Day 7: “Peace. Not People.”

Photo: Caique Silva

God gives us family and friends for community, support, encouragement, wisdom, fun. He wired us all differently and we each come with our own opinions, experiences and expectations. Navigating relationships is tricky on the best of days. What God means for good, the enemy loves to use to bring division, conflict and pain to our lives.

“He made me do it. It’s her fault. If only THEY would cooperate.” Blaming bosses, spouses, friends, or neighbours for your emotions and problems only gives your power away to someone else. Accusations and criticism don’t bring resolutions. You allow other people to rob you of peace and they don’t even know it. While they rest happily in their ignorance, you are tormented, angry, unforgiving. You play scenarios and pretend conversations around in your head like a bad playlist on repeat.

You might be struggling in some of your relationships right now. Your goal: to be understood, heard, loved, appreciated. Communication may seem difficult and you either can’t find the words, or your words are misconstrued, further complicating the situation and your life.

Discord is a thief to your peace.

Unfortunately, many times, resolving issues with others can be out of reach. You just don’t see eye to eye. Or, you’re so different in your approach, finding common ground is impossible. You can become discouraged and even so hurt that you withdraw, allowing yourself to miss out. Your expectations are unmet, you feel ashamed. You even question God when you’ve tried everything in your power and you just can’t find a resolution.

God wants us to live at peace; with others, yes. Ultimately, with him. You must learn to have a Godly perspective regarding people in your life, viewing them through a lens of understanding. This doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything. It means you know where they might be coming from – their pain and past hurts, their dysfunction. Hurting people hurt people.

When you feel your peace is being threatened by a relationship, you must seek God for his wisdom and pursue his ways. Remember, peace is the personhood of Jesus Christ. Keep him close and allow him to mediate the conversations in your head. He will bring clarity if not resolution. He can help you to love those who have hurt you despite their unwillingness to budge.

*Today, write down the names of anyone in your life who is causing you pain. Ask God to show you if there’s something you can do to find common ground. Forgive them. And give them over to God. He will deal with them on your behalf. The battle is not yours to fight.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
 if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:17-21 (NIV)
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Day 6: “Peace. Not Perfection.”

Artwork by: Bartosz Kosowski

Ten tiny fingers and toes, skin like velvet, total contentment with eyes closed all swaddled up in a cozy blanket: PERFECTION. Unblemished body, shiny leather, sleek and ergonomic with all the bells and whistles: FLAWLESS. Tall, dark and handsome with straight shiny white teeth, adoring eyes, and a sense of humour: IDEAL.

Some of you grew up aspiring to be the paragon of the school, the cream of the crop, the epitome of excellence and achievement. Your hard fought wins taught you that putting in effort gets you results and attention. You thrive on other’s approval, keeping order, juggling all the balls so they remain elevated at just the right height.

Perfectionism: the antagonist in this chapter on peace. Your desire to experience breakthrough during this fast is robbed when your aim is 100%. Every. Single. Day. The house must be clean. The kids must behave. The cooked meals should meet everyone’s standards. A raise at work. A good body. It goes on and on, as exhausting as walking up ten flights of stairs.

The problem with ideals beyond reach is the subtle message they send: “You’re not good enough.” Your life, your bank account, your job, your spouse, your kids, your size… measured against utopia, you have failed. When you feel you’re not enough or your life isn’t enough, you will find yourself striving, controlling, battling on every front. You’ve lost your composure and the lull of relaxation feels like guilt.

Give yourself permission today to let go. Give up your ideal and allow your present reality to suffice. You are not a problem. Comparison is a trap. The hamster wheel of achievement is hard to get off; you may feel the more you achieve the more others expect you to perform. Relax even if you know more could be done on your project, at work, in your home.

Pay attention today to the things that bring you angst and set them aside. Spend ten minutes meditating on gratefulness. Giving thanks for your current circumstances and looking for the good in yourself and others will resolve the tension in your life. God loves you just the way you are and he wants you to spend time with him, leaning into him for wisdom AND a to do list. Prioritise Jesus and HIS ways. After all, only God is immaculate, without blemish or stain. Glean from him and allow a cease-fire between your expectations and your reality today.

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

Proverbs 17:1 (NIV)

Day 5: “Peace. Not Problems.”

Photo: izismile.com

We all have the ability to take our minds off what’s bothering us. Unfortunately, the headaches of life are often addressed with unhealthy medication God never prescribed… alcohol, overeating, pornography, drugs, overspending. Anything to escape the reality of the obstacles you face. Retreating into Netflix, shutting others out, worrying incessantly… whether extreme or subtle, your concerns are not meant to be numbed away.

