If finding true peace within our souls is something one desires, and it should be, as it is an absolute prerequisite for effective prayer, then we need to ask, what is it that will allow us to establish ourselves in peace?
When looking for guidance in Scripture, we can never go wrong by looking at the words spoken by Jesus Himself.
And so, in the Gospel of Matthew we read:
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)
It seems a fair question to ask: how it is that our being meek and humble can lead to our finding rest for our souls? The answer has to do with the modern misunderstanding of the word humble.
For many, the word humble evokes images of a shy, demure and retiring personality, someone who, though he or she may be pleasant enough to be around, would not be considered as someone able to accomplish much in this life. Humility is a character trait that does not seem well suited for the achievement of much of anything in this world, let alone for acquiring peace in our souls. What we are told is necessary is a strong will, disciplined effort and an aggressive approach to the achievement of whatever it is we may desire in the here and now. But this is where our misunderstanding of the true meaning of humility gets us in trouble.
In a biblical context, the word humility would actually be better defined as truth. As we grow to more deeply understand our true relationship to our Creator, we will each increasingly come to realize that our true condition before God is one of total dependence. The truth is we are all dependent creatures, and we live and breathe and have our very existence only through the grace of God. Paul made this very clear when he was speaking to the most learned men of his own time, the philosophers and the Stoics of Athens, to whom Paul spoke to in the Book of Acts:
“In him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your poets have said, For we are indeed his offspring.” (Acts 17:28)
Paul makes it clear to his listeners, and to us, that our very existence and the sustainment of our very lives is a result of a continual gift from God.
But, true humility and recognition of our condition before God must go beyond this understanding. We must come to accept the reality that even our individual accomplishments in life, all the things we believe we have done to arrive at our current condition, what we perceive to have been our own efforts, are in fact also gifts from a God who provides all that we have ever had in this life.
This sounds difficult for the modern ear to accept, for we often desire to take at least some measure of pride or at least satisfaction in the things we have achieved. But, the truth is that even our greatest efforts are also gifts from God. And it is only through our coming to the realization that even the things we have done have in fact been done for us by God, that we will begin to live with peace in our souls:
“O Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us, thou hast wrought for us all our works.” (Isaiah 26:12)
Why is this recognition of God’s providence so important for us, especially if we desire to find and dwell in a deep interior peace? The answer is quite simple. We will only find peace when we come to realize that our past, our current circumstances, and most importantly, our future, does not depend on us. It is all in God’s hands.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
It is very important to note here that this verse does not say, God shall supply all your wants, but rather, that He will provide what we need. This also includes even the trials and the more difficult circumstances of our lives. They too are meant by God for our benefit.
“Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
If we can accept the reality that God is the source of all our blessings, as well as the author of our life’s story, this should indeed bring us great peace. If we are people of prayer, and if we genuinely seek to fulfill God’s Will in our lives, then we can ‘Rest’ in the knowledge that indeed ‘all things work for good in our life.’ (loosely, Romans 8:28) This is not because of anything we ourselves have done or through anything we have earned, but because God in His goodness has chosen to bless our lives.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 1:3)
Please take some time this week evening to pray that God’s Will might be made manifest in your individual life and in the lives of all the faithful.
Copyright © Mark Danis