"Peace I [Jesus] leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."1
A Daily Encounter reader shares how her re-married father spoils her stepsisters rotten but totally neglects her, and has done so for many years. She feels totally abandoned and rejected by him. One can understand how she feels, but as long as she feels bitter towards her father, she will never find peace of mind or heart. She, of course, is not alone in her situation. Endless people are still carrying hurt and nursing grudges from things that happened years earlier.
The reality is, as I continually remind folk, that we can't change anybody else regardless of our relationship with them. The only person we can ever change is our self.
The real issue is not so much on what others do to us, but how we react (or overreact) to external circumstances. If our inner sense of wellbeing is dependent on how others treat us, we will remain miserable much of the time. What others do to me is their issue. How I respond is always my issue, my responsibility, and my choice. Furthermore, when we overreact to external circumstances, it is always our problem. We overreact when we have hurtful issues from the past that we have never resolved, and those ancient buried feelings get triggered.
In her book, Your Life Matters, Petrea King wrote, "Peace becomes possible when we stop blaming anything or anyone for how we feel and take responsibility for our own perceptions. If we pursue happiness in the way our culture suggests, we reach for it outside of ourselves and remain dependent on circumstances that will remain forever beyond our control. But if we anchor our sense of self in our consciousness, rather than in the outer trappings or events of our life, peace becomes possible."2
And as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Though we search the world over for the beautiful, we find it within or we find it not."
Furthermore, as Christians, we not only need to resolve our hurt and angry feelings from the past, but also to surrender circumstances beyond our control to the Lord and trust him to bring good out of the situation. That is a choice we can each make and live by. Only then will we discover the peace that Jesus promised to his disciples and followers.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, help me to realize that lasting peace comes from within and is not dependent on external circumstances. Help me to change the things I can change and accept with grace the things I can't change—and through these circumstances become more mature and Christ-like in every way. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. John 14:27 (NIV).
2. Petrea King, Your Life Matters, Random House Australia, 2004, p. 33.