The Very Definition of Peace
by Nancy Peacock
“I remember about 5 years ago lying in bed late one night pondering what would be the hardest two things that could ever happen to me. There were of course a number of things on the list but the two things that were my strongest fears were:
1. Harold dying
2. Me having to go through chemotherapy.
The night that Harold went to heaven I settled into bed realizing that I had a choice I knew I had to make. Either I continue my practice of kneeling beside my bed and looking back over my day and seeing and recording the God-gifts within that day OR I give in to the misery of the hardest blow I’ve ever received and leave that practice behind.
My addled brain was saying “How can you give thanks on this day when you kissed the cool lips of your beloved husband for the very last time? The day when you knew you would never again see the face you could hardly drag your eyes from, so dear, so familiar, so improved by time and age?”
A battle ensued and the tiny voice of the Spirit that I’ve come to recognize whispered:
“This will be the vehicle for My presence as you go through what lies ahead. Bring Me your weakness, your brokenness. I will catch every tear, I will listen to every anguished question, I will heal your fractured heart and give you peace. The only part you have to do is to remember that thanksgiving always comes before the miracle.”
And so my mind ran back over the day and I wrote many things that filled me with thankfulness. Some were: Mercy was with me when I got the hospital call (and was still with me, sleeping on our couch), close friends rushed to the hospital, food began arriving, Gwen was travelling from Brownfield to spend several days, and people took over so many of the details and decisions that had to be made at a time when I seemed incapable of forming an intelligent thought.
And that began a practice I now cling to where I spend time with God nightly. I have recorded over 5,500 blessings since August 4, 2015 and my journal is a living testament to the goodness of God as He weaves colour, texture, and beauty (mostly through his people) into the tapestry of my life.
Fast forward to August 2017, a time when I began to realize that I was feeling things I hadn’t in a very long time. I was feeling more energy, more excitement about things, pleasures returned that had long seemed suppressed. And I recognized the faithfulness of what God promised me on that loneliest dark night of my soul. I had merely found things within my daily life to praise and thank him for, He took my brokenness, my weaknesses and became my strength and my peace. No self effort, no bootstraps were required. He was not a demanding army sergeant He was the most tender and true Abba.
Two weeks after this realization I got a recall appointment on my yearly mammogram.
As I trudge through the various phases and procedures of breast cancer I find there are not so many new lessons for me in how to cope. True, I do not like this process, not one small bit! But I have had my brain and heart rewired this past 2.5 years and I continue to daily see God’s presence, peace and yes, even joy almost daily during this cancer saga. People are hungry to discover those who do not ask “why me” but look for bigger, deeper questions. I have had many opportunities not afforded me before Harold’s death and my cancer. People who do not know Jesus want to know why I can respond as I have, and I’ve had boldness and opportunity to share my walk with Jesus with them. They wonder why I’m not angry that all these hard things have happened to me and our kids.
But the beautiful secret is that the opportunity for God to be the closest He will ever be to us is when we are struggling, wounded, discouraged, despairing or mourning. And doesn’t that describe everybody here. We will all walk through some type of previously unimaginable suffering. Some may lose a child, maybe a marriage will not survive, parents will age and suffer, a beloved spouse will die, and tragedies will happen. It is all the reality of living in this wounded world. But you have my word on this… there is no problem or heartache bigger than the God who promises to inhabit it. The criteria to experience this is to exchange your brokenness, your weakness for the beautiful gift of acknowledging the mysteriously simple gifts that He provides daily.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10
In conclusion I’d like to say that I no longer entertain thoughts of lists of the worst things that could happen to me. 🙂 Not because I fear that more may happen, but because my worst fears have been realized and Jesus has brought me beautifully through the roughest, darkest times I could have imagined. I no longer fear the “what ifs”. I know there will be more struggles ahead but in the face of that I can truly say I experience His peace and joy no matter what circumstance swirls around me.
And isn’t that the very definition of peace?”
Nancy Peacock is a long time friend, mother, sister, hospitable giver, widow, and among the most articulate people I know.
For more on Peace & Joy, see “Restless for the Place I Belong.”
For a little more about Harold, Nancy’s late husband and my old friend, see “Now and Then.”
For more on Gratitude, see “Thanksgiving: The Harvest of Gratitude.”