Monday, March 13, 2017

When Peace is a Heart Struggle

            WHY DO you think your heart struggles to have peace?
            That’s the question I ended last week’s blog post with, and I hope you had time to meditate on and answer it.
            What kind of answer(s) did you come up with? Would you have more peace if you lived in a better neighborhood, in a bigger house? Made more money? Had better health? Different parents, or a different spouse? Maybe had a spouse? Got a better education and a better job? More fame and attention? 
            We’re always searching for the bigger, better, more perfect thing in life, aren’t we? What we have right here and now is never enough. Deep down in our gut, most of us are restless, never-fully-satisfied people. Oh, we might be satisfied for a moment or short period of time. But when the luster and honeymoon wears off the “new” then we’re thinking about and planning for the “next.”

            For this post I’m going to borrow some concepts I learned from Paul David Tripp at a marriage conference my husband I recently attended. They were insightful, eye-opening truths that can be applied to all aspects of life.
            One of them is that we need to be honest and admit that most of us don’t live in big moments and probably never will. What we live in is the “utterly mundane” moments of life. Day in and day out—work, play, school, family.
            Living in the mundane moments is probably a stumbling block for me since I used to live in big moments. Really. As a competitive athlete, I did have newspaper articles written about me. I got a lot of attention. I got asked for my autograph by adoring little beginning athletes. I performed on stage and got ego-boosting applause and standing ovations. When I return to my high school reunions, one of the first questions I’m asked is whether or not I’m still participating in my sport. And we’re talking 35 years later! That tells you just how much other people identified me—and still do—with my sport.
            I’m going to make a confession here: I miss those big moments. When I broke my leg in college, (during a big championship meet, no less), and my athletic career came to a screeching halt, I didn’t know what to do with myself. It took a single second in time for my bone to break and my life to fall apart. Literally. My sport was me; it was my identity. For most of my life I had lived and breathed it. I worshipped it.
            And that brings me to the second point. Your life, and any activity or relationship you do and have is rooted in worship. As Tripp points out: “Worship is your identity before it is your activity. Something is always in rulership of your heart.”


            And therein lies the peace problem. When we get out our spiritual spades and plow deeply into the soil of our hearts, we find some pretty toxic, moldy soil. Soil unable to absorb the fertilizing, life-giving granules of peace because our worship is skewed or misdirected.

            So, what do we do? How do we revive that soil?

            In order to have a heart designed to receive peace and thrive on it, first we need to focus our worship the right direction. And then we can begin the painful process of extracting the weeds.
            And that’s the thing I had to learn after my career-ending injury: my worship focus was all wrong. It could never be sustained, and it never fully satisfied. It took me years after the injury to finally figure it out and some painful spiritual heart and soul surgery to learn. And it’s taking my lifetime to practice and perfect. Unfortunately, due to lack of attention and neglect, I still allow a lot of weeds to choke out my garden.

            When we re-direct our worship to the One it should be directed to, our life perspective changes. Instead of being self-focused and self-concerned, I am God-focused and God-concerned. I get to know Him better, and, in the process, get a clue about what He wants me to do, His will for life. And the deeper I go, the more I think about everything He’s done for me, for others. Everything He promises to do in the future. His faithfulness; His unlimited blessings. And when all of that reality rushes into my brain and heart, guess what happens?
            I am grateful. My heart vessel spills over with it.
            And I am prompted to engage in that other kind of peace found in Scripture.
            The “thank offering.” A voluntary “peace offering” God asked His children to give to Him.

            Today when we think of a peace offering, we think of something we give to someone else in order to smooth over a relationship, placate someone, or make amends with a gift. That concept is not what God meant by a peace offering.
            There were three reasons a peace offering might be given in Scripture. The first one is a voluntary offering to God in recognition of His unsought for blessings, His goodness. It was an outward demonstration of praise for a loving God who blesses even when we don’t ask for it.
            The second reason for giving a peace offering was to give it in conjunction with a vow you made, to demonstrate that you were good and in agreement with the vow. A showing that you had no resentment for the promise that you made. A demonstration that your heart was at peace with the decision.
            The third reason was to show thankfulness for an unexpected blessing you received in time of dire need. Perhaps for God’s deliverance.
            None of these reasons had anything to do with trying to pacify or appease a cranky, vindictive God. They were based on a loving, reciprocating relationship.


            Our hearts struggle to have peace because we are not thankful people. (Indeed, many of us are perpetually complaining people.) A right heart focused on the right object of worship leads to thankfulness—a heart filled with peace.
            And when that heart vessel overflows, it tends to get everyone around it wet. Is your overflowing heart washing others in bitterness, cynicism, and anger? Or does it soak them in thankfulness?

Next week we’ll look more at where this offering occurs in Scripture, and what it means for us today. But for this week, I’d like to challenge you to make a list of all the things you are thankful for. While we will never truly know this side of heaven all God has done for us down here, there are obvious blessings we’ve all received from Him. Bitterness and emotional pain might make it difficult to dig down and break the soil open to extract them, but they are still there, maybe hibernating under the soil, waiting to be exposed to the light of day. Invigorated and remembered, and ready to bring peace to a struggling heart.

Until then, I’ll be praying for you in your list making. If you have time, please leave some feedback to share what you added to your list!

Meet you back here next Monday when we’ll uncover more ways to have peace!


May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

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