Those Who Plan Peace Have Joy

My five-year-old son just finished his first season of soccer on Wednesday.  By Thursday,  he was asking me, “When does soccer start again?’

I guess that means the season was a success.

He headed out to his first practice in February and even the absolutely bitterly freezing cold didn’t dampen his soccer spirit. He was happy to practice and happy to  play (especially defense so he could chat with his other teammates and listen to them tell jokes).

My son is a pretty social guy.

After two weeks in the season, though, every time I said, “It’s almost time for soccer,” he always had one question to ask:

“Is it a practice or a game?”

He’d had a deep revelation about soccer, something he didn’t realize in advance and really hadn’t anticipated.

Games are hard.

Practices are super fun.  He could run across the field, touch his toes, do some toe taps on the ball, dribble to the goal, and all those practice activities.

The idea of a game even sounded fun at first:  All those kids on the field at the same time plus all the people on the sidelines watching, family cheering  you on, snacks at the end of the game.

What’s not to love?

My son says it best: “When there’s another team trying to take the ball away, soccer is just harder.”

I get that.

It’s the opposition he doesn’t like and who,  after all, wants an enemy?   Who would rather have conflict than peace?

I read about this contrast in Proverbs:

Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy (Proverbs 12:20 CSB).

I posted this verse up on my fridge almost two years ago and I keep it up because I’m still mulling this over and meditating on what it really means to be a promoter of peace.  Or, as other translations say: A person of peace.  A planner of peace.  A counselor of peace.  A lover of peace.  

When you don’t have anyone needling your soul with conflict or judgment, disagreement or criticism it’s pretty easy to promote peace and to have joy.

But the Psalmist knew that even when we long for peace, we sometimes (maybe even often!) live among those who don’t.

In Psalm 120, the Psalmist mourns:

I have dwelt too long
with those who hate peace.
I am for peace; but when I speak,
they are for war (Psalm 120:6-7 CSB). 

And that’s where the Psalm ends.  This jars my heart a bit because most Psalms make a movement from despair to praise, from conflict to hope in the Lord.  But this Psalm lingers in a place of sadness.

The Psalmist wants peace but those around him want war.

The end.

Psalm over.

Most of us know what that feels like.  After a prolonged time of conflict or discouragement or even maybe just annoyance, we feel battle-weary, worn-out, emptied out, and plain out done-in.

Barnes’s Notes on the Bible say:

There are many trials in human life, but there are few which are more galling, or more hard to bear than this….It has been an injury to me; to my piety, to my comfort, to my salvation. it has vexed me, tried me, hindered me in my progress in the divine life.

So what hope is there for us peacemakers who live in a land of war?

We stumble on landmines of unexpected conflict and it tumbles us into pain, distraction, and wound recovery.  It’s hard to  serve Jesus when battle wounds are on our mind and the sadness of opposition is on our heart.

My son thought maybe he could practice and enjoy everything about soccer and just not go to the games.

But I realized as I read Psalm 120 again today that the Psalmist made another choice.

This Psalm is the first in a series of fifteen chapters called The  Psalms of  Ascent, which were sung by pilgrims on the trip up to Jerusalem during the three major feasts.

So, I turn to Psalm 121 and I continue the Psalmist’s thought. He lived too long among those who loved war….but:

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2 CSB).

We make the pilgrimage closer to Him–because HE is our peace.   We  don’t rush the process.  We look up rather than looking back at the sludge of conflict.  We press on with other pilgrims, traveling together, choosing not to abandon hope in others completely.  And we sing praises along the way because worship redirects our hearts back to the Prince of Peace Himself.

It’s a journey where we peace-loving pilgrims heal up one faithful forward -moving step at a time.

