Sunday, May 3, 2015

Finding Peace in my Heart

Peace is an elusive emotion in my life. I have found that anxiety, anger, and controlling come much easier. When I try to establish peace on my own I am quick to fall and feel hopeless for it. Peace is not within my mortal power to establish. I have tried many times in the midst of anxiety to will it into existence but the anxiety only worsens. It is only the Lord's peace - faith in Him and the Spirit - that have brought true peace to my heart.

The natural man, our fallen mortal state, is predisposed to anger and fear. They are survival oriented emotions and animal like in nature. But they are the way our mortal frames are designed to react to the stress of every day life. Often when I feel angry and afraid, I feel like I have already failed. I know I should not allow myself to feel this way and I so I punish myself by heaping guilt and thus more fear and anger onto the pile. It was enlightening for me to realize that fearful and angry are what I am already predisposed to be. I need not feel like I have utterly failed every time I feel them or give in to them. I need only to remember that I am learning how not to feel them or give in to them. Even though I may have fallen, I began on the ground. And my Savior will be there to lift me time and time again if I reach up to Him.

I like to compare it to a young child learning to walk. I wouldn't dream of telling a child who has fallen in the process of learning that they are incapable or failing. Learning is very different than failing. Learning entails quite a lot of stumbles and falls that may feel like failure. But so long as I am taking steps in the right direction I need not feel like every time I fall there is no point in going on.

That is why this verse spoke to and inspired me:

I leave with you,
my peace
I give unto you:
not as the world giveth,
give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid.
John 14:27

I was fascinated by the wording in this scripture. The Savior was very specific about what type of "peace" He would give unto us. That peace, as we can read in the previous verse, was "the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost" (John 14:26). The peace of the Spirit surpasses all human understanding. It is the only true source of peace I have ever known. When I find myself feeling angry and afraid, only humbly kneeling before my God, pleading for the Spirit to guide and comfort me, and having faith in His plan, have brought me true and lasting peace.

The last two directives of this verse also captured my attention because He did not say "never be troubled or afraid." He said "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." He knew that our hearts are predisposed in this mortal life to be troubled and afraid. I believe it is a natural consequence of being separated from the presence of God - the source of light, love, and peace. It is in learning to rely on the Holy Spirit to help us overcome our fear with faith that we will become more like Him. When we learn how to access that peace through the Spirit we are becoming self sufficient. We are learning to love and feel as He does. That is why the separation from Him is necessary. For how can a sapling grow if it is always overshadowed by its mighty parent tree? It may feel safe and secure in that shade, sheltered from the wind and growing pains, but it has the potential to be so much more. 

A verse of Douglas Malloch's poem in Making the Most of Yourself strikes something in me each time I read it:

Good timber does not grow with ease:
The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
The further sky, the greater length;
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.

It helps me to remember that when I feel angry, afraid, and beaten it is only because I am still growing. I can choose to seek peace or withdraw further into my own fear and anger. I can choose to stand up again knowing that I may very well fall again because I'm learning. I can be responsible for my own emotions and seek the Savior's peace by serving others, having charity, and living worthy of the Spirit as best I can. His peace is the only peace that lasts. It enlarges and strengthens the soul. It calms the troubled sea and when it doesn't, it gives us the power to walk across it anyway.

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