In preparing for a women’s retreat I taught a few weeks ago, the Lord led me into a deep dive on the concept of peace, sparked by John 14:27…
"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."
I am not an Enneagram zealot by any means, but I have found it an incredibly useful tool for self-awareness and growth. I am a hard-core, dyed-in-the-wool Enneagram 9 (with a strong and pesky perfectionist tendency thanks to my 1 wing). Peace is my currency…my idol of choice…my golden calf, if you will. I will beg, borrow, cheat, and steal for a moment of peace. I will abandon all good reason and afore acquired wisdom for a tiny and fleeting chance at the siren we call peace. “I am going to make this ALL JUST RIGHT and then,” I say to myself, “then I will enjoy the euphoria of (the illustrious yet always elusive) peace.”
But this is not how God offers peace, is it? What if I told you that He speaks a better word over us that brings us what we're actually longing for?
More on that in a second...
In our culture, the peace we speak of suggests a world with no conflict, no trouble, no hardships. No messy middles or awkward moments. We refer to peace when we want quiet and rest, with no interruptions, contradictions, or problems to ponder. And we use this word as though it is a real possibility in the foreseeable future… “I will simply (enter your preferred or current thorn in the flesh here), and then I have big plans to enjoy some peace and quiet for a change.”
Sure thing. Go ahead and hold your breath.
Webster defines peace in the English language in the following ways:
I ask you, how realistic of a scenario do any of these definitions seem in our current state of affairs? They seem more fairy tale than foreseeable to me. Unlikely at best…arguably delusional.
What struck me in John 14:27 is that, for the first time as I read the verse, I saw that Jesus very clearly outlines His peace is NOT the peace the world offers. In fact, the peace that Jesus speaks of here isn’t just better or superior or exclusive…it’s distinctly different, its own concept entirely.
It is at least a familiar word to most of us. Many know it as a greeting among Jewish people, and understand it to be a Biblical word. What do we really know of shalom, however, if we simply equate it with the peace we understand as a part of our culture and language?
Not much, it turns out.
Two chapters over in John 16, and in the same monologue Jesus gives the disciples before his crucifixion, He very clearly states that in this world troubles are a forgone conclusion…
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. - John 16:33
He doesn’t say we may have troubles, he says we WILL have troubles. But what else does He say?
If you do a quick google search on the Hebrew definition of the word shalom you will find words like completeness, wholeness, harmony. The root word of shalom is actually shalam, and the Hebrew definition of this word is best described as a “restored wholeness.”
Read that again, sister.
As I began to pray and ponder over those words, the beauty and power of them settled over me like safe place, a shelter in a storm. Because, listen, belief in Christ and his salvation brings redemption to many…but restoration? That’s next level. Restored wholeness, shalom, is the very abundance and freedom that Christ came to offer. Right here on earth. Right now. Today, girlfriend.
So what stands between redemption and restoration? Isaiah 26 is clear that the one thing standing between us and peace is NOT the most obvious answer…trouble. The one thing standing between us and shalom is fear. Fear is a big deal to God and arguably the number one enemy of our faith. If we live in fear, how can we be trusting God? How can we be living fully in our faith if we are functioning around what terrifies us?
The short answer? We can’t. It isn’t possible. Ask me how I know. We’ll get coffee.
Without faith, according to Hebrews 11:6, it is impossible to please God. And if fear is the enemy of faith…we have to pay close attention to the fears that may be driving us, friend. In fact, “fear not” is the most common command given throughout the word of God. Put simply, if fear is present, living fully and abundantly in Christ is not.
Fear is a merciless master. Control, self-protection, manipulation…we will do what we have to do to avoid facing the very monster that our God can slay with a glance.
I have lived many years in fear, if I am honest. I have feared man over trusting God. I have tolerated and complied with things I should not have for few moments of a counterfeit peace. I have been redeemed, but cowered in fright instead of standing confidently in my rightful position as restored and whole daughter of a King.
And I’m over it. I will no longer be a slave to this tyrant.
You see, the beauty of shalom is the freedom it brings. Christ came to overcome the one thing that we ultimately fear, that causes us to fall down the deep and dark abyss of control and self-protection…death itself. But, hermana, if we do not have to fear death then what do we have to fear? If we can live fearlessly…well, what might He want to do with this life of mine if I lay down my fears, take His mighty hand, and face them alongside Him? What might I miss in love and service and the pure abundance of Christ if I can’t find shalom in the messy middles of life, if I panic at every hard season, if I despair in the valleys and stumble in the dark places of trouble? If I cannot be trusted to face the trouble this world is sure to bring with the faith and courage and clarity of conviction only He can give I will no doubt miss His best!
It's too big a risk. I want all of Him and all He has for me and those I love.
As we continue to think about gratitude after this Thanksgiving, let’s dwell upon the gift of shalom. This unimaginable grace means navigating life in this broken world with wisdom and clarity and finding the abundance He has for us right here, today. We WILL have trouble, but with shalom we know with confidence and assurance that whatever we are facing we have the hand of the eternal Savior King that has already conquered it all. He has it in hand, ever faithful, always good, endlessly patient and gracious…and we are His.
Redeemed, restored, complete…and ready to receive His best for our lives, and the lives of those we love and serve.
Kaley Rivera Thompson is an author, copywriter, Bible teacher, speaker, and worship leader. When she's not championing other women, cheering on the rising generation, writing or playing her guitar, Kaley loves to sip strong coffee, go on hikes, or take a day trip to the mountains with her family. She takes the most pride in being a mom to three little girls, Lina, Lili and Ceci. You can follow her on instagram at @kriverathompson or find out more on her website at kriverathompson.com.