Finding Peace in any Circumstance
Updated: Feb 26, 2022
John 14-27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Do you feel like the world has completely shifted in the last couple of year? There is more chaos, fear and confusion than I remember in my lifetime.
In my practice as a therapist, my own work has increased as the troubles and anxiety experienced by people has also intensified. There is reported to be a shortage of mental health services available as those of us in the mental health field have filled our caseloads to our limits. Many people have been pushed beyond their window of tolerance emotionally. Fuses are short, fear and anxiety are high. But we are not left without hope.
Hope is not a simplistic optimistic way of looking at things. Rather it is the ability to hold on to truth in the midst of difficulty, while in no way minimizing the reality of the difficulties we face.
When faced with anxiety it is alway important to draw on the choices we have within our own sphere of control. Focusing on our own choices rather that what is going on around us can give us a sense of agency (personal control). Acting within our own sphere of control is not a license to be destructive to self or others but to recognize how we are decision makers when it comes to our own peace, no matter how dire the circumstances. Let me share a couple of examples of what this looks like when all hope seems lost.
Viktor Frankl in his timeless book Man’s search for Meaning describes his account of being a prisoner in a concentration camp during World War 2. Its a small but difficult book to read as it describes in detail the situation and suffering of those inprisoned in those camps. But Frankl points out that part of the reason for his survival was his ability to escape into the place of his memory, to recall the image and spirit of his wife. to retreat to his imagination to times of peace and joy. No one could take that from him. He also had a deeper appreciation for the beauty of creation and art. He could still be in awe of a beautiful sunset, even within the horrors of the camp. These things transcended his experiences and gave Him hope that something far greater could not be touched by destruction. Frankl was able to find areas of agency even within a system that seemingly stripped him of any choice and promoted unimaginable suffering.
The Irish mother in the movie Titanic- She is a fictionalized character but she is also one representation of the various ways humans behave in extreme desperate situations. When all hope of survival was lost, she acted within her own sphere of control and put her children to bed and talked soothingly and lovingly to them as she told them a bedtime story.
The children drifted off to sleep in peace in the midst of a terrorizing situation. The mother was able to recognize that she could choose the way her children
would spend their last moments and she chose for them to feel the power of her peace during their last moments.
Most of us will not face the level of intense fear and trauma that comes with the experience of living in a concentration camp or being trapped on a sinking ship. However, all of us will experience the pain of facing our mortality and that of those we love, or injustice, or confusion. We all will experience grief and loss, sometimes traumatically. We will all be faced with choices with how we are going to face these situations.
When we are able to focus on the truth of John 14-27 above, we also have the ability to draw on the soothing voice of a loving savior that promises peace because we can know that the story is already written, our God is in control, we are living in the midst of frighting adventure but we know the ending. Knowing this allows us to develop inner resources to hold onto peace. We will still feel fear, and confusion and frustration, pain and grief. Those waves will come. But they are temporary (though perhaps lifechanging) waves and peace is the steady solid rock we can cling to in the midst of those waves until they are commanded to be stilled.
This post is part of the five minute friday writing community. We write for five minutes on a prompt each week. Find out more here.
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