The “I AM” series tells the story of God - one name at a time. The Bible contains the stories of thousands of individuals who all searched for meaning, purpose, and an understanding of who they really were. And in discovering God’s identity, they discovered their own. Here we echo those discoveries with the tale of our own journeys to discover the great “I AM.”
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” - Isaiah 9:6 (NLT, emphasis added)
I’ve always struggled with fear. From the time I was young, I was afraid of everything from monsters in the closet to swallowing pills. I’ve battled anxiety and depression since I was in middle school. And because of that, I’ve taken great comfort in knowing that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. But recently, I’ve been doing more study on the idea of peace in the Bible. And I’ve come to find that Jesus’ definition of peace is so much more than the absence of fear, but actually describes a form of human flourishing.
Okay, I’m about to be a little nerdy here, so bear with me for a sec. The Bible was primarily written in Hebrew (the Old Testament) and Greek (the New Testament). I recently stumbled across the meaning of the Hebrew word for peace as I was reading in the Old Testament. The word is שָׁלוֹם or shalom. You may have heard people say it as a casual greeting or blessing, particularly in Jewish communities. But this is the same word used in Isaiah, where the future Messiah (Jesus) is called “Prince of Peace” or “Prince of Shalom.”
The definition of the shalom is “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.” WOW. That honestly floored me when I read it. Yes, Jesus is Prince of Peace in the way we define peace, but also of our completeness, our soundness, and our welfare.
There’s another passage in the Bible that I have clung to both in times of ease and in times of struggle. It’s in the book of Philippians in the New Testament and goes like this:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT, emphasis added)
Man, the idea that God’s peace would literally guard my heart and mind is such a powerful concept for me. When fear creeps in, I feel powerless to protect myself against it and desperately need Jesus to fight for me. So, that alone is a huge comfort to me.
Now, let’s jump back into Bible nerd territory for a second. As I mentioned before, the New Testament was written in Greek, so while the word used in that passage for “peace” is not the Hebrew word shalom, it is essentially the Greek equivalent: εἰρήνη or eirene. The Jewish people who were reading this letter would have understood that word to be how they used shalom.
So, with that understanding, we can read that same Philippians passage like this:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience [completeness, soundness, welfare, peace] which exceeds anything we can understand. [This completeness, soundness, welfare, peace] will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
I mean, isn’t that something to marvel at? Take a second to just breathe in that truth.
Recently, I found this application to be particularly true. I’m sure you can relate to the busyness of the holiday season that was threatening to push me over the edge these past several weeks. I was preparing to take some time off work, attending Christmas parties, getting gifts for the people I love, walking alongside family members going through some grief and difficulties, and on top of that, I had 3 different auditions for theatre productions in the area.
I was feeling especially nervous about one of these auditions. I felt under-qualified. I felt inadequate. I felt like I would never be able to prepare enough to be ready for it. I felt the pressure of the expectations I put on myself to succeed in that audition. And I felt an added pressure because of an audition the week prior that did not go well. But as someone who has battled the ups and downs of putting myself out there time and again and getting countless “no”s, I knew that I couldn’t take all of that emotion in the room with me. It wasn’t going to help me. I also knew that over the years, God has always brought me the right opportunities when I trusted him.
So, that morning, I sat down and I talked to God.
“God, you know exactly what I have to offer. And to me, it doesn’t feel like much. I ask you to take what little I have and make much of it, not for my sake, but for yours. I ask that you would help me to carry your presence into that room. That I would exhibit your love to every person I encounter. And if that’s all that comes of this, I believe that is enough. It’s for my good. And it’s for your glory! Thank you for getting me in the room and for the opportunity to do this alongside so many incredible individuals. Do what you want through me today.”
Now, on paper, that sounds like a very pretty prayer, but let me just confess, it was a messy prayer for me. It was tough and even painful to surrender something that I cared so much about. But I sensed his presence from the moment I walked into that space, and I truly came away from it feeling thankful and like I could just put it behind me and be happy with what I did regardless of the outcome!
I got a callback for that audition - same nerves cropped up - same prayers were prayed - same feelings afterward! As I followed what Paul wrote in Philippians 4, I felt that completeness, soundness, welfare, and peace that God promised me. And I continue to see the way that God is walking with me through this with my welfare in his heart, guarding my heart and mind.
Maybe you’ve been struggling to find peace this season - a sense of wholeness, groundedness, and well-being. We all long for that, and we search for it in so many different places - in relationships, in entertainment, in activities, in possessions, in jobs, even in church. But might I propose that you will find it, not in those things (although those things are wonderful gifts from God), but in a Person, Jesus, our Prince of Peace. This season we celebrate him who was born among us and gave up everything for our shalom, our welfare, our completeness, our soundness, our peace.
Lucy is the Content Director for I Am Second. She is an actor and singer from Dallas, loves taking care of her plant babies, reading a good book (or four), leading worship at her church, and journeying through Star Wars and the MCU.
Grief & Loss | Doug Bender