Problems can become crushing if you let them. Their roots can take hold and produce prolific weeds in your life, making the real issues hard to see. They become buried underneath the growth of unwanted tangled vines as they seek to attach themselves to your heart and soul. Strangled by their embrace, your desire to fend off these pests becomes so overwhelming you don’t know where to turn.

You may be praying and fasting around a specific dilemma you’re facing. Over these 21 days, you are rehearsing putting those issues at the foot of the cross, allowing yourself to release your grip on finding a solution and fixing what’s wrong. When you allow Jesus to lead the way, your answers will surely come. But they won’t come by avoidance; and they won’t appear through high blood pressure and angst. The solution isn’t found in self-medicating or avoidance.

Peace isn’t the absence of problems. It’s found in the person of Jesus who meets you in your struggle.

As you allow God to prune and garden your life over this time of prayer and fasting, he may expose some roots you weren’t aware of. Your vulnerability before him may feel uncomfortable or even unwanted. Remember: He comes lovingly and gently to dig down below your pain and pluck out your predicaments. What’s left behind is a tender heart, viable and strong, unmasked and unafraid of the future.

Your Heavenly Father wants to minister to you right in the midst of your quandary. Imagine yourself replacing that which you have forgone in your fast with a greater portion of your God. Be filled with more of Jesus – his presence, his peace, his promises, his problem-solving.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

Day 4: “Peace. Not Fear.”

Photo: Evgeniy Stepanets

Fear, keeping your kids awake at night, as they imagine what may be lurking under their beds. The panic of checking the lap belt one last time before the roller coaster drops sending butterflies through your stomach. Distress, when your teenager isn’t home and curfew was an hour ago. Nightmares, panic, anxiety, dread.

Fear can surely rob you of peace.

It can creep in slowly or it can jump on you like a small child in the pool. Beating you over the head, splashing you in the face, blinding you and making you dizzy.

Angst and worry can be a natural response to rattling circumstances. Remember the shepherds keeping watch over the flocks by night who were visited by an angel appearing out of nowhere? They were terrified. The angel told the shepherds not to be afraid for on that very day, the Messiah would be born.

Jesus: the antidote to fear.

Our Saviour didn’t come to earth as a mighty warrior, ready to fend off evil with a sword and shield. That might make more sense if bravery and comfort were the promise. No one is afraid if Sir William Wallace is in charge.

However, God sent down the Saviour of the world in the form of a helpless newborn baby, born in a manger, in less than stable times. Those shepherds, Joseph and Mary, and others in attendance found peace in the person of Jesus. He represented hope, a long-awaited promise fulfilled. This vulnerable baby boy brought peace to a foreboding situation.

Are you facing something unbearably scary? Are you entertaining vain imaginations of times yet to come which cause you to tense up, lose sleep, or lash out? You have the promise of peace in the midst of your fear.

Your days may never be absent of fear; rather, you must acknowledge God’s present help in your time of need. “Fear not” doesn’t mean “never feel fear.” It means, when you’re feeling afraid, look to the one who brings peace.

Allow his presence and promise to meet you in your angst. Picture his endless love washing over you despite what you’ve done. Remember that he owns the cattle on a thousand hills and his provision is endless to meet your needs. Jesus, and his infinite wisdom as the one who knows the beginning from the end, will guide you into perfect peace; your future is secure.

As you pray today, imagine God’s face shining upon you and your situation, reminding you of his ability to fend off the demons which haunt you. His gentle spirit packs a mighty punch and no weapon, whether seen or imagined, has any hold on you. Allow your concerns to be swept away by hands of hope. Breathe slowly. Allow Jesus to pacify you moment by moment.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

Day 3: “A Beautiful Exchange”

photo: starfishjourney.tumblr.com

Reciprocity is the law by which most of you live. Give and receive. Sow and reap. Work and be paid. Pray, fast… and, ahem… what’s there to gain? It’s the question on your lips; or at a minimum, in the back of your minds. What’s in it for ME?

Our expectations guide us through life. Treat others well and you’ll be treated well. Karma. We see a good person achieve something great and we say “they deserved that!” A bad one gets his due and we celebrate justice. This is why unmet expectations can throw us for a loop. They can derail us, cause us to lose faith, resent others, become bitter.

You may have entered into this time of prayer and fasting with a list of expectations, maybe even a bit of an ultimatum with God because you’re so desperate to see something shift in your life. Your hope lies in a formula with an acceptable rate of return on your investment over these three weeks.

Can I encourage you to put aside your predictions today and solely seek peace through the PERSON of Jesus? Rest at his feet and to allow yourself to receive his love and mercy as the ultimate gift, not because of anything you’ve deposited into your spiritual bank account but because of who HE is.

We are going to explore, over the coming days, areas of blockage to our peace.

