevering, and still hoping, as our daughter continues to struggle with a disease that doctors say is incurable.
Sometimes peace comes so naturally; sometimes it comes moment by moment. But I know it is there for me, and I rest in it every day of my life. I see it growing from faith and hope and from the charity of wonderful prayer warriors, who sustain and accompany my family during this time.
Here are six things that I have found necessary for finding and keeping interior peace:
1. Know what (and Who) peace truly is.
The peace with which God wants to fill our hearts is not strictly found in a weekend getaway, a stroll on the beach, or a day off from a difficult schedule. Those getaways are indeed important—they encourage us to enter into an atmosphere of serenity, which makes it easier for us to seek interior silence and to hear His voice. When we seek to establish peace and organization in our home, for example, the more interior soul-level peace we can experience. Calm surroundings help us focus on Him, not on life’s difficulties.
At the same time, we should not confuse a peaceful atmosphere with the peace God wants to give us. This peace—which only He can give—is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Now this gift does not mean that we will be entirely calm and serene all the time, or that we will never experience emotions brought about by weariness, sadness, grief, fear, or anxiety. At the same time, we should not assume that because our emotions get the best of us, we are incapable of the supernatural gift of peace—or that we do not have it at all.
We will, at times, be fearful and anxious. It is part of our human nature. The key is to be vigilant over our emotions and refuse to let them carry us away. We must offer them to God when things are challenging, and directly ask Him for His peace. Because peace is not a thing. It is a person. Jesus Christ. Only through intimacy with Him will we ever truly find it.
2. Defend your daily peace if you want biblical peace.
We must do everything we can to defend our daily peace—every day—unceasingly. Some of the “noise of the world” is inevitable. We cannot escape it. It is part of living in this age. But it’s important to recognize that we are actually choosing some of this noise for ourselves!
It does not please the Lord if we are so busy running around, helping everyone, and doing everything, that we are frantic all day long with no time to seek or acknowledge Him. It doesn’t delight Him if we become so overwrought by the problems of our loved ones that we don’t remember to give these problems to Him and rest securely in that.
Prudent choices about how far to extend ourselves, and when to detach ourselves, are important to keeping our peace. We are called to charity, selflessness, and generosity, but if we overextend that without prudence, we are responsible for giving away our own peace.
A quiet mind is essential to finding and keeping your peace. Look at the things you choose to prioritize during your day. If time with Christ isn’t one of them, what can you set aside in favor of more quiet time to rest in Him? How will we find Him if we are not actively looking for Him by clearing space (in our hearts, minds, and calendars) to meet Him?
Time in prayerful communion with God is the best kind of quiet. If that is missing from your life, start today. Sit quietly for ten minutes, talking to Him, thanking and praising Him, and asking for His peace. That is a beginning.
Make time for things that calm your mind. Disconnect from what fills it with “noise.”
3. Recall what He has done in the past so that you can keep trusting Him with the future.
Psalm 77:1 says, “I will recall the deeds of the Lord; yes, recall your wonders of old.”
In order to have peace, we must practice trusting God, over and over again, until it becomes natural and constant for us. We know how much He loves us, and how much He desires for us. He gave everything in order to demonstrate that love.
The Lord is particularly glorified when we entrust everything to Him in the midst of a disorienting and debilitating situation. We do not have to know the mind of God or understand why He permits something in order to entrust Him with our cares. Seeing our trust and obedience in the face of devastating uncertainty gives great glory to God. It allows Him to open a portal to us for greater grace and peace.
Trust does not come naturally to most of us. Relinquishing everything to Christ is an act of the will. We cannot perfect this disposition without willing ourselves to surrender everything to Him over and over again, constantly, until it becomes second nature.
When you are tempted to try and take back what you have given to the Lord, remember His works throughout salvation history; throughout your own life; and throughout the lives of your loved ones. What He has done before, He can do again, and then some. His power is unlimited, as is His mercy and love.
4. Live a life of praise.
Try praising God for every “little miracle,” even as you are praying for greater things. The little things can be as seemingly insignificant: a beautiful day, a patch of flowers seen on a walk, an unexpected visit from a friend.
Many times as we are suffering, the little things allow us to live a life of praise for—and glory in—our good God. Sometimes the big prayers remain unanswered, only to be addressed in His timing—but there are always little things that we can praise Him for.
Praise is a mantle of protection against the enemy. It prevents the evil one from getting a foothold on us. Remember, the devil wants to take away our hope. Without it we are laid bare as the most vulnerable prey to his tactics.
Sacred Scripture tells us that praise—which demonstrates hope—is a spiritual weapon in our arsenal.
On the mouths of children and infants, you have found praise to foil your enemy, to silence the foe and the rebel.Psalm 8:2
In the beginning, it may feel forced and unnatural, but focus on finding things for which to praise God. Praise Him as constantly as you can, interiorly and even aloud.
5. Stay in the present moment.
Don’t get too far ahead. God gave us wisdom and knowledge, but only a finite amount of both. There’s a reason for that. He is God and we are not. He has already suffered for us, in order to make suffering redemptive and own it all. In this way, He shows us that He wants to be our peace.
Don’t give away your peace to your own imagination by getting too far ahead of yourself. You will be worrying about things that may not materialize and ruining this moment with the anxieties of the next. Stay in this present moment, live in it, and seek Him in it.
Trust Him as He stretches and readies you along the way, so that He has time to prepare you for what comes next. Don’t seek what’s ahead before He has made you ready. He will lift the veil on the future a little at a time. Take comfort in that and don’t rush into things He has not yet prepared you to receive.
There are graces to be found in the smallest things if we are living in the moment. Worries and anxieties bind us if we are jumping into the future—at the expense of the graces in this moment, and peace in the next.
6. Have an expectant faith.
Even when you are frightened by the things in life that you can see, believe that God is with you. Believe that His will is perfect for you. Believe that He wants only what is best for you. Do not doubt God’s desire to bless you.
We glorify Him all the more when we have an expectant faith. It feeds our sense of hope and trust. These things lead us to interior peace even in the darkest circumstances. If we truly believe in His infinite love for us and His desire for us in heaven, we can live in the expectant faith that Jesus calls us to in Sacred Scripture.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace…Hebrews 4:16
But how can we have an expectant faith when situations are truly devastating?
This is a question I have wrestled with over time. In these crises, we must go back to what we know, because there is so much that is unknowable to us in this life.
The Apostle Paul understood this well:
Therefore we are not discouraged; rather, though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison, as we look not to what is seen, but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Are you experiencing great sufferings that seem insurmountable? The Beatitudes are Jesus’ promises for some of life’s most tragic situations. In each beatitude, His eternal promises bring graces in which we can trust and believe. His promises are the promises of heaven, not necessarily this of earthly life. As Christians, however, we know that these are the grandest, most incredible, and most important of all His promises.
It takes trust and strength of will to “see” eternally and wait for the Lord to bring graces from something tragic. But He has promised to accompany us with His mercy and love, so we must believe that, in time—if we stay faithful—graces will follow even the most devastating trials.
Peace is not simply a serene atmosphere that allows for temporary relief from anxieties. It is not merely a “state of mind” or a period of rest and tranquility. Those types of peace are transitory.
Peace is the person of Christ, in His permanence and love. He’s waiting for you to entrust everything to Him. Keep giving Him your cares and trusting in His promises, both here and in eternity, and you will find the peace and healing your soul craves.
May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way…2 Thessalonians 3:16
What are some examples of practices that bring greater peace into your life?
What are some things that steal your daily peace or prevent you from feeling biblical peace?
Have you experienced a difficult situation that you consciously gave to God? What were the resulting graces and blessings?