We must learn to find our peace, not from outside sources, but from the God who transforms us from the inside.
The Way of the Warrior
By Erwin Raphael McManus
The warrior’s strength is their peace. Jesus did not come to conquer kingdoms or nations; he came to conquer hearts and minds. If you are going to walk in the way of Jesus, you must know that you are to enter darkness that desperately needs the light. In describing the path that John the Baptist would prepare for Jesus of Nazareth, these words were spoken about John at his birth by his father, Zechariah: “You will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
The path of peace comes only when we’re willing to walk into our own darkness and face our own shadows. We must face the very things that steal our peace from us whether they are born out of our fear or our doubts. The concept of peace is deeply rooted in the history that shaped the world and culture of Jesus’s day. The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom. The word shalom is layered, complex and elegant in its nuances. At its most superficial level, shalom is basically used as a form of greeting. In many ways it can be compared with the English word goodbye, which is simply a part of our common language but is rooted in the phrase “God be with you.”
Shalom is a greeting with deep implications. It is most commonly translated and understood to mean “peace,” but the peace of shalom is rich in its textures. The word extends beyond meaning “peace” to meaning “harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility.” To experience shalom is to find wholeness. When we find peace, we are made whole. The ultimate goal of peace is that we not only are made whole within ourselves but also become part of the whole within all of creation. The very concept of shalom assumes that the original intention of God is for all things to be interconnected—that when there is peace, there is relationship and harmony between all things.
The clearest evidence that we lack peace is that we all sense a tearing between us, a separation that divides us from God, from our true selves and from others, and yes, even creation. The evidence that peace is missing is the break between us and God, the violence of brother against brother, and our destruction of and irresponsibility with the creation we have been entrusted with. When there is peace, all these relationships are made right and everything is made whole. When we are broken, all we are left with are the pieces of our true selves.
As much evidence as there is around us that we desperately need to find our peace, there is even deeper proof within us of how peace has eluded us. When our hearts have not found peace, we become filled with the darkest expressions of ourselves. We’re filled with not only fear and doubt but also greed and envy, anger and bitterness, loneliness and disconnection, despair and hopelessness. Each of these are external forces that war against our inner worlds.
We struggle with envy because we want the life that isn’t ours.
We struggle with greed because we want to possess what is not ours to have.
We struggle with feelings of insignificance because we have made our worth dependent on the opinions of others.
We struggle with identity because we don’t know who we are outside of what we do.
We struggle with loneliness because we are searching for love rather than giving it.
We will never know peace as long as we are slaves to external forces of the world and create our identities from the outside in. We will never know peace if we lose the present because we are trapped in the past and paralyzed by the future. This is in no small part why we live in a culture crippled by depression and anxiety. Depression is rooted in your past; anxiety is rooted in your imagined future.
Depression is how your soul processes regret; anxiety is how your soul processes fear.
Depression traps you in your worst and most painful memories; anxiety imagines your worst and most painful future.
You lose the present when you hide from your past and run from your future. Depression and anxiety convince you that the past is your future and so the future must be avoided at all costs. Scripture tells us to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
It was intended for us to be fully present in the moment. Only the present will free you from the past, and only the present will free you to your future. The path to freedom from your past and freedom to your future is the connectedness that comes from living this moment fully present. It may seem strange, but you connect to the transcendent only when you are fully present. When you experience God’s presence in the moment, the moment becomes eternal.
Be here right now.
The path of peace comes not from the outside in but from the inside out. Here’s how Isaiah described the path toward peace: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
This is the path to mindfulness. This is the way to peace of mind. Not a journey to nothingness, but a journey to fullness. It is God who gives us perfect peace. More specifically, it is Jesus who has come to bring us this peace that our souls long for.
Excerpted from The Way of the Warrior: An Ancient Path to Inner Peace. Copyright © 2019 by Erwin Raphael McManus. Used by permission of WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
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