I make no secret of being an adult convert. In fact, I love to talk about it because, like I imagine most converts feel, it changed everything for me and I want people to know the source of my happiness. I may have dabbled in Jesus here and there when I was younger but when I really and truly gave my life to be a Christian at the age of 24, that is when I found peace.
Finding peace doesn't mean that everything magically starts going your way. It doesn't mean things are easy or that you suddenly have all the answers. In fact, being in your early 20's is quite rough, at least for me it was. You're trying to figure out what to do with yourself after school, deciding which job or career might be right for you, searching for a spouse, looking for an organization to volunteer for and trying to decide where to live whether it be with your parents, with your friends, renting a room or an apartment.
There is a lot that's up in the air. I imagine every decade of life has it's own unique trials. But through all this craziness, the great gift Christ gives us, is that we can have peace through it all. Peace amidst all the chaos and uncertainty.
Jesus talks about peace all throughout his time on Earth. "Peace be with you." "Peace I leave with you." "My peace I give you." "That in me you may have peace." And this is one of the great comforts of being a Christian, that no matter what is going on, Jesus wants you to have peace. For me, peace falls into two categories: Peace in the good times and peace during the dark times.
Peace In The Good Times
You'd think it would be easy to have peace when things are good and you are happy. And yes, in many ways, it is easier to seek peace when you are feeling happy and fulfilled. But the challenge during these times, is to remember where the happiness is coming from. All our blessings have been given to us by God for His purpose. Because of that, we should be grateful every day to Him for the goodness in our lives.
When we forget this, when we fall prey to our own pride and to the desire to build ourselves up, the peace begins to fade into the background. It's why we can feel so empty even when things seem to be going very well all around us. No matter what is happening in my life, I try to give it back to God by being thankful and knowing that it is because of Him that these Good Times exist. This is certainly no easy task.
The harder I work on something, the harder it is for me to loosen my grip on my success and give it back to God. Sometimes I feel like a 3-year-old hiding something behind my back and hoping God doesn't see that I want to keep these "wins" to myself. But I know better. The more I seek to keep for myself, the more I feel my peace slipping from my life. And then it's as if I have a shiny trophy but I'm all alone with it in a dark room.
[Tweet "The harder I work, the harder it is to loosen my grip on success & give it back to God."]
I'm restless and unhappy, even in the Good Times, when I don't acknowledge from whom these great things came. Being aware of this trap is helpful though. When things are going well for me but I find myself feeling a little blue, I start to look around for ways that I've been hoarding my own blessings and forgetting to honor God for them. This is almost always the answer to my strange misplaced sadness.
Even if I've worked really hard to accomplish something and I'm proud of what I have done, I know that the resources and the strength I used to be successful came to me from Him. It is His and not mine. I am merely a vessel to carry out His will. This might sound mindless to non-believers--almost as if I'm a robot, scooting around and carrying out orders, but it's hardly that.
By allowing God to work through me, He empowers me to use my life for the greater good that He has planned. I get to participate and together we make a great team. Giving thanks to God is like jumping up and slamming an epic high five with Him to celebrate a victory! When I do that, I find the sweetest and most enduring peace wraps itself around my life.
Peace in the Dark Times
When bad things happen, it's so tempting to find fault, place blame, stew in bitterness and wonder, "Why me?" And we all struggle with this whether our Dark Times consist of major events (i.e. death, unemployment, cancer, miscarriage, etc.) or seemingly minor challenges (i.e. lack of contentment with your job, finding motherhood to be isolating and annoying, wondering why you haven't met the right guy yet, wishing you had a hobby you enjoyed, etc.)
The devil loves to whisper to you about these hardships trying to make you feel that you've been wronged by these trials. As soon as you start to dwell on how unfair your situation is, it's almost as if your soul is turning ever so slightly away from the light of God. It's as if you start to doubt Him and His plan for you.
Note: If you don't think the devil is on earth and that demons whisper things in your ear, I highly suggest you read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. That book absolutely changed my life and the self-talk I was experiencing in my mind! The more I read about angels and devils, the more I believe it's a great tragedy that so many people think they don't exist.
It is ESPECIALLY in these Dark Times that we should seek peace. My feelings might be all over the place but I know I need to be diligent in my prayer life and pray hard, "Thank you Lord for these trials. I know they are meant to teach me something. I know they are making me stronger for things to come. Thank you for trusting me to handle this situation." I try to take a deep breath and know that God gives us the good and the bad.
We must honor Him for every day that we get to live and that includes all the hardships that come along. As a Christian, I love how we have this attitude that when God gives us hard things to deal with, it's because he trusts us and he knows we can handle it. It's a warm feeling like when a parent lets you exist in a tough situation without saving you because they know you can emerge victorious. Personally, I find that it is easier for me to seek peace when things are absolutely awful! The louder the tragedy, the easier it is for me to remember to thank God and turn to Him for peace.
It's much harder for me to remember to thank God and to seek peace on a daily level when the more mundane trials come up. When I'm washing dishes (again) and Rose breaks something and Poppy's diaper leaks and I don't feel like cooking dinner ... in those moments, my challenges are so small that I forget that God is shaping me through these tiny trials as well so I forget to be thankful and I forget to seek peace and thus peace escapes me. These are the moments I allow myself to feel grimy and discontent.
I'm 32 now and so I'm getting better at turning these moments around. I'm much faster about saying, "Stop, this is a trick. Your life is great. Be thankful. God has a plan and leaky diapers were part of it today! He knows you can handle it. He's preparing something for you. Peace be with you!"
And I might forget and have to do this 15 times a day but at least I know I'm supposed to do it and having this plan, seeking peace, is what gets me through the day. I know a peaceful life is what God wants for me. He never said it would be easy. He never said it would be fun.
Being a Christian doesn't make things magically better but it does make your attitude better. It helps give you peace goggles through which you can see all the good and bad things that are happening to you. It makes you feel like you're part of a team and lets you share those epic high fives with God for the Good Times and gives you an eternal parent who believes in you and is rooting for you through those Dark Times.
Jesus is the truth and the light and the way. Jesus is peace. Seek Jesus and know peace. It means everything. It changes everything.
Copyright 2016 Sterling Jaquith
About the Author
Sterling Jaquith is a wife and mama to four little kiddos, lives in Boise, Idaho and is the host of the Coffee & Pearls show. As an adult convert, she had to discover Catholicism on her own. She is so in love with the truth and tradition of the Church that she dedicates her life to helping lukewarm Catholics discover the passion and joy of our great faith! Her books Catholic Mom Challenge and Be Merry are available on Amazon HERE!