Bible Verses about Peacemaking

  • Psalm 34:14 CSB
    Turn away from evil and do what is good;
    seek peace and pursue it.
  • Proverbs 12:20 CSB
    Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil,
    but those who promote peace have joy.
  • Matthew 5:9 CSB
    Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called sons of God.
  • Romans 12:18 CSB
    If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
  • Romans 14:17 CSB
     for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
  • Romans 14:19 CSB
    So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:33 CSB
    since God is not a God of disorder but of peace.
  • 2 Corinthians 13:11 CSB
     Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice.[a] Become mature, be encouraged,[b] be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of loveand peace will be with you.
  • Ephesians 2:14 CSB
     For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.
  • Ephesians 4:1-3 CSB
    Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
  • Hebrews 12:14 CSB
    Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord.
  • James 3:17-18 CSB
    But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.
  •  1 Peter 3:10-12 CSB
    For the[c] one who wants to love life
    and to see good days,
    let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit,
    11 and let him turn away from evil
    and do what is good.
    Let him seek peace and pursue it,
    12 because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
    But the face of the Lord is against
    those who do what is evil.

The desperate longing for something that doesn’t change

“I would like to stay to a kid forever.”

That’s my son talking.  He’s happy to be four.  Who wouldn’t  be?

Most of my kids have wanted to rush right on through childhood and into adult life.  They try to plan out their whole lives while they’re still in middle school.

I’ve had to reassure my 11-year–old repeatedly this year that she doesn’t have to  choose a career in sixth grade.

But my son gets it.  He gets all the beauty of being four years old.

Specifically, this week,  he’s been thinking about his “little, soft blue blanket” and how he’d rather not give it up.

It doesn’t cover his whole body any more.   He snuggles into his blanket as best he can, but his feet inevitably stick out, so he needs  a supplemental blanket to provide full coverage.

But this blue blanket is loved.  I  dare to suggest he might be too big for it soon, and his answer is quick and clear:  “I would like to stay to a kid forever.”

He’s my resident Peter Pan, not wanting to grow up, and the comfort of the blue blanket makes never-ending childhood oh so worth it to him for now.

I appreciate his happiness with the “now,” the willingness  to  just enjoy all that life offers in the present tense.  He’s not worrying about the future or even trying to escape to the past.  He’s four and he’s pleased to be four.  That’s a beautiful thing.

But I also see in his little heart this desire for permanency, to cling maybe a little too strongly to  what is good but what won’t last.

The truth is he’s going to keep growing out of this blanket.  That day will surely come.

I understand his struggle, though, because I’ve been longing myself for something permanent, some reassurance that I won’t wake up to a new day and find life all shaky and unsure or find my feet sticking out of my favorite blanket.

I have this longing for peace,  peace in all  the places.  Peace in work and ministry and home and friendship.  No relational conflict.  No disappointment in people.  No workplace surprises.  No undercurrent of trouble unexpectedly rising to the surface.

But “in this world you will have trouble,” that’s what Jesus told us, and just when peace settles into one place, it seems it shatters in another.

That’s bad news for a girl like me who longs for the comfort of a perfect plan and knowing all the details in advance.

But here’s the good news.

All that shakiness in the world around me and all those times I’m tumbled headlong into another season of change or uncertainty makes me desperately long for solid ground, for a permanent, unshakeable place to stand.

This longing drives me right to Jesus.

Scripture tells us that we can have that safe place.  We can have an unmoving,  never-changing, solid, trustworthy foundation that we can count on no matter what earthquake rattles the ground beneath us.

Even if we get the phone call, the email, or the bad news, we can always return to this safe place, this refuge.

We can be confident in God’s character.

Hebrews tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (13:8 CSB) and James reminds us that our heavenly Father “does not change like shifting shadows” (1:17 CSB).  The Psalmist prayed, “But you are the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:27 CSB) and reminded us that God’s “faithful love will endure forever” (Psalm 138:8).

God has been strong in the past and He will be strong.  He has been able and He will be able.  He has been mighty  and He remains mighty.

No circumstance and no conflict changes His goodness or His compassion, His sovereignty or His power.  His love endures.  Right in the middle of whatever has tossed us into uncertainty or fear or fretting, God’s love remains steadfast and sure, and we can hide ourselves away in the shadow of that unfailing love.

 

We can be confident in God’s Word.

Jesus promised that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35 CSB) and the Psalmist declared, “Lord, your word is forever; it is firmly fixed in heaven” (Psalm 119:89 CSB). 

Peter said,

All flesh is like grass,
and all its glory like a flower of the grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever  (1 Peter 1:24-25 CSB). 

