Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to 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
As I look at today’s news, I grieve the deep division in the world that reflects the deep wounds, trauma, and hostility that abound in our time. Profoundly divided, we pray for peace. Utterly discouraged, we pray for hope. Emotionally defeated, we pray for victory.
As we approach Holy Week, Christ’s death and resurrection reminds me that he has given us access to his abiding peace, to the hope of eternal life, and to victory over sin and death. But how are we to live into this peace, hope, and victory? How do we stop our hearts from being troubled when fear, anxiety, and conflict surround us in the world?
Past generations have used a number of essential practices as a way of centering themselves on Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts. As we grapple with the troubling circumstances that surround us, I encourage us to consider engaging three of these essential practices.
The act of directing our attention to God and expressing reverence and adoration for him reminds us of his goodness. And the act of entering into his presence in a posture of humble gratitude reminds us of our utter dependence on him.
David proclaims, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me” (Ps 13:5-6). This posture enables the Holy Spirit to do his work in our hearts as we consciously turn our thoughts toward God.
The importance of spending time in Scripture, studying it, and allowing it to change us cannot be overstated. Knowing Scripture, the Word of God, and allowing it to penetrate our thoughts and intents is one of the most powerful ways the Holy Spirit works in us.
The author of Hebrews observes: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Through the study of Scripture, the Holy Spirit invites us to reflect more deeply on God’s will and invitation to us.
For centuries, the Church has used the practice of examining our own hearts, humbly recognizing how God has blessed us and how we have fallen short. In the Ignatian tradition, this introspective process is called the Examen and is practiced daily as a way to acknowledge God’s blessings in our lives with gratitude and to identify places in our lives where we need forgiveness or healing.
David declares, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps 139:23-24). By practicing self-examination, we turn our focus inward to the state of our own heart, where we can surrender to the working of the Holy Spirit and gain victory over our own sinful tendencies and the fear that binds us.
As we approach Holy Week, we may find ourselves looking with fear, anxiety, and discouragement at our circumstances and the state of the world today. Instead of allowing these external forces to cause our hearts to be troubled, I encourage us to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us through the practices of worship, Scripture study, and self-examination.
These are the same essential practices we utilize as we lead students on campus in becoming lifelong, resilient disciples of Christ. Disciples who can navigate the division, discouragement, and defeat that we face in the world.
My prayer during this Holy Week is that we may overcome these forces of the world and claim the peace, hope, and victory gained for us through the death and resurrection of Christ, the Prince of Peace.
Tom has served as the President and CEO of InterVarsity since August of 2016. Prior to that, he was Vice President of Missions and Director of InterVarsity’s Urbana Student Missions Conference. Tom is the author of Pursuing God’s Call and Losing Face & Finding Grace as well as coeditor of the Urbana Onward book series. He, his wife, Nancy, and their two daughters currently live in Madison, Wisconsin.