Redefining Peace

You don’t get peace from your circumstances. You release your peace into them.

Even when you’re sitting on your favorite beach with a mimosa and nothing expected of you, enjoy every minute, but don’t let it define your peace. I love the beach. It’s a place that’s always been peaceful, restorative, and fun. I’ve used it as an escape when things have been difficult, but it’s not enough to fix the tough days you have to face when you go back.

Peace isn’t something you have to keep looking for, like you’re in an eternal game of Hide–n–Seek. And it’s not fuel you run out of and have to keep buying at high prices to get going again. If you’ve given your life to Jesus, then he’s given his to you, including his peace.

Peace is wholeness in your soul. It’s a complete heart, none of it missing or destroyed, even when things are lost and shattered around you. That seems impossible, I know. I’ve had my heart broken, and so have you. Some of you beyond words. But at my lowest, I realized I was defining my peace by my circumstances, not by who God is for me, or who I am in him.

I like things a certain way, and so do you. That’s okay, as long as those ways don’t get to determine how peaceful, loving, or joyful you are, or how peaceful, loving, and joyful others are allowed to be around you. When you stop trying to control your world in the name of peace, you become empowered to heal, bless, and transform it in the name of the Prince of Peace.

“Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he’s done. Tell him every detail of your life, then his wonderful peace, which transcends our old natural ways of thinking, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will calm and heal your heart.

His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ, so keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that’s authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind—things to praise, not things to curse. Keep living and putting into practice all we’ve imparted to you, and the God of peace will be with you in all things” (Philippians 4:6-9, NLT, MSG, TPT, & my paraphrase).

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Audiobook

“He will give you the desires of your heart, and fulfill all your purpose” (Psalm 20:4).

Let that verse soak into your heart and head. I know tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, and negative, difficult, tragic things happen to positive, productive, wonderful people. But don’t let what’s gone wrong—or the fear of what could—write the narrative of your life.

Write a good chapter today by letting God’s grace, goodness, and truth be the ink that overwrites every offense, evil, and lie. Even when everything doesn’t make sense, or nothing seems to, His love will empower you to turn another page. And another. Inside that love, you’re able to overcome every obstacle, and break through every barrier.

I know that’s easier said than done, but saying it is still where you should start. Let Him lead you to scriptures that speak to your circumstances, and to the state of your mind and heart. Then, personalize His word over your life. Agree with what God is expressing to your soul. Write it down, and say it out loud as a kind of prophetic word over your life. Say it until it becomes real to you.

Declare Psalm 20:4 over yourself:

“Father, I give you every piece of my heart so you can heal me and make me whole. Help me recognize and embrace how You’re encouraging, equipping, and empowering me to fulfill every desire You’ve created me for.”

Read Psalm 37:3-5:

“Trust in the Lord and do good, and you’ll rest in the land, and feast on God’s friendship and faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your journey to Him. Trust Him, and He will accomplish it.”

Personalize those verses for yourself. You can use this as an example, but take time with Jesus to listen for how He wants to uniquely express His love to you. Write it in your own words with Him.

“I trust in You, Lord. Empower me to do good out of Your goodness. I know You are with me. You make it so I can rest in whatever circumstances I am in, and Your friendship and faithfulness toward me satisfy my heart and mind. I choose to focus on Your peace and joy regardless of my circumstances. You know my heart, and You are the one who will bring my deepest desires into reality as I keep delighting in who You are for me. I give You all I am, and I trust You to lead me on Your pathways. You are the author of life—teach me to write like you.”

Good Morning

“Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14).

Why the morning? Why do you need to connect with God so early? Because the first thing you need to know every day is that you are loved.

Getting rejected, ignored, lied to, disappointed, or even betrayed is a possibility each day. You want to be successful, and failure happens sometimes. Not to mention that though this world is beautiful, it’s also broken and sometimes tragic.

You have to know in your soul you are celebrated by your heavenly Father no matter what the day has in store. Circumstances don’t define your peace or success, and what people do or don’t do doesn’t control your joy. Let your peace come from who God says you are, and your joy from who He wants to be for you today, and they’ll be more than enough to disempower any negative that tries to get in your way.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed” (Mark 1:35).

Unsettling

The person you were isn’t equipped to handle your present circumstances. Good memories are a blessing, your experience is important, and you can learn from the past, but thinking and reacting as you used to won’t speak the peace, wisdom, and life you need into today.