Forever. 

Forever is what I need on the days my feet stick out of the blanket and I realize change is in the air.  Forever is what I need when I long for peace, but it seems elusive.

I can hide myself away in God and His Word without fear.

A Little Library Misunderstanding

proverbs 19-11

It was a tiny bit of a library misunderstanding.

My son played quietly with the toy trains and the dinosaurs (who knew dinosaurs and toy trains went so well together?) so I sat quietly and read.

That’s when I heard two little girls nearby trip along into a conversation pit without realizing it.

They were only about three or four years old, sweet as can be, with ponytails and pink shoes.

Here’s the transcript of what they actually said:

Girl 1:  Can I play with you?

Girl 2:  (As she searches the Lego bin for the right block):  No, I’m playing Legos right now.  We can play later.

Girl 1 then pauses just as she was about to pull a chair up to the Lego table.  Her face reads surprise, then sadness and a little hurt.  She turns away and plays with the farm animals instead.

There were no tears and there was no conflict.  No one tattled or fought.  Each just went about doing her own little thing,  unaware of what the other little girl was truly thinking or feeling.

And, that’s the thing that gives me pause.  Neither of these girls really understood what the other one meant to say.  What each of them truly meant was:

Girl 1:  May I play Legos with you?

Girl 2:  Oh, sure!  I’m playing Legos right now and I’d love for you to join me.

But that’s not what happened.  Girl 1 was asking to join in the building fun.

Girl 2 thought she was being asked to stop her Lego building and go do something else with her little friend and by golly she was having a good old time making Lego animals right now.

Their conversation just missed a little.  It’s like they shot two arrows.  One went under the target and one went over the target, but no one hit the mark.

What resonates a bit with my heart today is when I’m offended or hurt and I let critical words sink deep into my soul,  what if I’m actually misunderstanding?

Sometimes people say hurtful things and they mean them.

Sometimes people say hurtful things without meaning it, but the pain is there just the same.

But sometimes people say things and we just miss.  We thought they meant one thing; they actually meant something else.

And we tote around that offense as a heavy burden, putting up walls of defensiveness in our relationships to protect us from future hurts.

Yes, they should be more careful.  What you say and how you say it matters.  Controlling our tongue and watching our words is a must.

What if we were slow to take offense, though?

I love the Amplified version of James 1:19:

Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]

At times the best thing we can do in a conversation is pause.

Taking time to respond rather than react can keep us from misunderstanding, from holding onto hurt, and from escalating conflict.

I have an email sitting in my inbox right now and I’ll be honest, I’m offended.  It is critical of me in ways I feel are unfair.  My defenses are up.

But I’m choosing to pause.

I’ve taken some time to ask, “God, is this true about me?” and I’ve waited and listened for the Holy Spirit’s truth.

I’ve considered whether I truly know this person’s intentions.  Probably they didn’t mean it this way.  It’s most likely, since I don’t know them very well, that I just don’t understand their humor or perspective.

I read over Proverbs 19:11:

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense (ESV).

and even Ecclesiastes 7:21-22:

Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others (ESV).

We live in an easily offended world.  People curse you for simple mistakes and seek vengeance for misunderstandings and accidents.

We are so often quick to anger and quick to speak, leaving behind the wreckage of broken relationships and the ache of loneliness.

I want instead to say little and to listen much.

Sometimes I fail.  I am easily bruised by the criticism of others.

And yet, when I filter the comments of others through the gauze of grace, I can grab hold of truth and let the rest go.  I can respond with more love than I was shown.

Pausing gives us time to choose humility and wisdom, grace and gentleness, and it helps us hit the mark instead of missing and messing up.

Women Warriors, Part II

When I was about ten or 11, my mom marched me past the shelves of Sweet Valley Twins books in the teen section of the library and led me to the literary classics section with Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Jane Austen.  She waved her hands over the greats and said, “These.  You can read these.”  And I did.  I devoured them. I fell in love with them.  I studied them in college. I taught them to high schoolers.  To this day if you say Macbeth to me I’ll light up like a teenage girl in love and 15 minutes later you’ll emerge from a lecture on soliloquies.

