There is nothing so universal and powerfully motivating as the desire for peace. Man has always longed for peace and sought it. And yet, it remains elusive. No sooner than when we stop one aggressor, another pops up in his place. Just when we think our problems are over, new ones appear. It’s not only about ending wars and conflicts between nations (although these are a huge part of our distress), but the reality of life is that we get sick, we lose a job, and loved ones die. There’s seems to be no end to trouble in life.
The quest for peace is not limited to the world around us; it’s a struggle within each person. Before my conversion to Christ, I was troubled and unhappy. I knew there was more to life than what I had seen. Everyone, in some way, seeks meaning and purpose, happiness, and to be loved.
What is this peace we all want but can’t seem to grasp? For many, peace is “the absence of conflict.” We rightly seek to put an end to wars and stop those who inflict harm on others. But the well of evil within men is endless. There will always be another Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, or Kim Jong-un.
Some people try escapism. Life will be better, we tell ourselves, if we move to the right neighborhood or get away from it all by isolating ourselves in the wilderness. Unfortunately, trouble, especially the internal kind, follows us wherever we go.
Secular society’s answer to the search for peace is to preach tolerance for others. The logical conclusion to the doctrine of tolerance, however, is violence. If you want proof of this, just listen to the words and look at the actions of those who supposedly preach tolerance. Lacking a moral guide to follow and the strength to pursue it, men inevitably turn to power as the way to resolve conflicts.
Some seek peace through the practice of Eastern mysticism. They hope to end pain and suffering through detachment from everything and the pursuit of nothingness. But men cannot escape themselves, and they can’t find peace by ignoring the needs of those around them.
Others, rather than trying to empty the self, take the opposite approach and try to fill it with pleasurable experiences, addictions, or material goods. But our appetites tire, temporal things fail to satisfy, and one never seems able to fill the void. We remain restless and unsatisfied.
In his Confessions, St. Augustine wrote about this unsettledness:
Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.
Because of sin, we will always have trouble. Because of our design, we will never find peace outside of the divine encounter. Thanks be to God; this is possible through Jesus Christ!
Jesus, the Son of God, is the only one who can give us a true and lasting peace. It is a peace on the inside that is also evident on the outside and in the way we relate to others. Jesus is the only one who can satisfy the longing of our hearts.
Over the next several weeks, I will be sharing some brief meditations about God’s peace. I invite you to join me on the journey.
Peace be with you!