September 16, 2009
Peace . . . in Spite of Panic
by Charles R. Swindoll
I invite you to focus your full attention on one of the rarest of all virtues. It is a virtue that everybody pursues, but very few possess on a regular basis. I'm referring to the often-longed-for but seldom-found virtue of peace.
Peace---something that is needed between nations just as badly as it is needed between neighbors. We are a warring people. Deep down underneath our placid plastic cover we are fighters. Most people don't live at peace with themselves, so it stands to reason we don't live peacefully with others. We are basically critical and intolerant. We are in an endless wrestling match with insecurity, a lack of confidence, a struggle with a purpose and place in life, and the pursuit of freedom from worry and anxiety. That's true among Christians as well as non-Christians. How very few live a life that is calm, deliberate, free from anxiety.
Tucked away in the twenty-sixth chapter of Isaiah are two verses we need to dust off every once in a while---verses 3 and 4.
I'd like you to take note not only of what these verses are saying, but also of what they mean to you personally. I want to draw my remarks from the colorful Hebrew language, which is the original text of Isaiah 26:3-4. Remember, the prophet is not writing about international peace. He's talking about an individual at peace with himself, with God, and with others. Let's take a closer look at those two verses.
The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the LORD forever,
For in GOD the LORD , we have an everlasting Rock. (Isaiah 26:3-4)
Steadfast is from a term that means "to lean, to rest, to support." It's the idea of being sustained as a result of leaning on something supporting you. The words "of mind" come from one verb that means "to frame" or "to fashion, to form." In the original Hebrew language, this particular construction has the idea of "a frame of mind."
If you put the two thoughts together, they convey this: "A frame of mind that is receiving support from leaning and therefore is being sustained." That brings us to the main verb, will keep. The term means "to guard from danger, to watch over." It is so rendered in Isaiah 42:6.
The frame of mind that is being supported as a result of leaning: You, Lord, will watch over with "shalom, shalom." Not literally "perfect peace," but "peace, peace." In the Hebrew, a term was repeated for emphasis. So here the idea is of an unending security, a sense of uninterrupted, perpetual rest and calmness. It doesn't come from some human being. According to the prophet's words, it comes from the God upon whom the person leans.
How does God know when to give us that rest? Well, it says in verse 3, because we trust in Him. In the Arabic (occasionally closely related to the Hebrew), the term for trust has a very picturesque meaning: "to throw one's self down upon one's face."
I think of a trampoline when I think of that imagery. I think of jumping up and down and letting all of my weight fall in an almost relaxed manner on a trampoline. You can just feel yourself bouncing off that stretched-out piece of thick vinyl.
The thought here is that you abandon all other crutches you could lean on, and place all of your anxiety, all of your being, and all of your circumstances on the only One who can support you.
Can He support? Good question. Read on . . . it says that He is an everlasting Rock. Now it would hurt us to fall on a large, solid rock. But it's not the idea of falling you must remember. It's the idea of leaning. It's the thought of leaning on something that will be perpetually supportive, solid enough to sustain your weight.
Putting all the above together, the paraphrase would read like this: "A frame of mind that is receiving support from leaning and, therefore, is being sustained, You, Lord, will watch over with infinite calm. Because he leans fully and relies upon You and none other, You, Lord God, are the everlasting support."
This is the scene of a tranquil, restful mind in spite of circumstances. What a marvelous, limitless promise!
I recently came across Isaiah 26:3-4 and am I glad I did! It's been a sustaining force and source of strength in my own life, particularly during a recent week I endured. What a week! I hardly know how to describe it. There won't be another like it. (Hear that, Lord?) Maybe I should pray, Let there be no other! There were disappointments. There were jolts. There were surprises. There were family illnesses. There were constant demands.
But behind the scenes . . . there was a great measure of peace in my heart. Yes, there were times when I became anxious. Three or four times I was really anxious, but for the most part, when I claimed the truth and entered into a personal experience of verses 3 and 4, there was a distinct difference. When I said, "Lord, I consciously now lean on You and abandon all of my strength for this situation," He held me up.
This is not merely print from a page in the Bible. This is a biblical principle that works in the trenches of life. It begs to be applied. It reaches out from the page with long arms and stretching hands, saying, "Take me. I'm yours, Christian, please take hold of me. You have to claim me." That's what I want you to do as a result of reading this Scripture passage and today's devotional.
This devotional is part one in a four-part series.
Excerpted from Stress Fractures, copyright © 1990 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.