As we close an email or a visit, I’ve witnessed the phrase, “peace be with you,” in use frequently. In reading Psalm 122:8, a phrase nearly the same, but with the change of one word, David says, “Peace be within you.” Although his words are directly relating to peace being within the walls and security within the citadels (Psalm 122:7), verse 8 could be applied to the peace that isn’t necessarily with us, but is within us. How could two additional little letters make such a difference in the meaning of this saying? With the addition of these two letters, i and n, the words “with” and “within” describe two very different things.
When we say, “Peace be with you,” we’re wishing upon our hearer one, or more, of several things. For example, a peace that is alongside, surrounding, amongst, or coinciding is a peace that generally implies a lack of illness in our life or in those we love, ample control of incoming and outgoing funds, nearly non-existent turmoil in our relations with others, or basically any tenet of life that isn’t going the way we’d prefer it to. We can have minor and major wars raging all around us: our immune systems attacking themselves by not working the way they were designed to, in our relationships as we have conflicts with those surrounding us, in the way we accumulate and disperse money as we strive for a more balanced financial existence by weighing the assets and debts that tug on our fat or fledgling bank accounts. All of these wars, perhaps only by definitive semantics, are with us, not within us. It’s what is within us that’ll determine how we go about dealing what’s with us. For peace to be wished with an aim at our state of within, rather than our state of with, may just be a nobler target we ought to strive for.
What’s going on within our minds and hearts, whether that be war or peace, decides whether what’s going on with us will crush us. No illness, death, financial or relational war can take away the peace when that peace is within you. When peace is simply with us, we may be unprepared to deal with the coming battle if it isn’t also within us. In fact, the methods and decisions we take and make to wrestle through the wars with us are largely dependent on where our peace solely lies. If that peace is within us, rather than with us, the wars and battles we face will undoubtedly be fought with a different set of weapons. When we find ourselves at war with our bodies that fail us, which tool do we reach for? Or when we are at war with a spouse, family member, or friend, which game plan do we adopt? With money, in how much we have or don’t, or how to attain just enough, which strategy do we employ? If the answers to any of these questions didn’t involve a tool, game plan, or strategy that God provides through the action of consulting Scripture, the results will be seeking the peace with, instead of within.
The trouble with hoping for the peace with life is that it’s not biblical. As much as we’d like to wish, hope, and believe that our lives should be trouble free, in doing so we make a mockery of our belief system. The proof lies in those of us who appear to have it all, as our culture defines it: successful relationships, fame and honor in our work or play, never a lack of income to provide the lifestyle we indulge in, and the best of health to enjoy it all. However, if that recipe describes your life or mine, whenever the shovel digs deeper, how often we unearth well hidden mental and emotional instability. There is the peace within that’s laid bare, even though the peace with is intact. No matter how well life is going all around us, with us, it’s the life within that can bury us. Always curious, and almost enviable, are those who have the walls crashing down around them, but stand firm with a faith that can only be defined as having their peace within, regardless of what they’re dealing with. Those who’ve lost a child too soon, or themselves are on their death bed while there are still young children to raise, or have dealt with abuse in one form or another, or been unjustly accused and condemned to a prison cell only to be put to death for a crime they didn’t commit. Those…each are biographical lives lived and written for us to recollect throughout the Bible.
Whichever camp we reside in, those who seek to have the peace with them, or those who strive to have the peace within them; be assured, the latter will have a harder path to stay on. The former may toy with finding peace when their surroundings appear to be at rest, but those surroundings are ultimately out of our control. To set our sights on the course to discovering how to have, then maintain, that peace within is under our control. It seems more mindless to attempt to orchestrate plans and strategize for successes that are around, or with, us than it is to develop and discipline our efforts on what is within us. Where is your peace? With you or within you? I’m openly plagiarizing David’s phrase from here on out and, in closing, may peace be within you.