Harmony, calm, quiet, serenity, tranquility, restfulness, stillness, fellowship, connection, empathy, cohesion, unity, understanding, freedom. These are all words that describe peace. When I looked up the definition of peace in various online dictionaries I found basically the same three meanings. Freedom from fighting or war, freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions and harmony in personal relations.
I think all of these synonyms are applicable to peace. What is interesting to me is that with all of its synonyms (which are far more than we have listed here) and how broadly the concept of peace is understood, it can be such a hard thing to cultivate in our own lives.
I want to you to ask yourself, at this moment, are you at peace with your life? Are you at peace with yourself? Are you at peace with others? If not, why? What are obstacles that may be preventing more peace in your life. A few may be:
- Agency of others
- Self Doubt
- Financial Insecurity
- Health problems
Obviously this is only a small list. There are a myriad of causes of anxiety and distress in life. We could go on and on. Now, however, I want you to think about things you do to try and bring peace to yourself. Things that might be spiritual in nature or just simple things that help relieve stress at the end of a rough day or help you maintain a peaceful, positive attitude in general. Perhaps you read, or shop, or pray, or relax in a bubble bath. There are many ways we can be active in helping alleviate some of the stresses in our lives, particularly when it comes to one item on the list above. Something that seems to be the root of most obstacles to peace.
Whether unrealistic or not, when we hold ourselves or others to certain expectations and they don’t measure up, it will be hard to have peace.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has taught, “The search for peace is one of the ultimate quests of the human soul. We all have highs and lows, but such times come and they usually always go. Kind neighbors assist. Beautiful sunshine brings encouragement. A good night’s sleep usually works wonders. But there are times in all of our lives when deep sorrow or suffering or fear or loneliness makes us cry out for the peace which only God Himself can bring. These are times of piercing spiritual hunger when even the dearest friends cannot fully come to our aid.
Perhaps you know people... who are walking through the dark valleys of this world’s tribulation. Some may be desperately worried about a [family member], worried about their [own] health or their happiness or their faithfulness in keeping the commandments. Some are living with physical pain, or emotional pain, or disabilities that come with age. Some are troubled as to how to make ends meet financially, and some ache with the private loneliness of an empty house or an empty room or simply empty arms.
These beloved people seek the Lord and His word with particular urgency...they are tired in brain and body and heart, they wonder if they can get through another week or another day or sometimes just another hour. They are desperate for the Lord’s help and they know that in such times of extremity nothing else will do.
...At least one of the purposes of general conference and the teachings of the prophets down through the ages is to declare to these very people that the Lord is equally fervent in trying to reach them, that when there is trouble His hopes and His striving and His efforts greatly exceed our own and it never ceases. We have been promised, “He that keepeth us will not slumber, ...nor will he sleep. Christ and His angels and His prophets forever labor to buoy up our spirits, steady our nerves, calm our hearts, send us forth with renewed strength and resolute hope. They will all to know that “if God be for us, who can be against us?” In the the world we shall have tribulation, but we are to be of good cheer. Christ has overcome the world. Through His suffering and His obedience He has earned and rightly bears the crown of “Prince of Peace.”
“As Christ’s disciples had set out on one of their frequent journeys across the Sea of Galilee, the night was dark and the elements were strong and contrary. The waves were boisterous and the wind was bold, and these mortal, frail men were frightened. Unfortunately there was no one with them to calm and save them, for Jesus had been left alone upon the shore. As always, he was watching over them. He loved them and cared for them, In their moment of greatest extremity they looked and saw in the darkness an image in a fluttering robe, walking toward them on the ridges of the sea. They cried out in terror at the sight, thinking that it was a phantom that walked upon the waves. And through the storm and darkness to them - as so often to us, when, amid the darknesses of life, the ocean seems so great and our little boats so small - there came the ultimate and reassuring voice of peace with this simple declaration, “It is I; be not afraid.”
Peter exclaimed, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” And Christ’s answer to him was the same as to all of us. “Come.”
Peter sprang over the vessel’s side and into the troubled waves, and while his eyes were fixed upon the Lord, the wind might toss his hair and the spray might drench his robes, but all was well. Only when with wavering faith he removed his glance from the Master to look at the furious waves and the black gulf beneath him, only then did he begin to sink. Again, like most of us, he cried, “Lord, save me.” Nor did Jesus fail him. he stretched out his hand and grasped the drowning disciple with the gentle rebuke, “O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?”
