‘You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.’ (Isaiah 26.3)
Do you long for peace? Do you feel stressed and anxious, burdened by all kinds of pressures and fears? Here’s a promise from the word of God that is tailor-made for you. Here our Heavenly Father promises peace to certain people. What is this peace? In English we tend to think of peace as the absence of strife. Peace comes when fighting stops. Or think of the harrassed young mother who begs her children for five minutes’ peace—five minutes of nothing: no shouting, crying, whinging or squabbling.
The biblical concept of peace is much richer. It describes not just the absence of bad but the presence of good. Not just no fighting, but positive, productive, harmonious cooperation. Five minutes’ peace is not simply five minutes of no arguing but five minutes of encouraging. Peace in Scripture means health, wholeness, spiritual robustness.
It’s crucial to understand this, because we could read this verse and come away with the idea that Christians are meant to sail through life untroubled and unruffled by anything that happens. Your child gets sick, your wife dies, your house burns down and you carry on with a serene smile unaffected by such earthly woes. That is Stoic rather than Christian—to make oneself impervious to suffering. That’s not the peace of the Christian faith.
Biblical peace—the kind of robust spiritual health God gives—means that when troubles come into the Christian’s life he doesn’t go to pieces. It doesn’t mean we don’t weep, and feel sad; it doesn’t mean our hearts don’t break—it means that we are not broken.
- So when a Christian woman is diagnosed with an untreatable, degenerative illness, instead of sinking into despair and self-pity, she accepts her situation as the Lord’s will for her and submits to him. That’s peace.
- So when our loved ones in the Lord die, we don’t grieve as the rest of men who have no hope. We do grieve, but our grief as those who have peace is very different from the despairing sorrow of unbelievers.
- So when a relationship breaks up, the Christian doesn’t go to bed for a week and watch TV and eat ice-cream. She feels the loss keenly, but is at peace in the midst of it.
In fact it’s more than just peace that is promised, isn’t it. It’s ‘perfect peace’. The Hebrew is literally ‘peace peace’ – a Hebrew way of doing emphasis. All-embracing peace, total-and-complete-extending-to-every-single-part-of-life peace. No matter what happens to you this week, you can have this peace. Matthew Henry describes it as ‘inward peace, outward peace, peace with God, peace of conscience, peace at all times, under all events…’
Does that sound good? Then how do you get it? It’s not found within ourselves, but comes from God: ‘You keep him in perfect peace.’ But there is something we have to do if we want to be kept in this perfect peace. We have to stay our minds on the Lord. We need to rest all our thinking on him; we need to tie our mindset, our perspective on this world, to the Lord. We need to see this life through his eyes. More consistently we do that, the greater our peace will be.
What does that look like in practice? It means staying our minds on all that God has revealed to us about himself. The more we know about the Lord, the more truth we have to rest on. Think for example of his sovereignty. Stay your mind on the truth that the Lord has ordained absolutely everything that is going to happen to you today—not just the good stuff, but everything. Stay your mind on the truth that he knows what he is doing and never ever loses control of his universe. Stay your mind on the fact that not only has he ordained everything that will happen to you today, but that he has ordained it for your good. It may not be easy or pleasant or good—but if your mind is stayed on him you can trust they are for your good.
This is why some years ago a Christian couple here in Northern Ireland were able to write in the death notice of their twelve-year-old son, a miracle baby, their only child who was killed in a road accident, ‘As for God, his ways are perfect.’ Did they weep? Continually. Do they mourn his loss? Every day. But they stayed their minds on the Lord—his sovereign power, his wisdom, his goodness, his love—and they were kept in perfect peace.
As you do your part (staying your mind on the Lord), he will do his part (keep you in perfect peace). And the time to develop this mindset is now—before the days of trouble come. You can’t stay your mind on what isn’t there. Too often we stay our minds on the trivial and banal and worldly because we don’t know the Lord well enough to stay our minds on him. Let’s strive to know him better, to stay our minds on him more, and receive his perfect peace.