“I lived in constant turmoil,” she said, “I even questioned my salvation.” I sat at a small, round, oak stained wooden table that had been tucked into a cramped nook by a bay window, listening as Ariel recounted her journey from living in constant anxiety to a life of total peace. Sitting there in Ariel’s kitchen listening to her testimony, the images of the faces of fellow Christians I had met formed in my mind. People who, like the Ariel of years past, lived in a state of emotional turmoil, unsure of what life would bring, unsure of God’s love and His satisfaction with them.
Reviewing her life, Ariel spoke at length about how she had viewed God. Multiple times she spoke of her love for God and how the enemy used that love to cause her to be introspective; focusing her attention on every part of her life that she felt fell short of God’s expectations. Believing that God would only accept her if she did the right things and lived her life to the exalted level she was sure God demanded, her shortcoming caused her to spiral into a self-loathing and depressed state of mind. It was during this time that her love for wine came to the surface. More than just liking an occasional drink, she was addicted. It was the only thing that seemed to calm the emotions and give her some semblance of peace, even so, she wanted to be free. “If I really loved God I wouldn’t keep drinking,” she remembered thinking daily. “How could God ever accept me if I can’t even give up wine for Him?” Her anxiety continued to overwhelm, getting to the point she wasn’t even able get a good night’s sleep.
“It was really bad” she exclaimed, “until that day!”
Just as I was about to question her about “that day” I notice a huge smile from ear to ear cross her face and her eyes lit up as she began her explanation. “I remember like it was yesterday” she cheerfully continued. “I was sitting on the edge of my bed, head hung low, wallowing in self-pity when I heard His voice.”
“Whose voice” I interrupted.
“God’s voice of course! I was sitting there when I heard Him clearly speak to me. He told me that He loved me and was pleased with me. He continued saying that whether I ever took another drink or not did not change His love for me!” You could see her eyes well up with tears of joy and love as the emotions from that day overtook her. “It was that day I finally understood. It was that day I discovered that His love is unconditional and not dependent on my actions! It had nothing to do with what I did, He loved me no matter what! It was at that moment I felt His indescribable peace pour over me” She then continued on to tell how from that night on she has had wonderful rest when she sleeps, and from that day she has been free from her addiction to wine.
As children of God we are called to live lives dominated by peace. We are not to allow fear and anxiety have any voice in our life. Even though to many the thought of living free of worry or fear seems like a myth, a place like Shangri-La, a place that is eternally sought after but never found. Living in peace is not an unattainable myth, it is how we are empowered to live.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-8)
So how do we enter into this life of peace, free of anxiety and fear? Well, without trying to be over simplistic, the answer is found in knowing God and understanding His love for you.
Years ago I was on a mission trip traveling to China, Thailand, and Cambodia. One day during the Cambodian part of the trip we had some free time so my son and I went to a market with the intention of finding people to pray for. As I walked up to one young teenage girl I could see what looked like fire inside her and by the look on her face could tell she was in pain. Approaching her Holy Spirit told me she was being tormented in her dreams. I relayed through an interpreter what I had been told, and the young girl confirmed it to be true. She said that just a few nights before a red dragon came to her in her dreams and cursed her. Ever since that night her body felt like she had a fever and was affected with agonizing pain in her abdomen. As the interpreter finished explaining to me what had been said, a huge smile came across my face. I knew what was about to happen. I turned to the girl and said, “I have good news, Jesus is Lord and that red dragon is not. Sickness must leave now!” In an instant her countenance changed as the fever and pain left her body. As I turned to walk away Holy Spirit said, “Ask her why I healed her.” I turned back to the girl and asked if she knew why Jesus healed her. As she shook her head in the negative declaring she did not know, Holy Spirit spoke again. “Tell her it’s because I love her too much to leave her in that condition!”
Like Ariel and the young Cambodian girl, God’s love for you is unconditional. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, said, or how you feel. He loves you and that will never change. It is that unconditional love that brings His peace, the assurance that your Heavenly Father loves you too much to leave you sick, bound, or lacking. In Genesis we read that before God created Adam He created everything else. He did this so that the only thing Adam needed to do once created was enter into the Sabbath rest with His Father, knowing everything he could possibly want or need was already provided for. Likewise, your Heavenly Father has already provided everything you could possibly want or need. Knowing He will not withhold any of it from you gives you the peace and assurance to live free of anxiety and fear.