The world headlines scream with grueling details of torture and slaying of helpless innocents. The nation roils as hateful chants billow across a land erupting with violence. Local newscasts reveal cases of abuse and oppression lurk behind neighboring doors, too. Disease, poverty, and despair buzzes throughout the social media posts and text messages we receive from our loved ones. Misery’s intensifying din bloodies our ears.
Longfellow’s hymn penned during the Civil War echoes into our modern lives with eerie relevance.
“And in despair I bowed my head
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,
‘For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.’”1
A hundred and fifty years after mothers watched their sons kill one another in battle, we still wring our hands at the horrors around us. The battles differ, but ravage our country with the same merciless fervor. Addiction, cancer, and depression besiege us. Homelessness and trafficking invade our communities. Our backs crumple as endless crises add burdens to our hearts. Another untimely death. Three more terminal diagnoses. Hopeless murmurs swarm. How much more can we take?
None. The weight exceeds the limits of our design. We search for respite to brace ourselves, but the efforts prove futile. Human relationships and man-made attempts at solace fail to sustain our needs. Earth cannot manufacture peace. Our only hope begins with unchaining our hearts from self-reliance. We were not designed to bear increasing burdens, but to carry them to Someone stronger. One Who exchanges them for magnificent peace surpassing any known to the earth or even comprehensible to human thought. The Lord alone grants solace powerful enough to protect and strengthen us.
He wraps us in the wind of His Spirit, insulating us against the chaos. His embrace uplifts our souls, as if suspended among the clouds and renewed with strength to soar. Our hope and breath rise full once more. Christ revives us to bear His life’s peace. His solace compels us to reach out from our solitude and share it.
The pain of the world has not ended, nor are we dull to its groaning. Christ shapes our lives and compassion into His likeness. Anxiety removed, our hearts hold more room for love. With this revitalization, God equips us to glide on His power. Not above the suffering, but into the midst of it. We carry the message of divine peace to this despairing world. For there is no peace from this dark earth, but He sends rays of divine solace into it through us.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
“Peace I 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” (John 14:27).
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
1 I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1864, Available at http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/i/h/iheardtb.htm