When you restore your computer, you don’t need to set it back to its factory settings, you just need to reset it to a time before the problem began. So it is with you. When your circumstances trigger anxiety, fear, confusion, anger, or sadness, don’t default to old ways of coping—trying to control everyone and everything, self–medicating, or just shutting down.

When you are in Christ—when Christ is in you—you truly have a new nature. You are no longer an insecure person. You have been, and are continually being, transformed. Your default position, your reset button, is no longer that of an overwhelmed child. It’s that of a fully-loved, fully-capable, fully-empowered son or daughter. Though God may point out things from your past to show you truth and heal your heart, He’s not speaking to who you were. He’s speaking to the royalty you’re learning to become.

When you do mess up, and react as your old self, don’t stay there. Quickly step back into your true identity in Jesus to deal with the situation. Then start the day, or restart it, by asking God how He sees you, and who He wants to be for you. Then you can live it, enjoy it, and get encouraged, empowered, and equipped for tomorrow.

Unboxed

Don’t downgrade your joy, your dreams, your faith, or your relationships to fit your circumstances. Every time you agree with the enemy’s negative views of your life, you stuff your identity into ever–shrinking boxes to protect yourself from being hurt by what might go wrong. Every day those boxes have less and less room for God’s truth, love, grace, hope, joy, and freedom. There’s barely enough room for frustrated obedience to religious expectations.

For years, I could read (or preach) something like “in Him is fullness of joy,” but I couldn’t receive it. I would either believe that was for someone who wasn’t so broken, or someone who was more successful, which I’d been told meant large numbers of people who put large numbers of dollars in offerings.

Patience is an overlooked fruit of God’s Spirit. But it was His patient kindness that got me through all the times I gave into lies, self–pity, and negativity, until I could finally accept He loves me regardless of my performance. And once you accept that grace, He’s able to grow His joy, peace, kindness, goodness, favor, hope, and love in you, until they become not just second–nature, but your first.

Get rid of the boxes. Burn them. You do that by not allowing yourself to see today from anything less than God’s point of view–not your family, your job or coworkers, your house, car, or bills, and certainly not yourself. It means you intentionally look and listen for all the ways He’s showing you His goodness. Make decisions based on His peace, rather than on just pros and cons. Put yourself on a constant watch for His blessings and encouragements, instead of looking for everything that could go wrong.

Don’t tell me how difficult that is. I know. I am a recovering what-might-go-wrong addict. But in God’s grace, we can do it. Let your happiness be determined by how He sees you, and who He wants to be for you right now, instead of letting your circumstances determine how happy you’re allowed to be. You are who God says you are, not your bank account. Let Him upgrade your relationship with Him, and you’ll upgrade everything in your life.

“You will show me the way of life, because Your presence is joy itself” (Psalm 16:11a).

Cultivate Thankfulness

Thankfulness can get perceived as a less important part of our relationship with God, seen as more of a poetic affectation than what it is: one of the greatest doorways to God’s presence, and a key to thriving in your identity.

An ungrateful heart is a prison cell of pain, bitterness, and negativity. Add a political or religious spirit, and you chain yourself to its walls. The guards of this place are fears of loss, rejection, and failure, determined to isolate you from God, and from who you really are in Him.

Thankfulness disempowers them all, because it’s such a powerful way to opens the way to experience that love, as well as His peace, hope, and His perspective on your life and relationships. Gratitude is a companion to forgiveness—it’s pretty tough to judge and hate someone for whom you’re grateful.

Cultivate thankfulness until it’s your mindset. Make it a conscious part of how you see life, relate to people, and talk to God. Guard it like it’s one of the most precious things you have. Because it is.

Like thankfulness, Psalm 23 is sometimes seen as poetry for greeting cards. But it’s such a powerful doorway of gratitude into God’s presence, and an incredible place to begin renewing your mind. Say it out loud when you have a moment alone:

“The Lord is my shepherd, so I have everything I need. He leads me to rest in the most beautiful places, by the most peaceful waters. He restores and renews my soul. He leads me on paths of His righteousness, every step a revelation of His name.

Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not be afraid, for You are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for us even here, in the enemy’s territory.

You honor me by anointing my head with oil.

My cup is overflowing with blessings. Your unfailing goodness and loving kindness will never give up on me all the days of my life, and I will live in Your presence forever” (my paraphrase).

The Vacation You

“Teach me Your way, O Lord, so I can walk in Your truth. Unite my heart to live in awe of Your name” (Psalms 86:11).

You know how you feel when you’re on vacation—free, joyful, adventurous, rested, and wholly alive. That’s how you’re supposed to live every day. But for most, the moment you get back to “reality,” you feel shattered again. There was a time I felt so broken, it would take nearly an entire vacation to feel some sense of wholeness—just in time to return to face the circumstances that were breaking me in the first place.

