Three Simple Paths to Interior Peace

I was born a restless child and never faltered from my constant busyness into adulthood.  The restlessness within was twofold: One, I tended toward generalized anxiety (e.g., fear of everything), and two, I grew up in a household rife with inconstancy and unexpected strife.  To their credit, my parents raised my brother and me with rhythm and routine, but my brother’s burgeoning psychological diagnoses during early adolescence hurled the rest of us into a steady stream of uncertainty and panic.

Thus the perpetuation of interior strife – rather than a state of unfaltering tranquility – was born in my heart.

In early adulthood, I chose to control everything in my environment as a feeble attempt to reclaim that lost fruit of the Holy Spirit; or rather, peace was a spiritual fruit that I rarely experienced and yet desperately longed for.  I wrongfully assumed that, by organizing and cleaning, rearranging furniture and leaving no room for spontaneity, my life would finally be serene.  But the restlessness did not cease within my heart.

Then I became a parent, and God chose motherhood (particularly of daughters with special needs) to pluck me out of that spiritual safety net I had long before woven around my heart.  Instead of gradual change, I was thrust into a new life that consisted of never-ending (and often unwelcome) surprises, as well as waves of grief and chaos due to our medically fragile daughter’s needs.

How, then, was interior peace possible, let alone likely, in the midst of such turmoil and mystery?

Blessedly, the Lord has slowly taught me about discovering – and maintaining – that ever-elusive peace for which we all yearn and yet few of us master in this life.  I’d like to share those discoveries with you as you keep in mind that I am very much a spiritual novice when it comes to such wisdom.

Create a Life of Order Rather Than Chaos

Remember, God does not exist in chaos, though the enemy does.  Our Heavenly Father created the Earth in six days using a gentle pattern.  We must model our own lives after this.  It does no good for us to constantly chase distractions and diversions, which are the devil’s playground to foster restlessness within us.

Instead of filling our lives with mental and visual clutter, why not begin by decluttering and simplifying?  Create a sacred space, and use it.  Daily.  In our Information Age, it’s crucial that we schedule time for solitude: reflection, supplication, and most especially listening to God with our hearts.  God does not speak to us in the thunder or the rustling wind.  He speaks to us softly, sometimes barely audibly.  And I believe the purpose for this is so that we discipline ourselves to pause, listen, and wait for His response.

And He will respond if we do this.

Stop Planning Every Minute of Your Day

This suggestion seems contrary to the first one, doesn’t it?  Actually, it’s not.  I’ve found that, while it’s vital to discern the pattern – the rhythm – of our day that keeps us grounded, focused, and centered, it’s equally important to allow ample time for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives.

The Holy Spirit moves fluidly and often unexpectedly.  If we have every task stuffed into an itemized, digital list in our technological calendars, how can we possibly invite the movement of the Holy Spirit into our hearts?

I realize this is more or less an obvious point, yet few of us actually implement the concept into a daily reality.  I’m often traveling from one medical appointment to the next for my daughter, Sarah, so I live on an intense time table (which I loathe).  If my mind is fretting about whether I will be punctual for the next therapy session or consultation with a specialist, I lose the opportunity to hear, acknowledge, and respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting in my heart.

But on the days I somehow step aside from that mentality, I hear God speak resoundingly in ways I could never conjure on my own.  He often asks me to do or say something quite radical and certainly outside of my natural environment or comfort zone.  But the fruits of such actions are always rich and enlivening, and my entire being is flooded with the “peace that surpasses all understanding”.  When I notice these Providential encounters and the results of such, I am more apt to momentarily stop throughout each day and regroup so that I can respond to the Lord, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Try it, and I’m certain your life will be changed, as well as your interior peace.

Allow Jesus to Rest in Your Heart

This suggestion is rather mystical in nature, and yet probably most profound of all the aforementioned points.  I base it off of a spiritual gem I discovered, which was released by Sophia Institute Press last summer: When God Is Silent by Luis M. Martinez, a former Archbishop of Mexico City, Mexico (who has since gone to his eternal home).

The crux of this book is that there are times when we seek God’s response to our prayers and questions, yet we are met with His silence instead.  And this consequently creates a turbulence of spirit within us, because we assume that we have been forsaken by Him when, in fact, He is only resting within us.

Martinez proffers a novel concept:  Why not permit Jesus to sleep in our hearts for as long as He desires?  If He chooses to remain silent for a day, a week or perhaps even years, then we must rest in the assurance that He is with us and simply wishes to rest in our love.

So often we approach God in a disposition of receiving from Him rather than giving to Him.  It is far more beneficial for our souls that we allow God to prune us in the silent sleeping, to mature our love for Him so that we are always resting in Him as He rests softly in us.

With these few attainable goals, I have exponentially increased my level of interior peace.  That’s not to say that my life is graceful or that I never approach uncertainty with fear, because I do.  It’s difficult to rid ourselves of that nasty concupiscence, which is precisely why we need salvation.

When the waves of trepidation darken my senses and soul with that gripping terror and the enemy seeks to destroy my inner tranquility, I recall the sleeping Jesus in the boat of my heart and rest along with Him until the current storm washes over us and the waves recede once again.

image: Mikhail Kolesnikov / Shutterstock.com

By

Jeannie Ewing believes the world focuses too much on superficial happiness and then crumbles when sorrow strikes.  Because life is about more than what makes us feel fuzzy inside, she writes about the hidden value of suffering and even discovering joy in the midst of grief.  Jeannie shares her heart as a mom of two girls with special needs in Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers and is the author of From Grief to Grace: The Journey from Tragedy to TriumphJeannie was featured on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition and dozens of other radio shows and podcasts For more information, please visit her websites lovealonecreates.com or fromgrief2grace.com. Follow Jeannie on social media:  Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Google+ | Pinterest

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  • stephen

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this gift! I just needed someone to say these things, and exactly the way you have said them, Jeannie. So simple, so obvious, yet we stubbornly refuse to do these things and so provide Satan with a wonderful opportunity to take over our lives.

  • Marivic Barrios

    Thanks for sharing. Path #3 is new to me and just what I need these days.

  • Eleanor Croy

    I’ve been thinking about buying that book, When God is Silent…sounds like I need to.

  • Julieann, I was basically paraphrasing what Archbishop Martinez stated in his book when I said God rests in us. It was mystically metaphorical, not intended to be theological doctrine.

  • So glad to read that, Frank! 🙂

  • I hear what you are saying, MariaVictoria. It’s very new to me, as well, but so refreshing.

  • Your comment was such a blessing to me today, Stephen! Thanks a million times over, and may God’s peace abide in you.

  • noelfitz

    Reading this I am reminded of Patsy Cline’s
    Wayward Wind:

    “Oh, the wayward wind is a restless wind
    A restless wind that yearns to wander
    And he was born the next of kin
    The next of kin to the wayward wind”.

    I am sorry to hear of Ms Ewing’s family difficulties, but admire her devotion and dedication.
    Perhaps the key message in her article is for us to allow God to grant us peace.
    It is good for us to pray that God will grant us this gift of peace.

  • I think the central point of this piece, that we need to create space for God to be, speak and interact with us is key, but something that’s strangely so easy to forget. When I want to try and create peace I tend to focus on imposing a sense of order to my life, which has some practical benefits but doesn’t actually tackle the crux of the matter as peace comes from Him, not my efforts. But making that physical and mental space to let God be and act lets me get off my hamster wheel of self-imposed priorites and let in some of God’s perspective and be more aware of the workings of the Spirit. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

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