Last year around Christmas, Mark and I braved a local shopping area for some gifts on our list. We braced ourselves for crowds and lines, loud songs playing over store speakers, irritable drivers fighting to get the last parking spot. When we walked through our door an hour later, I took a deep breath and thought, “Peace at last.”
In our culture, we tend to think of peace as the absence of what troubles us. The blaring music gets turned off. The crowd thins out. The pace of our life slows down. But when Mark and I went to church that night our wise pastor, Mark Schatzman, talked about what God really means when He says He will give us peace.
The biblical word for peace is shalom, and while it’s difficult to translate into our language, it essentially means wholeness and well-being. Theologian Tim Keller says, “Shalom experienced is multidimensional, complete well-being — physical, psychological, social, and spiritual; it flows from all of one’s relationships being put right — with God, within oneself, and with others.”
What strikes me most when I read this is how often I settle for less than shalom. I’m content with a shallow, surface-level peace. If I’m gut-honest, I even feel a bit nervous about the idea of shalom. I’m a woman who knows how to work hard and fight harder. I’m used to my faith feeling like a battleground. If life is calm and things are good, I start wondering what will go wrong.
I tend to focus on the part of the gospel that is the cross. Yet sometimes in doing so I forget that part of the purpose of the cross is to bring us shalom. “The punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). The story of Scripture starts with Adam and Eve in a Garden, a place of complete peace. It ends in heaven, also a place of well-being and wholeness. It seems God is intent on seeing His people thrive, whatever it takes.
This doesn’t mean we’ll experience shalom fully in this world. We are fallen, broken people on a fallen, broken earth. But there’s something comforting in knowing that God is always working to bring us toward shalom. “Great is the Lord, who delights in blessing his servant with peace!” (Psalm 35:27) We will go through hardship and suffering in this life, but peace is the place God has for us to dwell.
If we’re in a season where life is happy, then I think that means we embrace it without fear or apology. We receive the gifts God is bestowing on us. We celebrate and savor every moment. We let the joy we feel now be a small preview of what we’ll one day experience forever.
If we’re in a season where life is hard, then I think that means we let shalom be our hope. As Mark Schatzman said, “God makes peace out of our pieces.” No matter how broken we feel now, we can trust one day we’ll be whole and that all will be well.
Yes, I thought for so long that peace was the absence of something. I know now it’s the presence of Someone — a God who loves us, a God who is for us, a God who is making all things new, including me and you.
God, You don’t just give us peace; You are our peace. Thank You that what You offer is so much deeper and greater than we often know. We ask that You will give us Shalom so that no matter what our circumstances might be we can know that all will be well and we will be whole. Amen.
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Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I thought I was the only one who, if things were calm and peaceful for a spell, is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well…isn’t that a “glass half-empty” way of living? I am learning to embrace the calm seasons as a preview of eternity in paradise. What an awesome God to give us glimpses of great things to come! I love this – “Yes, I thought for so long that peace was the absence of something. I know now it’s the presence of Someone — a God who loves us, a God who is for us, a God who is making all things new, including me and you.” Amen!
Wow! This really struck me this morning. The past couple years of my life have been filled with such turmoil; I didn’t realize that I had become accustomed to living this way. Perhaps, it isn’t the fault of my circumstances that I don’t feel peace but rather my mindset.
Jan Reader says
Thank you, Holley. These are the words that I needed to hear today.
Thank you for this beautiful article! I needed to hear it. I liked this part, “I tend to focus on the part of the gospel that is the cross. Yet sometimes in doing so I forget that part of the purpose of the cross is to bring us shalom.“ I was thinking in terms of myself in that I often focus all of my attention on the current cross in my life and end up feeling down and negative. Yesterday in the midst of anxiety I sat still in my prayer space. I heard the Lord tell me that my thoughts may be swirling, my body may be filled with tension, and outside circumstances may not be exactly as I want them to be, however, the peace of God that dwells within me will always be there. It’s just a matter of finding it.
You spoke straight to my heart this morning. I am in a place of peace right now, but just like you said, I’m worrying about when is the next bad thing going to happen rather than just savoring this time. Lord, help me to see these times as a preview of the perfect peace yet to come.
Love the line that God makes peace out of our pieces (I sew and this would be great on a t shirt)! Ditto about the shoe, Bev!
Then I remember that there’s Someone who always has my back, no matter what, that gives a peace that passes all understanding…
I echo Bev’s sentiment—I too am always “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” After the tumult of dealing with my mother’s declining health and death last year, the marriage of our oldest daughter, and helping our youngest fledgling navigate job changes and reality post college graduation, I’m at a point where I contemplate what IS really next! So thankful for reminders that God is always present.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Holley what you wrote is so true. Jesus said in his word the Bible also we will alway have poor among us. So in this world we will never have true peace. Unless we come to know the true peace of the world. That is Jesus. Who was born in a Manger no fancy Hospital. That went on to Calvarys Cross for all the world because he loved us all so much. No better present could God have given us. We would never have known that real peace if we had not got saved. We as Christian need to get the Christmas story all year round out to all the world that our not saved by living our lives for Jesus in front of the unsaved. Even when troubles come up in our lives. Like Money worries Sicknesd etc. Showing no matter how hard it is at the times. No matter what we are going through plus the hard ships. Even if we have depression. We can go to Jesus in prayer and as Christian stand on the promises in his word the Bible. Keep looking up. Show the world especially the unsaved. We are trusting Jesus no matter what. Even in this Holiday season even when things can get stressful. We can go Jesus for rest and he will give us the rest we need as it says in Matthew 11 verses 28 -30. We don’t need to be so stress up over things. We can show the unsaved. We have Jesus to relay on for everything. He will help us and tell us what to do through his Holy Spirit. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little. Love today’s reading xxx
I loved your message ! shalom indeed..the early bible based in Jewish times really shows us that family is first and taking a day off to rest in the Lord brings us into balance…it helps us have that shalom ! from their perspective it begins at Friday at sundown and runs all day sat until sundown. I appreciate taking a whole complete day off. I can get done what I need in the other 6. Christmas is rushed..haired and busy. finding peace and rest in the middle of it all can be a chore in itself.
I think our modern world has forgotten to take one day off..if God said we should them I’m sure he knew best. it sets the tome to be able to handle things all that week better.
shalom…even in the Christmas rush !
Heather P. says
Thank you so much for this! I have been feeling this way lately, and feel like you were writing about me. “If life is calm and things are good, I start wondering what will go wrong.” That is what I was feeling, but couldn’t put it in words. That is it exactly. I’m almost nervous when something “bad” isn’t going on in my life, like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I know God doesn’t want me living like that. As you say,”If we’re in a season where life is happy, then I think that means we embrace it without fear or apology.” YES! Thanks again for this encouragement.
Beth Williams says
God said there would be trials/tribulations down here on broken Earth. Society today has us living in constant upheaval. We are constantly going, doing, striving. That makes us frazzled. If people would slow down & focus on God then they can have true peace. Life will still be crazy, but if we give ourselves time & permission to pray & seek Him then Shalom can be ours. Do a simple breath prayer-just breath in & say Jesus-then breath out & say help me. It will calm you mind, body & soul leading to the ultimate peace God is trying to give us. That won’t mean things won’t fall apart & plans may have to be changed. It means we are content with our lives with God as our guide. Knowing all will be well in the end.