What does it mean to have peace? The answer may be much simpler than you think.
We all know that we want peace. Most of us know that changing little things—our diet, our exercise routine, our job—will improve little areas of our lives, but they won’t help us achieve lasting peace.
Fortunately, our questions about finding peace aren’t new ones. God not only gives us answers in the Bible about finding peace but he gives us the tools we need to receive it.
What Does the Bible Say about Peace?
The Bible speaks about peace in various passages.
Paul exhorts believers to have their feet fitted with “the preparation that comes with the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). Clarence Haynes explains how knowing the gospel gives us peace, the knowledge that we are saved, and therefore have nothing to fear in times of trouble.
We will have trouble in life—the Bible states that outright (John 16:33). Unlike some belief systems, Christianity doesn’t maintain that the problem is we need to pretend no problems exist at all. Nor does Christianity say we need to eliminate problems by reaching some higher mental attitude where we care about nothing and hence have no problems. Instead, Christianity maintains that we have problems, but God supports and walks alongside us as these problems occur. In Christ, we find our peace.
The Bible also talks about peace as one of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). We receive the Holy Spirit when we accept Jesus as our savior. Randy DeVaul explains how the Holy Spirit provides strength when we are weak and rest when we are weary. As we grow spiritually, we understand more about how the Holy Spirit works and how to reach peace.
How Can We Have Peace Today?
You can use many specific spiritual techniques to deal with particular inward issues and achieve a sense of peace. However, peace is not something you can achieve as a goal in itself: it is part of the larger journey toward spiritual maturity that we begin when we follow Jesus. With that in mind, here are three things you can start doing today to achieve a stronger spiritual life.
1. Seek time in God’s Word
Our peace is not found in ourselves but in our heavenly father. We learn about our heavenly father in several ways, but one of the primary ones is reading His Word. Not only do we study the Word to understand His teachings better, but we also use it to remind ourselves of His truth. We are easily distracted and must regularly remind ourselves of God’s teachings, using it to recenter our minds on truth. The Word is also a means for God to speak to us. Whitney Hopler describes how as we read the Bible, God may use particular words or ideas to communicate something we need right now.
If you’re a new Christian or haven’t delved much into the Bible, there are many resources to help you read the Bible. Look for advice on morning devotions or quiet time routines. You can supplement your Bible reading with worship music, a set of prayers, or selections from a book of classic Christian writings.
2. Seek Moments of Liturgy
Liturgy might sound old-fashioned if you didn’t grow up in a church that used the Book of Common Prayer or similar texts every week. Some Christians worry about liturgy becoming a crutch they rely on—using someone else’s words all the time to talk to God instead of speaking to him directly. While high church liturgy can be used for the wrong reasons, the fact is that we all create a kind of liturgy in our lives. As James K.A. Smith notes in You Are What You Love, we are all shaped by the actions we do each day. Our ritual actions, the ones we do over and over again (whether choosing to play Christian music in the car radio or buying exorbitant products in the shopping) shape what we value and love. Recognizing what rituals we do has many applications. One clear application is that every day, we must choose actions that direct our minds toward good things. These actions not only have to be regular. They also need a pattern we can follow each time—giving us less time to think about setting them up, more time to use them to recenter our minds. For example, a playlist of familiar worship songs will help us think about God precisely because we know the words already.
Look for activities that recenter your mind on healthy things. You may find walking through your local park helps you feel at peace because it puts you around creation. You may find that painting watercolors helps you feel at peace because it exercises a creative gift that God gives you. Whatever helps, pursue it.
3. Seek community.
It’s been said many times that the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s equally true that the Christian life is a team sport, not a solo event. Sometimes we need to be along with God, but we cannot live out the spiritual life healthily on our own. We each need to belong to a mature Christian community that pushes us to grow, reminds us of God’s truth when we’ve forgotten it, and provides a safe space to admit our burdens. Your Christian community may be one or two trusted people or a small group. The key thing is your community must consist of people you trust.
Your community shouldn’t have to be Christians who are always trying to inspire you. Sometimes we need friends who can sit with us in a terrible time, hear our story, and say, “I am here for you now.” Sometimes we need friends who can share their painful stories and remind us that being a Christian isn’t about pretending everything is going great.
5 Great Books for Having Peace Today
The three keys listed above explain how to have peace. However, you still need specific resources to help you practice each key. These notable Christian books are a great place to start that process.
1. A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent. Vincent argues that a key to escaping legalism and anxious attempts to do all the right things is to read the gospel message each day, refreshing our minds with the truth that we are saved by grace. He presents the gospel message in two formats—as a collection of prose statements and as a poem—for readers to read daily.
2. Deep Peace by Todd Hunter. Hunter gives Christians who struggle with anxiety honest answers about faith and mental health alongside clear practices that cultivate emotional peace.
3. The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard. Willard argues that the fundamental problem behind why churches have often done a poor job of providing substantial issues to current issues (addiction, suicide, etc.) is that too many Christians have forgotten how to live as Jesus lived. He outlines the spiritual disciplines that Jesus practiced and taught (prayer, service to others, solitude with God) that can help us today.
4. The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen. Nouwen considers how a particular spiritual practice—contemplative time in silence, the sort of contemplation that the Desert Fathers practiced—can help contemporary Christians grow. In particular, he highlights its use for ministers, who are frequently surrounded by conflict and temptations.
5. Devotional Classics edited by Robert Foster and James Bryan Smith. Foster and Smith provide a series of classic Christian devotional writings, from C.S. Lewis to John Chrysostom, which reflect on different aspects of the spiritual life (prayer, reading the Bible, etc.). Each chapter includes an accompanying Bible verse, reflection questions, and recommended exercises (for individuals or small groups).
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