I love those moments when truth goes from the head to the heart. It happened to me recently. First, the head truth: one of my favorite verses in Scripture for years has been the promise of Jesus to his troubled followers the night of his arrest: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:47). I've often turned to this promise, from everything as trivial as my discomfort when flying to situations far more serious like prayers for those facing serious illness, broken relationships and the death of loved ones. I know the truth mentally: Jesus offers a peace to us, beyond our own ability to muster. I've treasured for years that it is "his" peace he offers, not mine. But I must confess, far too often I'm better at announcing this than experiencing it. Yet, just a few weeks ago, God brought the head and heart together for me. I had let myself get pretty distressed about many different things and as a result, I sunk to a pretty dark place of disquiet inside. In an effort just to breathe one particularly stressful day, I went to a hill overlooking the city for a time of quiet prayer. When I was there, I found myself calling an old friend, whose walk with God alone seems to give me peace. He was in the middle of about three things at the time, but still took a moment to offer for me a thirty-second prayer. One part stood out to me, he asked something like: "God, please give Dean some word or Scripture to repeat that will remind him of what he needs to know." After his prayer, he had to go. Within three minutes, God answered that prayer--putting on my heart a passage from years before that had oriented my life and ministry. I can't express in words what happened then, but all I can say is I went from an intensely anxious heart to one that has been completely at peace--a peace which has remained for weeks now.
Two reflections strike me about this: one is that it really is possible to experience what the prayer-masters in the Psalms seem to experience so often. God really can give us a peaceful heart, even before anything changes in our circumstances. What a magnificent God we serve! The second thought is really a question which I suppose will linger with me: why do I seem to have to get to the desperate place before I'm able to experience that miracle of peace? Will I learn more quickly in the future to open myself up to his serenity rather than to try to manufacture my own?
So, my God, I confess both my failure, to run to you first as a refuge; and I confess my faith, I do know that you are able to deal with all that troubles us and I know that you stand ready to allow your children not only to enter, but always to dwell in your peace. Teach my restless heart to be still in You.