Any time you’re rejected, betrayed, wounded, discouraged, or embittered, it can break you apart. You protect the pieces as best you can, putting up walls around each fragment. But that means stagnation, and living less than your true self. Instead of blessing your life and everyone in it, you become guarded, distrustful, even paranoid. You bury the true you trying to keep anyone from stealing what’s left.

Take a moment and assess your own state of union—within yourself, and with God. In Psalm 86, David asks God to “unite his heart,” to restore the pieces of himself and become so healed and whole, he can see God’s truth and feel His presence again. Choose to believe you can be whole again, and give God every part of yourself. He can heal any broken heart, but He needs all the pieces.

Put your hope in Jesus over and over until it’s no longer a wish, but a mindset. Thank and praise Him until your perspective shifts, and you can see everything and everyone with the love, joy, and peace He does. Allow yourself to be passionate again—instead of becoming exhausted trying to protect yourself from life, allow yourself to feel and experience and adventure. Be who you really are. Be the vacation you.

Dream On

Recognizing the difference between wishing and dreaming can change how you see your life. Wishing is often an expression of frustration, rooted in fears of lack and failure. It distances you from God and from your own identity.

Dreaming is what your heart sees in God’s presence, a vision of who He wants to be for you, and who He sees you becoming. Dreams bring the certainty of His goodness into every relationship and circumstance.

But a dream that remains a dream becomes just a wish. You need to immerse yourself in the plans He’s written with you, referring to them over and over with Him as you build the dream of your life. Be intentional with your dreams—look for every opportunity to nurture them, as well as every opportunity to let go of what doesn’t fit into what God has shown you. Having a dream costs nothing, but living it will cost you everything that doesn’t look like the dream.

Take some time to dream today.

“If they had longed for the place they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:15-16).

Think Again

Stop for a moment. Stop scrolling, stop stressing, stop overthinking. Take a deep breath. Recognize any negativity that’s been invading your thoughts, especially your view of yourself and this day. Let those dark thoughts go, and refuse to accept them, no matter how hard they try to get back in your head.

Let God’s voice be the next one you hear, rather than fear, frustration, or fantasy. Focus on what you’re thankful for, and all He’s been for you, until you can tune into Him again, until you can hear Him speak love, grace, and joy to your heart, and peace, wisdom, and confidence to your mind.

Your circumstances are no longer in charge of how you feel, or what you do next. You are. You are God’s child, fully aware of your Father’s love for you, and for everyone around you. From His presence, regardless of what you’re dealing with, you’re empowered to bring His grace, goodness, kindness, healing, creativity, enthusiasm, effectiveness, power, and so much more into it.

Take another breath. You’ve got this, because He’s got you.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5–6).

Breaking Through

You don’t need a resolution to improve yourself as much as you need a revelation of who God already sees you as.

You’ve gone through some hard times—so difficult they may not be fully understood in this life. But He’s never left you, not once. Especially if now is another one of those moments, recognize the ways He’s been sustaining, encouraging, and blessing you. In this broken world pain happens, but He’s not going to let it destroy or define you.

Spend enough time in His presence to see how greatly you’re loved. You’ve been strong for everyone else, but now it’s time to let God be strong for you. Learn to view yourself and your circumstances as He does. You are nothing less than royalty, an heir of His grace, joy, peace, wisdom, and hope. You may have been wounded, betrayed, and rejected, but Jesus is celebrating you, and completely committed to transforming you into all He sees you can be.

Time is not an issue. The mistakes you’ve made and the offenses against you aren’t enough to keep you from becoming all He sees in you. Your failures are stepping stones, not head stones. All you’ve been through has trained you to be amazing right now. In God’s love and strength, this can be the best time of your life, the moment all the pieces come together and you step into what your heart has dreamed of.

I had a dream of someone standing in an empty stream bed, dry because of a stone wall dam a few yards away. Then two scenes happened. In the first one, the person was offended there was no water, and picked up more rocks to add to the wall, each one representing another offense, rehearsed over and over.

Then the scene changed, and the person instead thanked God for one thing, and then another. Each time, a rock came loose from the wall, and eventually the water was released.

Resist the temptation to add another rock to the wall. In natural terms, you deserve to pick it up and whip it at someone’s head. But you’re made for so much more. Instead, thank God for one thing. Let that lead to another, and another, until you feel like God’s goodness break through into your life. It will.