God’s Formula For Stress Relief
“You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You—in both inclination and character],Because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation].
“Perfect peace?” You’ve got to be kidding! Most of us wonder what that looks like, but we might not recognize it if we saw it. Our lives are full of stress, and for some reason, we keep turning off the alarm as we feel increasingly busy, hurried, and overwhelmed with responsibilities. We find a semblance of peace when we turn on the television and escape for a few minutes or when we take a much-needed vacation, but our lives certainly aren’t always characterized by God’s peace.
Isaiah’s promise of peace was given to men and women whose lives made ours look like a first-class cruise! The people of Israel had been defeated in battle, and most of them had been marched off into slavery. Stressed? They felt completely out of control, but God promised to rescue them and restore them- not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally, too.
The key to perfect peace isn’t in keeping a finely tuned schedule and hitting all green lights. The key is to rivet our minds in God’s goodness, strength, kindness, and purpose- not just to know these things are true, but to trust Him, delight in Him, and experience His leading each day. Then, when stresses come, we have a benchmark of peace, and we can say yes or no according to God’s design for our lives, rather than acquiring more possessions, positions, or pleasures.
Is perfect peace possible? Yes, even in our rapid-paced, stress-producing world, we can fix our minds and our hearts on God, and He gives us peace.
Surely it makes sense that the Lord who knew how to create the world knows how to run it- including even your own life.
Peace is such a precious jewel that I would give anything for it but truth.
The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah tells us what Christ purchased through His death on the cross:
“But He was wounded for our transgressions,He was bruised for our iniquities;The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,And by His stripes we are healed.”
God is interested in the whole of us. Sometimes we focus so much on God providing a way for us to live in heaven eternally that we forget He also has provided for our journey here on earth. Isaiah points out, and I think with priority, what Christ purchased for us on the cross. First, he says that Christ was “wounded for our transgressions.” A transgression is a willful act of sin and disobedience. It is making the choice to ignore God’s commands and go our own way. It’s the ultimate act of rebellion against God. Yet, Isaiah says, that Christ was nailed to the cross and the spear was thrust into His side and John records that blood and water gushed out. Great grace cost great sacrifice and Christ poured out His blood on the mercy seat for our transgressions.
Second, Isaiah tells us that Christ was “bruised for our iniquities.” Iniquities are immoral, unjust or unrighteous behaviors. Often they are committed and after the fact we become aware. As Christ was brought before Herod, He was beaten with the spear shafts and fists until He was barely recognizable as a human being. Those bruises made payment for our immoral, unrighteous conduct.
God knew that since His people would live in a corrupt world, they would be subject to fear, doubts, and anxiety. The Fall through the sin of Adam and Eve brought with it fear and anxiety and mental torment. Our guilt, our shame, and our flaws work together to rob us of any sense of well-being even after we are saved. Though our sins are washed away and we have received the forgiveness of God, life doesn’t always transform to tranquility. We often face battles and giants and storms. The third thing that Isaiah says that Christ purchased for us is peace: “The chastisement for our peace was upon Him.” The night that Christ was arrested, He was stood before Herod clad in a royal robe and placed upon His head was a crown of thorns. These thorns weren’t rose bush thorns. They were long- somewhere around 3 inches- and when the crown woven with them was placed on Christ’s head, the soldiers drove the thorns into His head until His entire head was covered in blood. Isaiah said that through that punishment, Christ purchased our peace. That idea puts a whole new view on whether or not we can actually have peace. Our peace doesn’t come from our surroundings nor our circumstances. As a matter of fact neither of those have any effect on the peace that Christ gives to us. We sometimes miss the fact that when Peter was walking on the water and begin to sink, it was the storm that had caught his attention and drew him away from seeing Christ. But when he turned his face toward Christ, the storm lost its power of fear. The storm was still raging until they got back into the boat, but Peter keeping his eyes on Christ and his hand in His hand walked over the storm in safety. Storms will always come according to Jesus. Winds will blow and rain will beat and floods will rise but those who root their heart in Christ will come through the storm. That’s what Isaiah is saying to us. When we choose to focus our attention on Christ, in turn, He gives to us the very peace He purchased with His own blood. And that we can bank on. We know that we can always count on Jesus to keep His promise to us and one thing He promised was to give us peace.
“Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.] “
We don’t have to know what to do and we don’t have to have the strength of giants. All we need is a trust in Christ and His promises. If we can somehow feel His presence and believe His love, we can rest in peace knowing that it is not our peace but His.
Dr. John Thompson