We all want to experience more peace and we all go about it the wrong way: we withdraw from difficult things. But this weakens us.
If you or someone you love struggles with anxiety then you know exactly how this works. When you keep avoiding a situation you’re afraid or stressed by it provides momentary relief, but in the end it actually strengthens your fear. This can lead to developing panic disorder or a phobia.
Face Your Fears, Venture on God
I’ve seen it time and again working as a psychologist for over two decades that the way to be free of anxiety is to face your fears with loving support. For instance, if you’re afraid of being rejected or alone (fear of abandonment is the deepest fear) then you need to talk about this with a safe person and pray about it. Then you need to take courage and take the risk of trusting someone who is compassionate and capable, relying on the Spirit of Jesus with you.
Sometimes you’ll feel accepted by the person you trust and sometimes you won’t, but in both cases you can come to know the spiritual reality that God will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5). When you face the situation you’re afraid of by venturing on God, it will strengthen you in his love and you’ll learn to remain at peace even in conflict or when you’re rejected.
Jesus Offers us Shalom
We love Jesus’ words: “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.” (John 14:27)
But most of us don’t appreciate the context of this promise. Jesus is saying, “Face your fears with my help.” It’s only when we take Jesus at his word and step out into a stressful situation with faith in him that The Strengthener (the Holy Spirit) comes to encourage us, helping us to make our home in the love of the Father and Son, in the spiritual reality that transcends our physical circumstances. (John 14:23-27)
Jesus is offering us his shalom. Shalom is a Hebrew word that means “fullness.” Full of life. Full of God’s presence. So full that you’re overflowing with love, joy, and peace! (They are all parts of the same “fruit,” Gal. 5:22-23.) Shalom is what Jesus experienced during the storm at sea, when interrogated by religious scholars, and when standing before Pilate on trial to be crucified. Shalom is what enables you to experience stress without internalizing it and becoming worried and anxious.
A Shalom Prayer
I’ve written a “Shalom Prayer” to help you face your fears. It’s inspired by Jesus’ words in John 14. It will help you to be present to God, his Word and Spirit, if you breathe the words in and out. (I call this a “Breath Prayer from the Bible.”) Here’s a helpful rhythm: as you pray the first half of each line breathe in and as you pray the second half breathe out. (We’re simply using our bodies to help us pray. Inhaling represents receiving and exhaling represents renouncing.)
- Peace of Christ… Not of this world
- Kingdom of God… Not of this world
- Fullness of God… Not of this world
- Wholeness and health… Not of this world
- Shalom… Not of this world
Rest in God’s loving presence. Then watch and pray with Jesus by calling to mind something you’re worried about or afraid of. (Or you can intercede for a loved one that you’re concerned about.)
Then return to the Shalom Prayer as a way of taking hold the hand of mercy that reaches down from the heavens — now and in the time of trial.