Today is the second day of our 35th week, reading the Bible through in a year. Our scriptures* today are: Isaiah 26-29, 1 Corinthians 4; Psalm 65.
Today, I want to focus on one verse from Isaiah 26. Verses 3 says:
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Sometimes life throws you curve balls that threaten to steal your peace. An injury comes out of nowhere. A friend betrays you. An unexpected diagnosis is given. Something you hold dear is stolen. Even if you're normally a peaceful person, or someone who's generally at peace within yourself, sometimes circumstances threaten that sense of well-being. In times like these, we decide how we are going to respond.
Recently, I heard a hot-headed person say, "Sometimes I lose my temper, but that's just who I am!"
What a cop-out! I've heard this kind of statement so often that it makes me roll my eyes. People say things like this when they want to make excuses for poor behavior, when they want to allow themselves to act badly. In reality, each of us makes choices. We choose, either to respond to difficult situations with grace, or to react to them with negativity. But we can only respond with peace if we have peace inside ourselves.
How do you keep peace inside yourself? Isaiah answers this. When our hearts are stayed on God, then the Lord will keep us in perfect peace. You could probably say this the other way around, as well. You can keep your heart stayed on God by keeping yourself in "peace, peace." It's a cycle. Focus on God, and He will give you peace. Focus on peace, and you will abide in God.
I love the Hebrew in verse three. It says, "You will keep him in peace, peace." Hebrew has no way to say "very" or "really" or "perfect" or "ultimate." The best way that Hebrew has to do this is to say a word two or three times, if you want to emphasize it. For example, Jesus would frequently say, "Truly, truly, I say to you..." He did this because He had no word for "really truly." By repeating the point, he drives it home.
This repetition is important. "He will keep you in shalom, shalom," whose mind is stayed on you. This one-word prayer expresses a desire for peace, even when your peace feels threatened. This one-word prayer imparts peace to your friends and family, and even to the people for whom you feel no peace. This one-word prayer shifts your alignment, and sets you at peace, even when a peaceful attitude doesn't come naturally.
The next time you're blindsided by one of those experiences that threatens your peace, try this one-word prayer. (You could say it in English, or in Hebrew, if you want.) "Peace, peace." "Shalom, shalom." This is how you keep your mind stayed on God. Repeat it over and over to yourself until you feel God's peace washing over you. Repeat it still more, until you feel God's peace radiating from you, cleansing your relationship with that person who might have shattered your peace. Repeat it until you are transformed into an instrument of God's peace. Then, trust in God, that He will take a troubling circumstance and transform it into peace.
*All scriptures are taken from the ESV.