One of the keys to a thriving, spiritual life is to enter God’s rest.
But some of us have “lost” our peace, and struggle to regain it.
So here are five habits of the heart that are crucial to restoring our internal peace in Christ.
Not all of these will apply to everyone, of course. But since I have found over the years that these areas affect internal peace one way or the other, I think it is at least worthwhile to examine them during a season of struggling to enter rest.
1. Confess secret sin. Few things cause internal turmoil for believers more than violating our conscience and grieving the Holy Spirit within us. The more we hide in the darkness and isolate ourselves, the worse things will get.
Our hearts were not made to deal with the pressure of hidden sin.
Don’t guard secret sin, telling yourself you’ll stop tomorrow. That usually does not work, and it steals peace.
Rather, find one or two mature, trustworthy friends. Come into the light with them and get some grace-filled accountability. And make things right with those affected by your sin. The lifted weight will grant great relief. Renewed peace will inspire courage to move forward.
2. Forgive. When we harbor resentment, bitterness, or un-forgiveness, our hearts leak peace like a broken waterline. In contrast, genuine forgiveness purifies and seals our hearts, making us internally strong.
Just remember that forgiveness means to “release” those who hurt us. We must fully let situations go. That includes loosing those little resentments, as well as the lust to rehearse the painful situations in our minds and mouths.
It may also be helpful to remember that forgiveness does not excuse injustice or sin. Instead it releases the guilty ones into God’s hands rather than keeping them as “prisoners” in our hearts.
When we hold onto anger, we take the seat of divine judgment reserved for God alone.
No wonder Jesus taught us to forgive so we will be forgiven. Forgiveness releases us from the burden of judging others, and it restores our peace.
3. Stop gossiping. This may seem random, but hear me out.
When we are busy with other people’s business, it means our hearts are not content with our own. Gossip is the outgrowth of discontent.
When we attempt to suppress our own discontent by criticizing others, or by emotionally feasting on their private lives, that discontent only grows back like a weed. In fact, gossip feeds the weeds, causing them to spread and choke out even more peace.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Stop the madness! Gossip is a poor substitute for having a life. It only keeps our restlessness intact while burning others.
Plus gossip is just plain wicked – a breeding ground for demons.
Can you believe that the New Testament lists gossip alongside vices such as murder, hate for God, slander, arrogance, malice, inventing evil, brutality, hating good, and drunkenness (Rom 1:29-32; 2 Cor 12:20; 2 Tim 3:3-5)?
Sometimes Christians who would never dream of sinning in these other ways, will still gossip freely.
But feeding this lust is just as wicked as the ugliest of vices. The difference is that the wickedness of gossip hides behind our false sense of righteousness while we judge others. It also hides behind other Christians’ refusal to correct us, who too often rather join us – either by jumping in the gossip-fest or just listening.
Habitual gossip indicates a massive lack of love, maturity, discernment, and self-control.
Gossip is a way of killing people socially without actually committing physical murder. But God – in His infinite wisdom and insight – cannot see the difference between these two kinds of murder quite as clearly as we can.
No wonder gossip steals peace.
The antidote? Return to Christ. Get a life. Stop gossiping. Ask people to forgive you. Ask God to show you the source of your own discontent. Then fill those voids with gratitude to your Father, His love for you, His esteem of you, and the revelation of your identity in Him.
4. Give thanks. This point cannot be exaggerated. Too often we take for granted Scripture’s call to thanksgiving – without actually being thankful.
But thanksgiving glorifies God as God (Rom 1:21)!
Thanksgiving is the alternative to all kinds of foolish speech (Eph 5:4).
Thanksgiving is also a remedy for worry (Phil 4:6).
So let’s make it our ambition – every morning, day, and night – to thank God for every good thing He has provided.
The results will amaze you. The reality of the abundance of good gifts from above will restore your peace.
5. Meditate on the truth. Put another way, meditate on God’s Word. Jesus said that true disciples abide in His Word.
So instead of parking our brains on the barrage of bad news and the whispers of demons, why not act like a true disciple and feast on the life-giving words of the risen Lord of heaven and earth!
Our hearts were designed for such a feast. It will nourish our hearts and restore our peace.