Absent from the transcendent peace of God, our heart relentlessly manufactures a counterfeit through its pursuits of comfort and control. If we could just maintain stasis, command the events ahead, and assign meaning to those which have passed behind us—we convince ourselves—our hearts would find peace.
Economics help with such pursuits. Increased prosperity gives access to higher creature comforts, greater predictability, and less daily friction in general. And yet, the brummagem never holds up under the pressures of life.
Every generation of Americans since the 1930’s have reported increasing amounts of anxiety and depression. Because these daily struggles have increased during the same period economic prosperity has grown, some anthropologists have begun to view them as symptoms of something deeper.
“The Lord is at hand,” Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” It is important to make a distinction—the apostle isn’t talking about mental health conditions (although he may wrestle with something similar in another letter), rather he is addressing the daily anxieties common to all people.
Counterfeit peace is built on circumstance and dominance. Authentic peace rests in the giver of peace. This may be why we’re uninterested in it—the goal isn’t to return comfort and control to us as individuals, but to reorient our heart so that we pursue the giver rather than the gifts.
Ultimately finding our heart’s resting place in Christ results in greater peace not only for times of struggle, but for times of joy as well. In his sermon Peace—Overcoming Anxiety pastor Timothy Keller explains what happens when genuine peace defines our lives:
You can enjoy good food. You can enjoy a comfort. You can enjoy physical pleasures, but you know what they’re there for. They’re simply little samples. Like those sort of cruddy little things they stick out in the delicatessens and say, “Here, come and taste something.”
You taste them. They’re okay, but they’re stale. They’re not the very best thing you’re going to get, not the best dessert that comes out from the great restaurant. Even the best physical pleasures are just those kinds of dim hints. That’s the reason why our friend C.S. Lewis says a real Christian allows his mind to run up the sunbeam to the sun. He doesn’t sit and look at the sunbeam. He knows where it’s from.