Jesus spoke these words to His disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). How could this be so considering that the disciples would face hostility, imprisonment, suffering and even death? Peace, as Jesus spoke of it, is obviously not simply the absence of external problems. Rather, it involves the ability to respond to circumstances in a positive way. The apostle Paul illustrated this when he wrote,
… I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
Those words become even more significant when we realize that they were written after Paul had spent up to four years under arrest on false charges. Repeated trials had pointed to his innocence. Yet his imprisonment continued. There was even a lingering possibility of him facing execution. But despite this, his outlook was characterised by peace rather than by anger, frustration or fear. (Read the short Bible book of “Philippians” to see more of the apostle’s positive attitude.)
One way to find peace is to refuse to worry (Philippians 4:6). Discipline your thinking and refuse to give room in your mind to anxious thoughts. After all, what does worry achieve in solving problems? Jesus asked: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27) Someone once estimated that of the things we worry about, 40% never happen, 30% are in the past (and therefore we can do nothing about them), 12% are health reasons, 10% are trivial, and only 8% are matters of real concern. Thus, 92% of our worries are pointless.
But what about the remaining 8%? Much has been said and written on how to overcome stress and find peace of mind. Advice includes examining your lifestyle to see if there are ways in which to reduce your stress levels. Create opportunities for recreation, exercise and relaxation. Learn to distinguish between circumstances you can change and those you can’t. Learn about positive thinking and relaxation techniques. Rather than trying to deal with everything at once, set some priorities and deal with them step by step. Don’t dwell on past failures. Find people whom you can talk to and who will be a help and encouragement to you. Look for the positives in life (as indicated in Philippians 4:8).
With so much advice available on this subject, do we need the Bible or Christianity? Yes, it is possible to be at peace without being a Christian or believing in God. But is that a realistic peace? A peace which ignores facts is a delusional peace which will ultimately be shattered. The Bible speaks of those who falsely declare peace “when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). We thus have to ask ourselves whether the peace we are seeking (or may even have found) is one which takes all aspects of human existence into consideration. This is where God and Christianity are relevant because God helps us to deal not only with all aspects of life but also with the realities of death and eternity. In this regard, it is worth reading what the Bible has to say in Romans 8:28-39. Such a passage removes fear and anxiety by assuring us that nothing in life or in death can defeat us if we commit ourselves to God. In addition, Christians also have the assurance that prayer is an effective way of overcoming fear, anxiety and uncertainty (Philippians 4:6, 7). This is not because prayer is merely a form of “positive thinking” or “meditation” but because we have a God who responds to prayer.