While I was walking into work one morning, I mused about a scripture I had just read while riding the commuter train. It was Colossians 3:15: “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” When I’ve read this scripture before, I usually focused on thankfulness or peace. I didn’t really notice the specific word that Paul chose when he said that we need to let God’s peace rule in our hearts. It’s a conscious choice that we need to make. We have to let our own anxieties and troubles in our hearts go as we follow God’s instruction to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
A few years ago, I took a stretching exercise class down the street from work on Tuesday evenings. My instructor would lead us through all sorts of poses designed to limber us stiff office workers up. Tight muscles often protested at being stretched, and there were more than a few audible complaints from the class, but the teacher would often say, “pain is a function of resistance.” She encouraged us to relax even as we moved in such a way that made our muscles protest because only then would we be able to stretch out the muscle and improve flexibility and strength. As I walked into work that day, I was reminded that the same is true when it comes to allowing God’s peace to enter our lives.
When we let God direct us by promptings from His Spirit or by what we read in His word, especially in the midst of trials, we can stretch ourselves in new directions that allow us to grow even more deeply into our conversion. But if we seize up and refuse to follow God’s direction; or we don’t relax and trust His wisdom on where we need to go in life; or even if we’re so obliviously caught up in the day-to-day trifles of the world, painful situations inevitably result. Perhaps not right away, but eventually. God will do whatever it takes to shape us and get us back on track.
Each of us must have the same attitude that John the Baptist did toward Jesus Christ when he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). John was speaking in the context of a physical ministry, but the spiritual principle applies as well. We must let our own, and often fretful, perspectives diminish as we welcome more and more of God’s leadership and direction and the resulting conversion process into our lives. It’s hard to give up control, especially since our culture is constantly pounding into us thinking that “It’s my life, and I get to live it however I want.” But thousands of years of the history has shown what that attitude ultimately results in—pain, suffering, misery and heartbreak.
We’re all developing Christians, and this is nothing new; but it’s a good reminder that sometimes we still resist God’s direction in our lives. We don’t let His peace in. We’re too busy sitting in a pile of our worries and focusing inward rather than letting God handle our problems. So the next time you find yourself feeling anything but peaceful, remember to stretch yourself toward God and relax. He will take care of things no matter the situation, and you will be the stronger for it.