He walked in with all the bravado a 4-year-old could muster. Sporting a Jurassic Park Dinosaur head jetting out from his backpack, he quickly found his cubby and began exploring the pre-k room.
As parents began to exit from the first of many drop offs, I assumed this “tough guy” would lead the way in confidently waving goodbye and finding his place among the circle of new friends. Instead, his lower lip began to quiver and crocodile tears streamed down his face as he led the way in a chorus of crying.
As one by one, half the class joined his tearful goodbye; I quickly gathered the children and began to pray. I asked God to be with us and fill us with his peace. He stopped crying long enough to interrupt my prayer. “Peas? I don’t want any peas! I hate begtables!” he practically shouted.
It was all I could do not to laugh out loud. Thankful that the outburst took our minds off departing moms and dads, we began getting to know the fellow cry-ers in the circle. How did our new friends feel about “begtables” anyway? Did anyone like them? It was just enough distraction and humor to lighten the mood and switch gears. It was an unexpected answer to prayer.
I always get a good laugh when I tell that story. But it’s no laughing matter when I think about how many times I’ve interrupted God’s voice as he attempted to speak peace into my life.
Why do I resist His peace?
If I’m honest, it’s because it feels foreign, fragile, and dare I say fake? Have you been there, when anxiety, worry, and concern feel familiar and somehow more real? Have you ever tried to conjure up feelings of peace apart from God, trying to gain comfort for your spirit?
The Bible promises that God will keep in perfect peace anyone whose mind keeps focusing on him (Isaiah 26:3). It took me a long time to accept the peace that God offers to me; it certainly was past all my understanding (Philippians 4:7). Like the preschooler, I too misunderstood God’s peace.
As a little girl I remember getting homesick, a lot. We should have taken stock in Pepto Bismol because I carried it with me every time I was away from home. Then in my teens, my father was diagnosed with cancer. Watching my father’s health decline rapidly created anxiety about his impending death. Those fears battled against my limited understanding of faith. While I loved my father, we didn’t have a loving relationship; no basis for me to share my heart or ask questions. This left my mind to wander past the parameters of sound thinking.
As a young mother, anxiety began to overtake my life. What if I too was diagnosed with cancer? What if I was unable to raise my daughters? What if something happened to them? I was fearful and anxious because I quickly realized that I couldn’t possibly stay in control of their lives. Have you felt that way?
At the core of my anxiety and unanswered questions was the fact that I had not learned how to trust God. With my head I believed the Bible to be true. In my heart I doubted that God could really work all things together for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Unsure of following the plans I knew God had for me, I found myself trying to determine the course of my life and everyone I loved.
Anxious thoughts led to full blown panic attacks. Thinking good Christians didn’t get anxious, I was too embarrassed to mention them to anyone. I suffered in silence until I thought I was going crazy. Hypochondria over perceived illness accompanied this anxiety and the stress of it all caused physical symptoms; for which no doctor could find a cause or cure.
Finally, after visiting with my pastor and a Biblical counselor, I realized why I couldn’t be helped by the medical profession. My problems were of a spiritual nature. Learning to fill my mind with truth found in the Word of God began to rewire my thinking patterns. Meeting weekly with a mentor helped me create a more realistic picture of parenting, replacing the impossible goal of perfect parenting I had unknowingly painted for myself. As I learned to trust God, my anxiety diminished.
When I became a grandmother, new anxiety developed. Loving and watching my grandchildren grow comes with new temptations to be anxious. When I begin to feel the familiar pit in my stomach, I return to my strategies to overcome anxiety. I make a list and pray over all that concerns me. Taking a highlighter I write Surrender and the date over the list. This frees my spirit and renews my hope that I can once again trust God with those I love.
His peace is less foreign, fragile, and never fake these days. I have learned that I can cast all my cares on him because he cares for me. (1 Peter 5:7)