The Hebrew word shalom, peace, is commonly used among Jews for greeting and farewelling one another. However, the Biblical concept communicates a much deeper and richer meaning that permeates every aspect of life. It denotes a comprehensive peace that begins inwardly with self, horizontally with God, and laterally with others. Such peace is completely divorced from external circumstances or conventional wisdoms.

David, the warrior poet, found such peace in the midst of his conflicts. During his years of running for his life in the wilderness, the shepherd boy learned that peace is not the absence of enemies, turmoil, conflict, or evil, but the presence of God in those seasons of life. While he truly understood the struggles in his own life, he ultimately saw the presence of God as the genuine peace that he called a “refuge.” Psalm 61 and 62 follow a common outline where he begins with a dismal reality followed by an unshakable assurance in God. He encapsulates the emotion when he writes, “I call as my heart grows faint” (Psalm 61:2b). He describes his enemies as those who assault him and attempt to throw him down (Psalm 62:3). David was familiar with conflict, but rather than allowing his circumstances to rob his peace, he looked to God as his unchanging peace. He writes, “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress; I will NEVER be shaken.” (Psalm 62:1-2). His unshakable trust in God trumps his circumstances. That is why David can be in distress and write, “Surely the righteous will never be shaken…their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end, they will look in triumph on their foes” (Psalm 112:6,8). The peace David learned in the wilderness was his catalyst to call all of Israel to trust in the Lord during their time of trouble. Psalm 115 is a collective call to find peace in the midst of conflict, not in spite of it!

Isaiah prophetically calls the coming Messiah the “Prince of Peace.” When Jesus is present, we can live in peace even in the midst of conflict and war. Ironically, I learned about such a peace in the most unlikely place- war! For the past eight years, I have served as an active duty Army Chaplain. During my first assignment with the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division, I found myself in the height of the war in Afghanistan. During my twelve months of deployment, I learned a powerful insight into the concept of peace. Simply stated, peace is not the absence of conflict or war, but the presence of a true and genuine power. On numerous occasions, I found myself in the worst of situations imaginable. While war can certainly cause unrest, God allowed me to experience true peace because of His presence! When bullets were flying and panic ensued, the presence of God’s ultimate power provided supernatural peace that was uncommonly peaceful. In the battlefield of Afghanistan, I learned that Jesus’ presence can and will provide true peace in the midst of war.

How about you? What conflicts are seemingly disturbing your peace? May I submit to you that the issue has never been and will never be the presence of conflict, but the absence of God’s presence in our lives. Whenever we seek after material possessions, statuses, positions, relationships, or false utopia, they will become empty idols that will overpromise and under deliver. Speaking of such idols, King David reminds God’s people that those who trust in idols are trusting in empty promises that lack mouths, ears, and hands. In other words, they can neither deliver nor give peace. During this Christmas season, we are reminded that the promised Prince of Peace is present in the lives of believers. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us; thus, He is our true peace on earth. While we still face conflict and turmoil, Jesus is able to provide us peace with God, ourselves, and others. It is no wonder the angels announced his birth to humble shepherds and praised God saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”