Galatians 6:22 says “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
I have struggled to achieve peacefulness since the day I born. As a young child, living with generalized anxiety disorder and OCD meant having panic attacks when my clothes felt uncomfortable or making other people taste my food before I would dare take a bite. As an adolescent it meant not having many friends, because social interactions made me nauseous. As an adult in my early twenties, it means having a fear of my life never working out.
My mind turns rapidly from thought to thought, leaving each fear unresolved as I move to the next one. Sleep time is replaced with fear and doom. As a child when someone said the “Now I lay me down to sleep,” prayer with me, I would stay awake all night. The prayer of peace and comfort included the soothing words, “if I die before I wake…” I would like to know who thought this was a good idea to tell the kids they might die sometime during the night, then turn off the lights and close the door, leaving a child alone in the dark with two thoughts: I might die tonight and I may not be ready (I pray the Lord my soul to take…).
Growing up as a Christian, I had a bit of a complex, how could I trust God in everything, yet I worried about hurricanes when I lived in a landlocked state. I often felt guilty for being anxious. Well-meaning Christians did not help ease my guilt when they told me to pray more or to read my Bible more. They assumed my worry resulted from a lack of faith, when it is actually a chemical imbalance in my brain. It was a result of being born.
There is a difference between worrying about life’s big things and having anxiety about irrational things. Essentially there are normal people worries (college, jobs, relationships, or money) and irrational anxieties (texture of foods, looking at tall buildings or walking up staircases with vertical openings between each step). This is not to say that God can’t heal your anxiety; He absolutely can and He wants to. I am saying that anxiety should be treated as a mental health issue and not as a faith issue punctuated with the accompanying judgements about a person’s faith.
Chronic fear sometimes drains the life out of me. It drains me emotionally, physically, and SPIRITUALLY. Proverbs 14:30 says that “a heart at peace gives life to the body.” Jesus knows the toll that fear can take on the body and He also knows what can help. In Isaiah 26:3-4 God discusses keeping people in perfect peace, because their minds are steadfast. Why are their minds steadfast? Because they trust in Him.
Having worry thoughts can definitely bring doubt into your heart. Doubt that can cause your faith to waver. 1 Peter 3:11 says that we must seek and pursue peace. Whether spiritually or mentally we shouldn’t let ourselves stay in turmoil. How do we do that? We seek and pursue The Prince of Peace. Jesus Himself is our peace. (Ephesians 2:14) When seeking after God, that’s when the Fruit of the Spirit will flourish.
The Lord wants you to be at peace in your spirit and your mind. They feed into each other. Peace is not a life without trouble or fear, but living with the knowledge that your Savior is bigger than the trouble life brings you.