The Theology and Physiology of Peace

8 min read

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Peace is attractive. We all crave it. We desire everything from world peace to inner peace. But what is peace and how do we practically experience it within the intensity and uncertainty of normal life?

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As Christians, understanding the path to peace is an integral part of our journey with Jesus. Why? Because peace is who Jesus is. He is the very Prince of Peace.

True peace, we shall discover from Scripture, is not just about thinking peaceful thoughts. It is something experienced holistically through body, mind and soul as we spend intimate time in God’s transformative presence. Peace is a state of being; a place we can live from. In this post, we will explore how combining our theology with our physiology can help us to practically experience God-given peace in every part of our lives. We’ll observe how simple mindful movements, breath-work and stretch routine scan walk us deeper into knowing peace with God, peace with ourselves and peace with those around us.

The theory of God’s peace

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Genuine peace is a beautiful concept in theory but often elusive, if not unobtainable, in practice. We live in a distraction-laden and stress-filled culture. Finding peace is something we all want, but rarely find. For me, it often feels like something about it just won’t stick. It’s as if something or someone is constantly stealing it from me. And it’s exhausting chasing it again and again. Perhaps you can relate to this.

It begs the question: how do we get out of this hole? How do we find true, unshakeable and sustainable peace that can accompany us through all the ups-and-downs of life? 

As Christians, we know the theory. Jesus is the way to true and lasting peace. Absolutely. Romans 5 teaches us that “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ(Rom. 5:1). It is a stunning truth. Because of Jesus, our objective and unchangeable standing before God is one of peace not enmity; justification not condemnation. Through our faith, we have been made righteous through Christ’s atoning work. And if we have peace with God, this should be our foundation for living at peace with ourselves and others.

Finding peace in intimacy

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The challenge comes in experiencing this ‘theory’ in our daily lives. Knowing we have peace in Christ is one thing. Regularly living in that peace is another. However, by the grace of God we have His Word as a useful guide on this quest. ‘Peace’ is spoken of 179 times in the Bible. Listening carefully to these scriptures gives us important practical direction.  

One thing becomes clear when doing a scriptural study on peace. We cannot simply ‘will’ peace into our lives by trying hard. We can’t make ourselves peaceful through striving or thinking good thoughts. Instead, true peace comes from God. Jesus tells us that peace is a gift  from Him (John 14:27) and true peace is only found in Him (John 16:33). Paul refers to God as the “Lord of Peace” who can give us “peace at all times and in every way” (2 Thess. 3:16)Galatians 5 reminds us that peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, not something we can create or earn by ourselves.

Accordingly, peace is not something we can conjure up on demand. Rather, it is a consequence of our intimacy with God and decisions to trust Him daily. This is a foundational principle.

Putting peace into practice

Developing our intimacy with God and prioritising His presence, then, becomes a main objective – however busy we might feel. If we are to put peace into practice, we need to intentionally and mindfully create effective spaces to resist the distractions and stresses of the world in order to engage with Jesus. If we do that, we will position ourselves to receive the gift of peace that He has for us.

Consequently, this becomes an exercise for mind, body and soul. There’s no use trying to find peace in our spirit if our body is tense and our mind is running at 10,000 mph. As a result, our physiology is just as important as our theology in this process. Godly peace is a peace for all times in every way. Knowing Jesus is the way to peace at a head knowledge level isn’t enough. We need to engage our whole being in this pursuit to experience it for ourselves.

Finding peace in prayer

Consider these words from the apostle Paul, echoing Jesus’ famous teaching from the Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

The principle is clear. If we can get ourselves to a place where we are entrusting all of ourselves – with our stresses and worries – to God in every situation, then it will open the floodgates to experiencing the inward peace that Jesus has to offer us. Even more so, that peace will actually guard us, defending us against the world’s relentlessness.

The consequential practise for us is also clear. We need to create space in our lives to pray and give thanks. If we can slow down for just enough time to do that, we might just experience the beautiful and protective peace that He has to offer us.

If you’re like me, creating such space is easier said than done. One thing that has helped me is thinking of it as a holistic exercise. Rather than just finding ‘ten minutes to pray’, I am learning to develop practical and physiological rhythms that help to orient my life around finding still and restful space (for my body and mind) to connect intimately with the Lord. These include times of breath-work, mindful prayer and slow scriptural meditation. Such all-encompassing activities, engaging our whole bodies, lead us into a relational space with God where the fruit of that space is a supernatural peace that guards us in our everyday lives. Intentional times of prayer and gratitude are a highway to experiencing the peace of God.

Understanding shalom

The deeper you go on this subject, the more a holistic approach makes sense. The Hebrew word for peace used in the Bible, shalom, describes far more than simply a pleasant feeling or intellectual concept.

At its root, shalom means ‘totality’. It speaks of total well-being, personally and communally, in mind, body and soul. The definition of shalom incorporates a sense of wholeness in every part of our lives. True shalom involves unity and harmony within ourselves, with those around us and with God. It is a beautiful, consuming, word. 

God and wellness

Shalom is the ancient source of what we would often call ‘wellness’. Scripture teaches us that this very shalom is God’s gift to us as we follow Him, obey Him and grow in Him. Consequently, as we make space to connect with God, we are not just doing it for a warm fuzzy feeling. We are doing it because our intimacy with God brings true 360-degree wellness into every area of our lives, even as we endure stressful, painful or uncertain circumstances. Our body, mind and soul can all experience God’s shalom.

As we noted earlier, Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”. It’s an encouraging teaching. The world’s troubles are countered by Jesus’ shalom peace. Therefore, even in the darkest times the truth of Jesus gives us hope and that hope can guide us to a place of peace. God is the very definition of shalom and, thanks to Jesus, we have direct access to His transformative and peaceful presence. Consequently, as we practice the presence of Jesus by intentionally seeking out moments of prayer, meditation or mindfulness, we can discover for ourselves that Jesus is the fountain of shalom.

Using physiology to practically experience God’s peace

So where does this leave us? As part of Glorify’s new Body series, we have been exploring how our physiology can help us to better connect with Jesus. Based on our reflections, hopefully you can see how this helps. If prayer and gratitude can lead us to experiencing the spiritual fruit of true peace, then we need to still our minds and bodies for long enough so that we can actually pray and be thankful. Further, if God’s gift of shalom involves a harmonised wholeness of mind, body and soul, then we need to incorporate all those parts of our being into our developing relationship with God.

If this is something that has interested you, why not try the visualisation below, designed to calm the mind and relax the body:

Anxiety, Stress & Fear Release Meditation | Glorify App

You can explore more on the Glorify App.

Finding peace is not simply a mental exercise. It’s an exercise of intimacy. Within our chaotic lives, we need to slow our whole bodies down so that we can engage with the still, small voice of God’s Holy Spirit within us. Consequently, we need to be mindful. We need to consider our breathing. We need to stretch our tight and burdened muscles to allow our body to rest and refresh. Physical exercises can be immensely effective for positioning ourselves and being present before Jesus. They bring our whole being into alignment as we seek God’s voice and look to rest in Him. Do not underestimate the power of your physical body today as you pursue the gift of peace that God has for you.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You. Isaiah 26:3

 

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