by Mark Anton
Peace – no, we’re not talking about throwing up those deuces, but the “My peace I leave with you” and the “in the world you will have tribulation but take heart for I have overcome the world” kind of peace.
In other words, we’re talking about the true and lasting peace that ‘transcends all understanding, guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:7).
So what is this peace? Why is it so important and where can we find it?
St Augustine was a man who once indulged in all the world had to offer and despite all his experiences and endeavours in the world, he famously concluded that “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You,”
St Isaac the Syrian also echoed this when he said that “in all the paths that men walk in the world, they do not attain peace until they draw nigh to hope in God.”
St Augustine and St Isaac accurately diagnosed the yearning for inner peace that we all have inside of us and the only place we can find it. Said another way, there are many things the world has to offer us, and they can often appear to promise us peace and rest, but they will fail to deliver because the source of true and lasting peace is God alone.
The Lord Himself spoke of this type of peace when he told his disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit. He spoke of His imminent departure and then encouraged His disciples not to be troubled or afraid because He will provide the true and lasting peace that is different from the peace the world knows:
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
In his Nativity message on Luke 24, HH Pope Shenouda III explains the different types of peace that every person needs in their life – peace with God, peace with people and peace of the heart – and that we cannot attain true inner peace unless we learn to trust in God. That is, if we place our lives in our own hands or the hands of other people, we will always be troubled, but if we believe that our lives are in God’s hands, we will find rest.
Those who trust in God and His planning for their lives are not troubled or restless and exude a peace that is tangible and visible.
To have peace with God is to live a life of righteousness and, conversely, when our relationship with God is shaken, we lose our inner peace which is the result of sin and distancing ourselves from God. He who lives in peace with God will naturally live in peace with others, and those who have attained true peace reflect this in their interactions with others – they bear with patience and will pardon and forgive others.
Our Lord Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and the source of peace Himself. In Christ’s life, we have the shining example of peace. Not only did our Lord live a life of non-violence, and exemplify peace in the external sense of the word, but He also gave those around Him rest and comfort. St Anatoly of Optina said that wherever God is there is peace and that where there is everything ruinous, proud and hostile, there is the devil. We know that in the world we will have tribulations (John 16:33), and so peace does not mean to be in a place where there are no external disturbances but rather to be amid all those things and still have peace in our hearts.
We have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, and so like the disciples sitting in the upper room, we too can hope in God for true peace during our difficulties.