July 29, 2017

Peace Returns

Happy Saturday! It is a great day here in Phoenix. The skies are overcast, and the air temperature is moderate right now. It is only 9:45, but still, it is so nice outside that I have my window opened so some fresh air can circulate through my room. God is good! I am enjoying this blessed morning, sitting at my desk, drinking my coffee and nibbling on some toast with jelly. Yes, it is a good day to be alive, and a very good day to praise the Lord for His goodness and His mercy! Selah!

I am enjoying my morning despite the fact that I didn't sleep well last night. As odd as that seems, I feel GREAT even though I slept fitfully, and I woke with a tension headache. My headache has subsided (after some coffee and movement around the house), thankfully.  I feel good inside, like really good, and all I can think of is that I have my peace back. I feel rested and at peace. I cannot really explain it other than to say that I have this sense of "wellness" throughout my body, and my mind is stress-free. I mean, I feel no stress. I feel as if everything in my little corner of the world is going well, and as if I am in this wonderfully safe and calm place. God is so good to me! He is so good to me!

I am not sure what happened or how I got my "peace" back, but I can tell you that between now and the previous few days, something changed for me. I was feeling edgy last week, unsure, so tentative, and really concerned about my future life. I felt like something was off, and as I blogged yesterday, I really felt like I was giving way too much attention to my feelings, and as such, I was not thinking clearly. I prayed about it last night before bed, and I asked the Lord to help me recover my confidence. I asked for His help in everything, really, and I confessed that right now, I simply cannot handle the details of my life. Yes, I asked Him to take control of the details and to take responsibility and authority over them. The funny thing is that this morning, I read this blog post about how different Meyer-Briggs personality types deal with stress. One of the things that INTJ's stress over is the details. We often find ourselves frustrated when there are too many details to consider. Case in point -- my life right now! I am awash in details, and after trying my best to rationalize my way through them, I had to give up, give in, and give them over to the Lord for His management. I am sure that my surrender last night is part-and-parcel with my feeling of peace today. He is good like I always say, He is so very good to me! Selah!
Guided by Peace 

Many years ago, I was watching Joyce Meyer on TV. In one of her messages, she said something that has stuck with me. She said, "If you don't have peace about a decision, don't go through with it." She told a story about how she gave up a job because she didn't have peace. I thought, "You've got to be kidding. I could never do that -- humble myself and say I had made a mistake!" The interesting thing is that I actually did the very same thing the time I was hired to work for Centene Corporation (2013), and after 30 days of employment, I knew I had made a major mistake. I confessed, humbled myself, and walked away with my tail between my legs. It was the best decision I ever made, and as a result, I am where I am today because of it.

I learned that lesson well, and I remember Joyce's words about being guided by peace. Peace according to the dictionary means, "freedom from disturbance" or "quiet and tranquility." Peace is both a state of mind and a state of being. From a biblical perspective, peace means more than just a cessation of hostilities. Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines peace in four ways (from the Hebrew word, Salom or Shalom).
  1. Wholeness of life or body (as in health)
  2. Right relationship or harmony between two parties or people (as expressed in covenant)
  3. Prosperity, success, or fulfillment
  4. Victory over one's enemies or absence of war
Peace comes from God alone. God is our Jehovah-Shalom, the source of our peace. Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection bring us into a peaceful relationship with God, our Father, and as such, we are joint-heirs along with the Prince of Peace. Peace, therefore, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and we are called to live in peace (as much as is possible) with the world, walk in peace, and bring peace to all those we meet (in blessing, in greeting). The New Testament greeting, "Peace be with you," was a way for the early Christ followers to shower the blessing of peace upon their families, neighbors, and strangers daily.

The Bible speaks of peace as a way of life, and as such, the Holy Spirit often speaks to us through the confirmation of peace. If we have peace about a particular decision or idea, then we can feel confident that we are moving in the right direction. If we lack peace, then it is a good indicator that we need to stop what we are doing, seek God's counsel, and wait until our peace returns. Truthfully, the best way to avoid making mistakes is to NOT rush ahead of peace. We are to wait for confirmation, for the feeling of peace to come to us and to rest in the knowledge that there will be no situation without peace where we will find any or all of the outcomes listed above.

For example, changing jobs can be stressful even on a good day. But, if there is no peace in the pathway, perhaps the job is not the best fit or will not be the environment over the long haul. I knew going into my interview with Centene that the job sounded "too good to be true." It just sounded like this perfect opportunity, this perfect place to work, and all I could see was $ signs showing me a really good, really lucrative job opportunity. However, what was lacking was peace. I had peace in the job I was leaving (working part-time as an IA at GCU). I didn't like the low pay, and I didn't like the fact that I was panicked and stressed over making ends meet, but the job was not the problem back then. The problem was that I didn't trust the Lord to provide for me. He had opened the door at GCU. He had walked me to the office, interviewed alongside me, and then placed the job into my hand (it was 100% a God-thing). I simply was overwhelmed by His provision at the time. The rub was, of course, that the job was hourly. The Lord had clearly communicated to me that in order for me to do well in my doctoral program, it would be impossible for me to work full-time. I knew it. I believed it was true. What is more is the fact that I resigned from my job at CVS for that very reason. I was overworked as an analyst. I knew I couldn't keep the pace up (as they expected), and with 3-years of doctoral courses ahead of me, it was a sure no-brainer that I needed a part-time job. I simply didn't know how to make ends meet, and that was where the Lord stepped in and showed me a path to follow. 