But, it won’t be possible if you don’t first understand that peace isn’t a status quo to be obtained. It’s not a place you’ll suddenly arrive if you do and say mostly all the “right” things. Peace is not obtained if everyone around you cooperates a little more. It’s not even found in answered prayer or miracles.

The Prince of Peace is a person who is with you always. If you look closely at the page of your written words and requests, you’ll find him staring back at you, longing for you to trust him with your heart’s desires. No matter how major your hurdles, your peace guides you directly into your purpose and prosperity. Stop waiting for the stars to align perfectly in order for you to take your next step on the journey with Jesus. He is inviting you to come NOW.

A disciplined spiritual life, an authentic faith walk, isn’t one sans problems or difficulties. It’s not led by a Christian who never stumbles or sins. You can’t add up 2 good deeds plus 1 act of forgiveness minus 2 stuff ups and get 1 perfect life.

Jesus promises you ONE thing: in this life you WILL have trouble but he also promises you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Matthew 6:30-33

Day 2: “The Right Road”

photo: wagabunda.club

Seeking God through a concentrated time of prayer and fasting means something different to each person. You may feel weary from circling around the same mountain and you want to see different terrain this year. Perhaps your spiritual walk feels sluggish and stale; you know the onus is on YOU to pick up the pace, focussing on Jesus more in order to break some bad habits or to hear his still, small voice again.

You might be seeking breakthrough in a specific area for yourself:

Overcoming an addiction

Physical healing

Reconciliation in a relationship.

Or, you’re praying and believing for someone else… A family member who needs a miracle.

Your path is covered in thorny bushes and roadblocks; progressing seems impossible. You feel out of breath at the thought of going higher. Your spiritual muscles are squishy and you think you’re not cut out for the heavy lifting required by a life of authentic faith.

Whatever your reason for embarking on this journey, it’s a good one. You have identified some stalemate in your life and you wish to overcome it, to stretch yourself and dive into deeper waters with your God. You have an intrinsic motivation driving you, compelling you to look ahead rather than behind. You are pioneering afresh, taking back ground which you might have thought was forever stolen from you.

Today, equip yourself for battle. Your armour is your faith. Your weapons are the truth you hold within the Word of God. Your salvation is secure and your Saviour is petitioning on your behalf as you align your will with his.

Step out in faith and you will hear what God wants to say… a personal road map of whispers, guiding you along your narrow trail of difficulty. Everyone is navigating treacherous waters. It’s a lie to believe you’re alone. Nothing you face on your road to victory is new to the One who carved your path.

Envision yourself today, saddled up alongside a brave hero who can conquer anything. Let Jesus take the reigns. Let go of the control you falsely believe is giving you success. Your peace isn’t found in seeing others do what you want, how you want it done. Clarity doesn’t come by more money landing in your account. Harmony doesn’t make its way to you through mowing down the next mile marker at breakneck speed.

You’ll never arrive at the perfect destination this side of heaven. So, begin the practise of leaning into the shadow of the Almighty’s wing. Let him take you 30k feet above the turbulence below. Your circumstance doesn’t have to change for you to see today differently. You’re en route and your help is near.

“The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes. God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee. The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree.”

Psalm 19:7-9

Day 1: “An Invitation”

The New Year has officially begun; and, as expected, the slow pace of lazy days by the beach, time off work, and extra sleep has abruptly ended. School has started for the kids. Work is in full swing for the adults. The calendar begins to fill like the sink with dirty dishes – all messy and stacked high.

You long to get to the bottom of it all. To maintain order. To wrap your head and pen around the “stuff” and place it neatly in boxes where it shall lay, subdued by the force of your strong will. The schedule, the stress, the decisions, the mess. You want to wrangle it all to the ground and tie those coveting hands up so they can’t reach you and devour your 2019.

You are searching for the calm. You dream of waking up to a quiet household. Can’t you just merge slowly with the traffic of the morning? You wish to find your family full of enthusiasm for the day ahead, rather than dread.

You fantasise about the next break, or maybe just a short nap. You are striving, pushing, yearning for this year to be different:

Better health

More money

Diminished problems and heartache…

A New Year holds the promise of what yesterday failed to yield. You are searching for answers, believing you can put together the right formula this time to find the things for which life has withheld thus far.

*If you’ve decided to join me for the next 21 days, committed to prayer and fasting, you WILL find what you’re looking for. Breakthrough awaits you. Spend time each morning taking ten deep breaths, closing your eyes, listening to the Holy Spirit, and reflecting on these words and scripture. Use a journal to write down your thoughts each day. What is it you want God to do in your life this year? How about over the next three weeks? Come along and draw closer to the One who holds the answers you seek.

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”

Revelation 21:3-5 (MSG)