It is my firm belief that if as individual people, as families, communities, and nations, we could, like Peter, fix our eyes on Jesus, we too might walk triumphantly over the “swelling waves of disbelief” and remain “unterrified amid the rising winds of doubt.” But if we turn away our eyes from him in whom we must believe, as it is so easy to do and the world is so much tempted to do, if we look to the power and fury of those terrible and destructive elements around us rather than to him who can help and save us, then we shall inevitably sink in a sea of conflict and sorrow and despair.”
Elder Holland has said that, “...for real and abiding peace to come, we must strive to be more like that exemplary Son of God….Sometimes, we bring a lack of peace upon ourselves, by our failure to look to or act like Christ. But there are times, where it seems peace should be our reward for virtuous living yet is not.”
The following is an excerpt from a talk given by Elder Holland in the October 1996 General Conference, titled, “The Peaceable Things of the Kingdom”
“Yes, peace is a very precious commodity, a truly heartfelt need, and there are many things we can do to achieve it. But-for whatever reason-life has its moments when uninterrupted peace may seem to elude us for a season. We may wonder why there are such times in life, particularly when we may be trying harder than we have ever tried to live worthy of God’s blessings and obtain His help. When problems or sorrows or sadness come and they don’t seem to be our fault, what are we to make of their unwelcome appearance?
With time and perspective we recognize that such problems in life do come for a purpose, if only to allow the one who faces such despair to be convinced that he really does need divine strength beyond himself, that she really does need the offer of heaven’s hand. Those who feel no need for mercy usually never seek it and almost never bestow it. Those who have never had a heartache or a weakness or felt lonely or forsaken never have had to cry unto heaven for relief of such personal pain. Surely it is better to find the goodness of God and the grace of Christ, even at the price of despair, than to risk living our lives in a moral or material complacency that has never felt any need for faith or forgiveness, any need for redemption or relief.”
As many of you know, I’ve struggled with mental illness for as long as I can remember. There was a time where I kept it to myself and tried to box it up and put it into a dark corner and then I got panic disorder and all my facades were ripped away from me and I became so tired of being terrified that I didn’t care who knew what about me anymore. I’m grateful for that because it allowed me to open up enough to a therapists to finally be diagnosed and because I have been able to help others who are struggling with the same things. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the depression and anxiety which stem from it have been my constant companions in life and they were a lot worse when I was young and misconceptions about why it was all happening to me. Sometimes well meaning individuals and even scripture can imply things to a mind that is already laden with guilt or fear. For a long time I thought that I must be a really awful person. The scripture would come to mind about how despair cometh because of iniquity and though I didn’t know just what I had done I knew that I felt despair and so I must be a vile person. How much peace and freedom came to my mind when I started to realize that wasn’t true. That we live in a fallen world where bad things happen and peace can’t be fully recognized without going through those things. I don’t know if I believe every specific thing a person goes through is what was meant to be but I know that we can grow from whatever comes our way if we look to Christ. Certainly despair can come from iniquity but that is not the only source of it. I want to share some insight with you from an article in the January 2009 Ensign magazine. It’s titled: “From Bipolar Disorder: My Lessons, in Love, Hope and Peace.
“It is common to hear a talk in which sin is identified as the cause of depression. Sin certainly can cause us to sink into a deep abyss, but it is not the cause of all feelings of depression. If sin is weighing us down,...the Savior’s Atonement can rescue us from the pains of sin and make us clean again. Depression may not be immediately lifted upon complete repentance, but we can still move forward.
In instances when sin is not the cause of depression, it is crucial that we not second-guess ourselves. Feelings of profound guilt are common in people who are depressed. In such circumstances, the guilt is usually not proportional to the trivial mistakes they may have made. Realizing that guilt is unsubstantiated may not eliminate it, but this knowledge can temper the severity of these feelings.”
For now, I have accepted that sometimes I will have periods of peace and sometimes my mind will be in chaos, no matter how good I’m trying to be. But I do have an overall peace of conscience and peace of soul when I look to Christ who promises to one day make my peace perfect and everlasting.