Week Twelve, Day Three
Shalom is a Hebrew word, so much richer in its range of meanings than the English word "peace," which usually refers to the absence of outward conflict or to a state of inner calm. The concept of shalom includes these ideas but goes beyond them, meaning "wholeness," "completeness," "finished word," "perfection," "safety," or "wellness." Shalom comes from living in harmony with God. The fruit of that harmony is harmony with others, prosperity, health, satisfaction, soundness, wholeness, and well-being. When you pray to Yahweh Shalom, you are praying to the source of all peace. No wonder his Son is called the Prince of Peace.
So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace. (Judges 6:24)
PRAYING THE NAME
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Reflect On: Philippians 4:6-9
Praise God: Because he is full of mercy.
Offer Thanks: That God's Son is our peace.
Confess: Any habits of worry and anxiety.
Ask God: To grant you the peace that passes understanding.
My father was a man who loved to drink. He loved it better than his work, better than his wife, and better than any of his five children, though he wouldn't have put it that way. Most of the family believed he would die drinking. It was hard to imagine another outcome after forty years of a steady habit. But we were wrong.
Dad shocked us by admitting one day that he was an alcoholic, a man who had lost control of himself and was desperate for help. After he stopped drinking, he did his best to make up for the years of neglect and the broken relationships. And it was easy to see God's hand in all of it even though there was a residue of bitterness and anger in him that never quite healed.
Several years later, I sat by his bed as he lay in a coma, near death. His third-floor hospital room had a million-dollar view, though he never knew it. Through the window I could see a small lake shining in the afternoon sun, a white boat floating on its placid surface. I watched as the leaves of the trees bordering the lake rustled in the warm breeze. The picture was peaceful, serene—everything I wasn't.
Inside the hospital room my father's labored breathing formed the backdrop for my anxious prayers. I was reminding God of all the good things Dad had done in his life. He had fought courageously in World War II and had been a great friend and encourager to me in the latter years of his life. I knew that he had made huge efforts to stifle his many "Archie Bunkerisms" when he had begun living with me and my children three years earlier. His rakish humor had never deserted him even during the worst moments of his long illness. And he had never complained—not once.
As I thought of all these good things about my father, I pleaded for mercy regarding his shortcomings and the self-inflicted disappointments of his life. I was particularly aware of the unresolved anger that plagued him. But as I prayed, I was startled by a different thought, one that took my prayers in a new direction. God seemed to be saying: "The good he has done just won't cut it." Strangely, I wasn't discouraged but buoyed up. How could I have forgotten one of the most basic tenets of my faith? I was praying as though my father had to purchase a ticket to heaven with the currency of his good deeds. But only the love of God and the mercy of Christ, I reminded myself, is powerful enough to bring any of us home safely.
Suddenly my father's failings seemed less worrisome, less relevant to the moment of his dying. I thought about the title of an old hymn, "There's a Wideness in God's Mercy," and the words comforted me. As I left that day, I realized the anxiety was gone. The peace I felt now seemed a perfect reflection of the tranquil scene outside his hospital window.
Two days later, just a few hours before my father died, I listened as this passage from the Bible was read during the Sunday service: "If God is for us, who can be against us? . . . Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns?" (Romans 8:31, 33-34). The fear I had felt about my father's dying had evaporated. In its place was a steady peace.
What is it that is making you anxious today? Don't let it rob you of the peace God promises. Instead, entrust your situation to him in prayer. Ask him to guard your heart and your mind by giving you the peace that transcends all understanding.
For more from Ann Spangler, visit her blogspot on Christianity.com. Be sure to check out Ann's newest book, Praying the Attributes of God: A Daily Guide to Experiencing His Greatness.