I lost my peace when I agreed to leave GCU and take the position as Centene. I showed up, did the work, but after 3 miserable weeks, I knew I was on the wrong path. I had followed the wrong path. I sat day after day, alone in my cubicle, no work to do, and with no one with which to talk or visit. I knew I had taken a bad turn, and in a moment of utter desolation, I cried out for a return to my peace. The Lord provided for me. I walked back to GCU, tail in hand, and I asked if I could come back after making such a horrible decision. They graciously said yes. More so, I was offered an adjunct teaching position the next semester, and well, as they say, the rest is history. 

The Holy Spirit uses peace as a guide to help us know right from wrong, good or bad. If we tune into the Holy Spirit, really seek His wisdom and guidance, He will help us navigate through the decisions and choices we face daily. I have learned this lesson well, so the past couple days when I was lacking peace, I knew what to do, and that was to humble myself before the Lord and ask for His peace to guide me back to where I needed to be.

He is Faithful

I know that this is an overused saying, "It is not rocket science," but honestly, I think it best sums up life and life decisions, in general. I think we make life and decisions in life more difficult some times simply because we are foolish and arrogant and we don't want to surrender or submit to the Lord's authority in our life. The Bible clearly tells us that Jehovah God is a good Father, and as all good Father's, He gives liberally and justly to His children. He doesn't want us to suffer needlessly, but He also understands that children are children, and as such, they need discipline (correction) and training (instruction) in order to grow to maturity. Furthermore, He knows that sometimes the best discipline and training comes from lessons learned through mistakes. This is why He often allows consequences to follow our actions, simply for us to learn what not to do next time we are presented with a similar situation. More so, He gives us written instruction (His word) as well as internal instruction (His Spirit), and in this way, we have multiple avenues available to us to help us navigate the course of our lives.

We fail when we don't follow His instructions, when we don't listen to His Holy Spirit, and when we choose to follow our own devices and ends. We suffer the consequences of our choices often because of our own insistence on having our way, rather than submitting and yielding to His way, which is always best for us.

He is faithful to provide a way for us. He is faithful to give us clear direction. And, when things get muddy, fuzzy, or simply murky, He gives us a faithful companion to guide us through the most difficult part of our walk. He never leaves us alone. He never is far from us.

I have learned over the course of time that the Lord desires an intimate relationship with us. By intimate, I mean close, and by close, I mean personal. The Lord wants to be intimately involved in the daily business of life. He wants to be part of our life so much so that He has made it possible for us to be in communion with Him constantly. As Christ followers, the Holy Spirit lives within us. Get that point. He (God, the Spirit), lives on the inside of us. In our hearts, in our minds, and within the walls of our body. He is within us. This is why the Word says Christ is "Emmanuel," which means "God with us." God has made communion, connection, and constant companionship possible through Jesus' reconciliatory act of the crucifixion. We are no longer alone. We are not striving on our own. We are now in a compassionate and conversational relationship with the God of the Universe.

Yet, how often do we neglect the Holy Spirit and refuse to listen to His wise advice? I regret to say that I do this often and that when I have neglected His advice, I have suffered greatly in the loss of vision, loss of insight, and loss of understanding about a situation or event. I have struggled to figure out things on my own simply because I have not considered the prompting of the Holy Spirit nor surrendered to His specific direction.

Lately, I have made a great improvement in this particular area. I have worked hard at listening to His voice. I have made Him a priority in my decisions, and I have considered His counsel as best. I have taken heed of what He has said to me, and I have really considered His voice as primary and solely authoritative over every single issue, concern, and worry. As a result, I have come to find peace in my life. I have come to experience a sense of wholeness (1), harmony (2), prosperity, success, and fulfillment (3), and a cessation of turmoil between relationships (4). In truth, I have experience peace in all its definitions, and as such, I have come to this place where I "feel" good about my life, my path, and the plan the Lord has for me. I have peace in this way now, and I feel right, good, and as if I am on track according to His purpose and His will.
In Conclusion

As I close this blog post today, I realize that not everyone has peace inside their hearts, minds, or homes. Some Christ followers are suffering as a result of poor decisions, poor choices, and as such, they have no peace. Others have family members who are not believers, and as such, there is drama, tension or even violence in their homes. Still, others are suffering financially, facing poverty or loss of job, incomes, or homes. More are under the curse of ill-health, and even still more are facing uncertain futures. Not everyone who claims Christ experiences victory and many wonder how they can live a full and completely devoted life to a God who seems absent and far away. My heart breaks for those who are suffering today. I am fortunate, blessed, and highly favored -- not because of my own hand -- but simply because of His grace and mercy. I can say that victory is a function of peace, and if you are not walking in victory, clearly you are not fully realizing the price your Savior paid for you -- your life -- and your future. He is victorious. He has overcome. The power of sin and of death has been broken. The answer is in Him and Him alone. He will comfort you, counsel you, and compassionately care for you. Draw nearer to Him, and rest your weary self upon His breast. He cares for you. 

No comments: