You may have noticed that things have been quiet around here, with few postings on the blog or Facebook—and that’s because we moved on Saturday. The past week was an intense time of packing, tackling last minute chores, and now, unpacking with two toddlers constantly underfoot. Things have been rather crazy to say the least.
The chaos was taken to a whole new level on Friday night when we went to pick up our rented moving truck. “Your reservation is not in the system,” they said. “You’re joking,” we said. Unfortunately, they were not, and our Friday evening was spent frantically calling moving companies trying to find a truck that was both available first thing the next morning and big enough to move our things.
After a few moments of panic, we took a deep breath and turned to prayer. We prayed the powerful Memorare, calling on Our Lady to find us something and fast. And truthfully, after that prayer, peace returned to my soul. I took confidence in the words, “Never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided.”
A few minutes later, the phone rang. It was U-Haul calling to tell us they had a truck for us that we could pick up first thing in the morning.
PEACE IN THE STORM
Perhaps you are laughing as you read the story of our moving misadventure. After all, a missing moving truck isn’t that big of a problem in the scheme of things. And yet our lives our filled with hundreds of little crises like these that, if we are not careful, can very easily rob us of peace. That is not to mention the big, persistent problems that many face on a daily basis.
It is a fact that over 40 million Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder of some kind, and there are no doubt countless others that live with severe anxiety but are undiagnosed. Our current society is one of the most stressed out, fearful, and frantically busy in the history of mankind, with the frenetic pace fueled by technology that never existed before. We may not be at war, and yet we are far from at peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you,” Jesus promised his anxious disciples. But he does not stop there, he adds a caveat: “Not as the world gives do I give to you.” What is the difference between the peace Christ gives and the peace the world gives? Put simply, the peace of the world is based entirely on circumstances, while the peace of Christ flows from the heart and can exist even in the most painful and chaotic of moments.
Keep in mind that Jesus spoke these words knowing that his disciples would suffer a great deal. He warned them that they would be beaten, arrested, and otherwise persecuted everywhere they went. Not very reassuring. And yet paradoxically, despite these trials that were yet to come, he promised them great peace.
HOW TO OBTAIN PEACE
So how are we to find peace in the chaos of life? The answer is simple, though it can be difficult in practice: We must conform our will perfectly to the will of God. In every circumstance, in every trial of life, we must say like Jesus Christ “Thy will be done,” and like Mary, “Be it done unto me according to thy word.” He who embraces God’s will completely and with the whole heart, even though he may not understand it, will remain in perfect peace.
What does this look like practically? First, it means living in the present moment. A great deal of anxiety comes from worrying about the past or the future, neither of which can be changed. Even though we know it is useless, we often expend untold emotional energy worrying. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Face the trials of the present moment calmly, entrusting your past and your future to God.
Second, it means accepting the circumstances of life without impatient resistance, realizing that everything is either positively willed or at least allowed by God. This can be incredibly difficult to do in practice, and yet it is the only way to find true peace. Say for example you are driving to work and your tire goes flat. Practically speaking, hours of your day will likely be wasted trying to get the tire fixed. It is a huge annoyance. How could God wish to ruin my day like this? And yet our anger and impatience accomplishes nothing. Only a humble acceptance of and submission to the will of God revealed in our daily circumstances, even if we hardly understand them, will bring us peace.
Finally, it means trust in the goodness of God. I believe many of us are afraid to completely abandon ourselves to the will of God because we are afraid of what it might mean. We are afraid that God is going to hurt us, and so we hold on to our will, never surrendering it to God. Doing so may give us a temporary illusion of control, but in reality, we are hardly the masters of our fate we like to think. In fact, we are quite helpless to bend the circumstances of our lives to our wishes, as we often experience on a daily basis. True peace can only be found in loving confidence in the goodness of God. God is good and he loves you far more than you can fathom. Trust him with your past, your present and your future. He will not let you down.
I want to conclude with a beautiful prayer attributed to Francois Fenelon that expresses the heart of peaceful submission to the will of God. Perhaps you can pray it each morning.
O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon thy holy will. In every hour of the day reveal thy will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that thy will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforseen events let me not forget that all are sent by thee. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of this coming day with all that it will bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray thou thyself in me. Amen.
For further reading: Abandonment to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek, the Gospel of St. Matthew Chapters 5-6, and the Gospel of St. Matthew 8:23-27.