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Peace that Liberates the Soul

peace that surpasses all understanding

All my life, I’ve been a restless soul—a wayfarer, so to speak—always seeking the next adventure or following the trail of excitement. Yet another side of me pined for peace with a hunger that surpassed the need for pomp and frills. That longing has grown more intense as I age, particularly as I care for our three young daughters. It’s a vocation that often leaves me with spaghetti brain rather than a heart nestled in tranquility.

For most of us, peace seems elusive and impossible to attain. We all know we need more of it. Maybe we’re vaguely familiar with the reality that peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22). But the reality of this fast-paced life we all share in our modern world has left us spiritually bereft and wishing for the days of old—life before the explosion of technology, for quiet, for basic necessities.

Peace is a Gift

Sometimes peace comes in the form of pure, unadulterated gift, the gift of unexpected grace from God. There was one moment in my life I’ll never forget when this happened to me. I was sitting in the surgical waiting room at the children’s hospital where my infant daughter was undergoing major skull reconstruction. My husband clacked away on his computer. A welcome distraction, I’m sure.

But I sat there for a few moments, just processing the split second I let Sarah go into the care of the surgical team and watched them wheel her away on the gurney. I knew what they were going to—cut her skull open and attach a distraction device that would expand her prematurely fused skull to make room for her brain—but I also knew the risk that we’d lose her at only six months old.

It seemed merciless that an infant would be stripped of her innocence so soon, that she would experience bodily pain at such a terribly young age. And in those brief moments of pause and reflection, I noticed something very strange: I was at peace.

This is remarkable, considering that I am, and always have been, ensnared by all sorts of fears and anxieties and worries. My heart was seldom at rest, so I noticed when it was that day. And the peace never left me, not the entire duration of her surgery. Despite the fact that I had no control over the outcome and didn’t know exactly what was going on, my soul was encased in the peace that surpasses all human understanding.

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The Holy Spirit Moves

Until that moment, I never really knew that peace could be, in fact, an extraordinary grace from God. I believed it happened, just not to me. But the fact that the Holy Spirit moved in my soul that day and gave me a part of His nature was never lost upon me.

Maybe you can think back on a time in your life when you experienced this type of peace and knew with certainty that it didn’t originate from you. Maybe you are going to receive this gift one day when you need it most. No matter, have confidence that God will never permit you to endure the darkest trials without the consolation of His Spirit in some form or fashion. Trust in Him, and He will act.

Peace is a Fruit

As one of the nine spiritual fruits of the Holy Spirit, peace is the one most of us lack this day and age. Not long ago, I was driving Sarah to one of her myriad doctor’s appointments, and it was a fine day—cloudless blue sky and bright sunshine, which is unusual in northern Indiana. I was taking my time on the road, allowing plenty of wiggle room for us to arrive at our destination without the need to rush and potentially have an accident.

But the driver behind me was clearly agitated. I glanced at him from my rearview mirror and shifted in my seat. He honked at me the instant the light turned green, then rode my tail with vehemence. I silently prayed.

Peace in this circumstance is a result, or fruit, when we strive for virtue. It means we can acquire it with human effort over time. By practicing patience in this situation and entrusting our safety to God’s protection, my soul was not disturbed.

Peace Strengthens Us

Tranquility of soul is the antidote to anger and harshness. It seems to me that anger is the spirit of the world these days, with so much strife, division, and self-destruction. But peace, as both gift and fruit, actually brings incredible mental clarity so that we are able to speak respectfully, make decisions with right discernment, and notice the little things all around us that are God’s whispers of love.

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Peace is not elusive. It is gratuitous evidence of God’s unfailing love and mercy for us. For our part, if we slow down, sit down, and eliminate noisy distractions on a daily basis, the peace of the Holy Spirit will gradually settle upon our souls. Over time, it will become a gentle presence that gives us strength and courage to live with intention and purpose.

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Jeannie Ewing is a Catholic spirituality writer who focuses on grief, redemptive suffering, and waiting. Find out more about her here.

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