Pursuing Peace

It’s been a year since my trip to Guatemala with Mission Discovery. As I reflect on my time there and the fall of 2017, I’m struck by how we sometimes learn things through the process of sharing about where we’re at, and those lessons we learn “in process” are sometimes the most meaningful, memorable, and frequently reshared.

Fall of 2017 had some great moments, but in general it was pretty rough, to be honest. It was thing after thing, disappointment after disappointment, and distraction after distraction. I was in the middle of a deep depression and sick all the time – at least eight times between September 2017 and January 2018. (I jokingly said I caught the virus du jour.)

I bring up this point because it meant I almost didn’t go to Guatemala last year. I literally packed my bags the night before I was supposed to leave and I didn’t know if I’d be well enough to travel the next day. The game plan was this: wake up with a fever = don’t go; wake up without a fever = go ahead and go. I woke up to a 3:30 am alarm on travel day, did not have a fever, and went ahead with the 6 am flight to Guatemala City. I learned a lot about spiritual warfare, about praise being a weapon, and about praise preceding breakthrough during this time. I learned a lot and grew a lot but it honestly left me feeling really mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted. All that to say, I arrived in Guatemala last fall feeling really depleted.

Once in Guatemala, I clearly remember laying down to rest but feeling like I needed to focus and direct my heart toward God. I thought, “It would be really great to have a verse that could be my theme for the week.” (Wes and I were there to lead worship for the group on the missions trip as well as help with homebuilding and outreach projects.) So I opened the Bible app on my phone, still in airplane mode, and found my way to Isaiah 32:17. This verse became the basis for a devotional I shared with the missions group at our hotel in Antigua one morning before embarking on our work for the day up in the mountains near Volcano de Fuego (which erupted in June 2018). This verse and devotional, written out on ruffled, damp notepaper in a humid hotel room while curled up with a bottle of DayQuil, is one of those lessons I learned and shared “in process.” I was processing SO much at the time and felt compelled to share from the heart. The truth that God gave me in the moment was something that I desperately needed at the time. It has become very memorable to me and it is something that I have shared many times since then.

Below is a slightly edited version of the devotional I wrote and shared a year ago.

“The result of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quiet confidence forever.” – Isaiah 32:17

This verse got me thinking about what peace really means and how we get to the place where we can actually experience it. I used to think there was some level of spirituality you could reach where you would arrive at peace and – in perpetuity – there would cease to be a struggle to feel it. But that is not the case.

Psalm 34:14 instructs us to seek peace and pursue it. Peace isn’t passive; it’s an active pursuit.

Jesus says in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.” God’s peace is available to us; we just have to walk in it.

Isaiah 32:17 says that peace is the result of righteousness. I have been going through Priscilla Shirer’s “Amor of God” study and just finished a week-long section on the breastplate of righteousness. Based on the outline Paul provides in Ephesians 6, Priscilla writes about how the breastplate of righteousness is supported by the belt of truth, and how we have to know God’s truth in order to understand righteousness and how to live righteously. She also writes about the different types of righteousness.

Imputed righteousness is the righteousness of Christ freely given to us when we put our faith in Him. It’s how God sees His children – righteous and whole like Jesus.

Practical righteousness is living rightly with God, making daily decisions to follow His ways in obedience. It’s by walking obediently in practical righteousness that we find the result of righteousness that Isaiah 32:17 describes. PEACE.

“Abundant peace belongs to those who love Your [God’s] instruction; nothing makes them stumble.” – Psalm 119:65

This means we have to do the work of following God. Sow obedience; reap peace.

“And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were called in one body, control your hearts. BE THANKFUL.” – Colossians 3:15

Be thankful. If you’re really in a funk and you don’t have any peace, I want to encourage you to simply start that practical righteousness from a place of thankfulness and praise. Even if you don’t feel like it. Especially if you don’t feel like it!

One of my favorite songs right now is “Praise Is The Highway” by Sean Feutch. Listen and you’ll know why!

Fast forward to Fall 2018, and I am beginning to see just how much of a learning process last fall was. Thank you to those who gave me the opportunity to share what God was showing me at that time and listened to what I was learning while I was still learning it, and thanks to those who might be reading those same devotional thoughts now, here on my blog. The truth of Isaiah 32:17 is something that I have to remind myself of time and again, and I hope it encourages you to do what you need to do to be at peace today.