Later, when I was 12 or 13, we visited my great-uncle Henry’s farm, something we did only infrequently.  He walked us around to see the cows in the fields and we took a tour of the old farm house with Aunt Mary and creaked along the floor boards from room to room.

Aunt Mary discovered that day that I was a bookworm.  So, in her enthusiasm to share her own love of reading with me, she handed me a pile of books that she had finished and was eager to pass along to someone else.

I thought I had received a great treasure that day!

And then I opened one book and learned what a Harlequin romance novel was.  She probably didn’t even realize how young I was and how those books weren’t really a good fit for me.

To this day, I don’t read romance novels.  Not the ones you can buy from the racks at the grocery story.  Not the Christian ones where the girl loves God and falls in love with a guy that loves God.  Not any.

Sure I have opinions on the matter.  I have principles guiding my decision that God has laid on my heart, all of the whys and wherefores that make that particular genre off-limits for me.

But, do I think the eleventh commandment is Thou Shalt Not Read Romance Novels?

Nope.

Do I think you are doomed for all time if you like a good clean Christian romance?

No way.

Maybe God has told you that other things are off-limits.  Something you eat, watch, read, or do that isn’t clearly wrong or covered under a Biblical commandment, but that God has personally convicted you about.

God has given us so much freedom and yet that doesn’t mean anything goes.  Paul wrote, “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:23).

This principle covers more than just what shows we watch on TV or what books line our bookshelves at home.  Some of us God has called to be stay-at-home moms and some to work outside the home. Some to have large families.  Some to be one-and-done. Some to adopt.  Some to home school.  Some to choose public schools.

What happens when I impose on you the calling God has given me?  Then we have explosive battles of criticism and condemnation.  We have legalism where we add mandates to Scripture and make everyone else obey the instructions God personally designed for us.

Oswald Chambers wrote: “At first, Jesus Christ through His Spirit has to restrain you from doing a great many things that may be perfectly right for everyone else but not right for you.  Yet, see that you don’t use your restrictions to criticize someone else.”

How then do we navigate these explosive relationships where even the most innocent remark or most God-directed decision becomes the atomic bomb in the next World War Women?

Allow for the Calling of Others

In Part One, I reminded you to Do What You Are Called to Do.

But, there’s another side to the story.  We also need to let others do what they are called to do.

What if we allowed for differences, not just in opinion, but in calling?  Not differences in doctrinal truth or the very clear mandates in Scripture, but differences in style, taste, gifting, personality, ability and weaknesses.

In Genesis 26:2, God told Isaac, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live.”

Decades later, God said to Jacob, “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there” (Genesis 46:3).

Don’t go to Egypt.  Do go to Egypt.

Does it seem like God can’t make up His mind?

But consider that Isaac and Jacob were different people, in different circumstances at different times.  God’s calling for each of them was uniquely appropriate.

What if Jacob had never traveled to Egypt because he felt that God’s command to Isaac must carry over to him, as well?  He would never have seen his long-lost son, Joseph, again.  No reconciliation.  No 400 years of the Israelites in Egypt.  No slavery—yes—-but also no deliverance.  It’s highly possible that Jacob and his remaining sons would have died off in obscurity as the result of famine.

Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).  Peaceful relationships in this world aren’t always possible and that’s the ugly truth of it all.

But, we need to do everything we can to cultivate peace even in disputed territories where landmines of personal opinion dot the fields.  Sometimes that means we stay-at-home moms need to go out of our way to encourage the working moms we know, to pray for them, to help them out if they need it and not to exclude them from our activities and friendships.

Sometimes that means letting petty jealousies and misinterpreted comments and too-sensitive feelings fall to the ground and instead choose—sometimes it’s a difficult choice—-but choose not to be offended.  Choose to put on thick skin.  Choose to let comments pass by unanswered.

Sometimes we need to keep some opinions to ourselves.  We must put down the protest signs and banners about issues that God doesn’t clearly address in Scripture.

If God has told you to go to Egypt, then go.  Pack up your bags and take the first plane out of here because you need to live in obedience to God.  But don’t condemn those who are boarding a different plane also in obedience to Him.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.