Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life. — Proverbs 4:23 CSB
The other night I was performing at an event in South Florida, and nothing was going right. Ideally I would have had plenty of rest and water, warmed up my voice, and done a sound check a few hours before the event. But life throws curveballs. Instead, flights were delayed. My driver got lost without cell reception. Logistics were crazier and more difficult due to the pandemic. Nothing was ideal.
I’ve been performing and doing ministry long enough that I have learned how to autocorrect on the fly. But I do know that if I don’t guard my peace, those problems will get in my head, destroy my focus, and wreck the night. I don’t have to hit a home run every time I’m up to bat. That’s not realistic. I only have to get up each day and know that I’m doing the very best I can with what is right in front of me.
Though I’ve learned to find that balance in my career, I am constantly and consistently trying to apply that same balance to my emotional, spiritual, and mental life as well.
Anthony is in a unique situation in that even if he’s having a bad day, he has to get on a platform and be upbeat and inspirational. How do you get yourself back on track if you become sidetracked, especially when you feel that you have lost your peace?
It depends on what I am facing. Usually, it starts with getting quiet and still. It’s what I need to begin figuring out exactly what might be causing the problem.
I remember when I was a kid having trouble breathing because of my asthma. Dr. Denny would put a stethoscope on my chest and say,
“Be quiet and take a deep breath, Anthony.”
That was what he needed to be able to hear my heart and lungs and to start getting to the root of the issue.
In the same way, I need to be quiet and take deep breaths to hear what is going on in my heart and to hear the Lord’s voice. Whether that’s sitting and doing nothing until my mind stops racing, going on a walk, or keeping a scripture in mind, I have to take the first step of being quiet and still. From there I can discern the source of the problem and figure out the steps that will bring me back to that center of peace.
I think I’ve also become more vulnerable as time has passed. If I am really struggling, I might confess that to family, friends, and sometimes even the audience I’m singing to. I’ve seen moments when God used that to cause a breakthrough in worship. A certain peace and comfort comes from sharing what you are going through with others instead of holding it in.
The Lord has blessed me with many things for which I’m so very grateful, but what I treasure most is the gift of peace.
- Peace is priceless.
It simply cannot be purchased. But obtaining it does require work. What I had to learn the hard way is that no car, house, check, roaring applause, new outfit, or amount of Instagram likes is going to give me a true and sustained peace in my heart and mind.
The pathway to true peace opens up when you realize that it is not predicated on what is happening externally. Peace comes when you trust the anchor of your faith, even in the storm. Yes, storms can create fear, questions, and uncertainty, but when you completely and totally trust your anchor, a peace settles deep inside you.
Discovering, experiencing, and protecting our peace is one of the major steps toward internal health. Stacy taught me that peace has to be fought for and helped me develop a plan that works for me.
One of my key therapeutic rules is that we are all responsible for protecting our peace. That’s not a passive process. Toxic people, guilt, unrealistic expectations, overthinking, overdosing on technology — we need to be aware of what’s happening in and around us and protect ourselves, because all these things can steal away our peace. Of course, there are also times when our emotions can sneak up on us. Like weeds taking over a yard, stressful and unwanted situations can creep in until they take over every aspect of our lives.
Some people go to church and assume they will automatically find peace because of their participation in that process. But unless you are carrying peace on the inside, even the good things happening externally may not be able to reach you.
I did that for years. Obviously, I’m a church kid, and I was there all the time. But on the inside I was still a wreck. It didn’t matter how good the worship service was or if the preacher delivered the sermon of the year. On top of that, trying to pretend like you’re fine when your heart is troubled only makes the pain worse. It’s like having a sprained ankle and trying to walk without a limp.
Now don’t get me wrong; church is very important and something we shouldn’t ignore. But you would be surprised how many people sitting in church pews are just as broken and confused and anxious and depressed as those who don’t even attend. Peace is not automatically downloaded into your soul just because you walk through the church door and sing a verse and chorus of “See a Victory.” Many a Sunday, I would sit in church and be miserable, even though I was singing and praying and doing all the things I thought would bring peace. Then I was right back in the mud of guilt and shame. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I pray through it? Why can’t I get it to work for me?
Internal peace was not my first focus. I was looking to external experiences rather than my own heart, soul, and mind. Jesus told us that the kingdom of God is not something that can be easily observed. It’s not in a song or sermon or even a book.
The Kingdom of God is inside you (Luke 17:20–21).
In Psalm 119, King David talked about hiding God’s Word in his heart (Psalm 119:11). I believe that the Spirit of God gives you peace, and that starts on the inside. External things cannot do that.
The hard truth is that the accumulation of material things can make the lack of peace worse. I remember going on a trip, thinking that distance from my circumstances would fix things. As I sat on the beach and cried, I realized that you cannot run from yourself. The issue was inside me. In that moment I realized that until I did the work, I was going to continue to feel anxious no matter where I was or what new thing I acquired.
Notice that many people say, “Rest in peace,” and yet we rarely hear people say, “Live in peace.”
- The only way to rest is to live in peace. We can rest in peace on this side of Heaven too.
With a foundation of peace, you are going to be happier, more productive, and have a better life overall. This is possible even in unpeaceful times. The pandemic, civil unrest, and other external stressors that are out of our control all make it difficult to maintain peace within ourselves. This is why it becomes critically important to manage our regular, daily sense of inner peace as we monitor our emotional health and sense of harmony.
Excerpted with permission from When Faith Meets Therapy by Anthony Evans and Stacy Kaiser, , MA LMFT, copyright Anthony Evans and Stacy Kaiser.
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Peace is priceless! Without peace, we humans are walking wrecks. Without the Holy Spirit leading us and guiding us in peace, we’re a mess. Today, let’s be quiet, take a breath, and live in peace. ~ Devotionals Daily