I remember the most terrifying and the most peaceful moment of my life. They just happen to be the exact same moment for me. I was both terrified and at complete peace at the same time on a battlefield many years ago.
No, I’m not schizophrenic (at least that’s what the voice my head told me). If you don’t believe that these two seemingly contradictory things can be possible in the exact same moment, then keep reading.
I was having a discussion about the English word peace with some friends recently. We noted how difficult it is to describe this word for what it is. Most of the time, when I hear people define the word peace, they describe what it’s not (not having strife, the absence of war, when there’s no conflict between people…).
However, it feels like something is missing from this definition. Just because we’ve eliminated what peace isn’t, doesn’t mean that we’ve adequately described what it is.
You know it when you see it
Peace is hard to define but easy to recognize. Maybe peace is better demonstrated in the way you live your life than defined by your words. If you’ve ever watched somebody go through a significant crisis and appear able to handle it with relative ease, you have seen peace demonstrated.
Because we all know we will face challenges that are beyond our control, we all want that kind of peace. For more on that, here’s a recent article I wrote about handling the obstacles of life.
My greatest moment of peace was during a big battle in Mogadishu, Somalia. It was in the midst of the firefight that became known as Black Hawk Down that I felt absolutely certain that I would die.
At the same time, I was completely at peace with the fact that I would meet God during that battle. My faith in King Jesus gave me a sense of peace in that 18-hour battle that I have never experienced before or since.
I was so at peace during that battle that my friends asked me about it the next morning. They wanted to know how I was able to stay calm during those intense hours of tragedy and chaos. I answered them by saying that my faith and the assurance of my adoption into God’s family gave me that peace.
This is why I struggle with defining the word peace simply by what it’s not. I experienced peace in the midst of conflict. I felt my greatest sense of peace during war! If this is true, I don’t believe that peace can be defined only by the absence of conflict.
There must be something bigger to this word, peace.
The roots run deep
I was surrounded by great warriors whom I knew would fight to protect me. I was wearing the most advanced ballistic armor available on earth at the time. But neither of these factors could stop the next bullet or Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) from killing me instantly.
There’s no military force, technology or training that guarantees a warrior will return from battle alive. Peace must come from something deeper than good training and top-of-the-line equipment. My experience teaches that peace comes from roots that run very deep. Check out this link if you want to know more about my experiences in Somalia.
Did you know that some of the trees with the deepest roots in the world are found in some of the most difficult environments? In fact, the tree with the deepest root system on record is found in the Kalahari Desert. The shepherd’s tree (Boscia albitrunca) is known to have a root system that is more than 70 m deep, which is fascinating, considering that the tree itself is usually only a few meters tall. This tree is able to survive some of the harshest conditions on earth because the root system goes so deep.
Think about peace from the perspective of this shepherd’s tree. It can be at peace no matter how harsh or dry the conditions because it is drawing water from many meters below the surface of the earth. If trees could display emotion, the shepherd’s tree would demonstrate peace like I had in Somalia, because the roots grow deep.
How about you? How deep do the roots of your heart or soul go? Can you honestly say that you are at peace in the midst of difficulties and trials?
The gift of peace
Because this is the Christmas season, let’s finish by talking about gifts. The greatest gifts in life cannot be purchased with money. Almost all of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received came from the heart: the gift of love, the gift of joy, the gift of friendship.
These gifts are priceless. And did you know that God gives the gift of peace? This is one of the priceless treasures that he gives to his children.
Psalm 29:11 describes the gift this way, “The Lord gives his people strength; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” Did you notice the language? God gives to his people… God gives peace… Peace is a gift God gives to his people.
The gift of peace is stronger than your circumstances. God helps his people grow roots deep enough to handle any stress that life throws their way. The reason why God’s people can handle challenging circumstances with peace is because we know God gives us strength that is greater than plates of body armor.
I believe the greatest definition of the word peace is found in the way Christians live their lives in the midst of challenging circumstances. Peace isn’t the absence of difficulty. Rather, peace is having strength in the middle of your greatest challenges.
If you want to know more about this gift of peace, check out my most recent sermon on it HERE.
 Christian Standard Bible. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2020.
Read Jeff’s entire Black Hawk Down story in his book
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