“There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Culturally, we are often taught to think about peace in terms of an absence of conflict. In the Scriptures, peace is a much more robust concept than that. It contains the idea of an absence of conflict, yes, but more than just physical conflict, peace in the Bible is concerned with an absence of conflict with God. It is concerned with a sense of wholeness and completeness to life. When we have peace, all is right inside of us, whether or not it is right around us.
As we begin to frame peace in these terms, our ability to have it begins to expand. It grows deeper and richer as well. For instance, if peace is merely an absence of physical conflict, why is it that things at work can be relatively free from inner-office drama and yet we are anxious about going in each day. Work, though unencumbered by arguments and battles for position, becomes something we dread. Our duties are an anchor around our necks that drags us lower and lower until we can barely lift our heads.
Or perhaps shift the scene to the home front. If peace is merely the absence of conflict, why are so many of our marriages free from heated arguments and pitched battles about various things and yet going home from work feels like going into the gladiator’s arena? Husbands and wives never say a cross word to one another, but the tension lying just below the surface feels like it’s always a half a crank from bursting.
These are not peaceful situations, absent conflict though they may be. This is because real peace has little to do with our physical circumstances, and much to do with our spiritual ones. If we are right with God and pursuing righteousness–that is, right relationship–with the people around us, peace is something that will dwell richly with us regardless of how chaotic things around us seem to the casual observer.
You’ve seen people like this, haven’t you? You’ve been around people who are like a still pond in the middle of a war zone. They are facing enormous pressures or unfair persecutions or family chaos or you name it, and yet if you were to meet them on the street and have a conversation with them, you wouldn’t have the slightest clue this was the case. They have a peace that runs deeper than the situations of life can touch.
This is the kind of peace that is available to everybody willing to place their whole trust in Christ and be fitted with His burden. It is the confidence that comes from placing our lives firmly in the hands of the God who is bigger than this world and all its headaches and who is going to bring His good plans to glorious completion in the end regardless of what happens along the way there. It comes from knowing that our souls are safe in the hands of the one who will carry them faithfully into the eternal kingdom when the time comes regardless of what may happen to our bodies between now and then.
There’s just one thing: This kind of peace is only for those willing to so place their trust. The reason is fairly simple and it’s not because God is being stingy with it. The reason is that God is the only one big enough to truly offer us this kind of confidence. It can’t be found anywhere else. No other god is big enough to manage it. If we disconnect from the God revealed in the pages of the Scriptures (Isaiah here calls such folks “the wicked” because by comparison to the righteousness and goodness of God, all other paths are indeed wicked), we are stuck trying to produce peace on our own. When this happens, peace only lasts as long as the walls we build to keep the chaos out do. Now, some folks have the means to build bigger walls than others, but all walls eventually fall. Indeed, there is no peace for the wicked.
So, what do we do with this? That’s easy: We decide whether or not we want real peace. We decide how long we want to live in the battlefield. We decide how long we want to endure the chaos. We don’t have to do it any longer than we choose. Peace, real peace, is available in Christ. Always. All we need to do is decide when we want to stop fighting with life and starting enjoying the living part.