For the most part in life, I am a transparent person; however, there are those times when I try to present an “everything is okay” facade in the midst of trials, turmoil, disappointment or failure. I don’t want others to see my struggles and pain, and so I hide behind a mask while sweeping my problems under the rug and denying my lamenting soul. What would others think if they knew the status of my life? What would God do if I laid out my complaints before him?
Then there are the times when the storms of life get so frantic that there is no hiding or denial. Everyone sees what is going on. It’s like the moment in the biblical story of Job when Job’s friends heard about all his adversity and all the things that had happened to him and upon seeing him, they were astonished and disturbed by his condition (2:11-13). What to do in these times? Typically for me, I go all comatose in distraction and comfort. Now some distraction and soothing is good when it comes to helping to mitigate the challenges and to regulate the emotions, but often it gets to the point where I completely depend on my own devices to alleviate my discomfort or to experience respite from the harshness of life.
As Christians, God calls us to be people of “shalom” (Hebrew translated, “peace”). The basic meaning of this is that we are to be in peaceful relationship with God and others, and we are to be agents of God’s peace in the world. For this post, I want to focus on the deeper meaning of shalom which involves the idea of flourishing, wholeness, delight, or the inner sense of satisfaction. Shalom is the way things ought to be in the world and in our lives. How are we to be people of shalom in the midst of trials, turmoil or disappointment? How do we live and experience shalom when, like Job, we may face circumstances where others would advise us to just “curse God and die” (Job 2:9)?
Shalom can only come from God. We cannot manufacture shalom, and so in the midst of challenges and chaos, we should resist the urge of trying to fix our problems all on our own. We should resist the urge of denying that there is real brokenness that we face. We should resist the urge of living with constant distraction so as to self-medicate ourselves. We cannot experience and live God’s shalom while living a facade or while hiding behind masks or while being in a comatose state of distraction or comfort seeking.
In order to experience and live God’s shalom, we need to turn to him in silence and solitude seeking his wisdom, strength and comfort. We need to make time in our busy and often noisy schedules to silently sit and lament before the almighty and loving God of the universe. We need to receive the shalom that is ultimately in Christ Jesus. Through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we have a present and future hope. No matter the trials or pain in this life, we can experience shalom knowing that Jesus has triumphed and that upon his return all things will be put back to right.
Nevertheless, in the meantime during this challenging earthly life, we also should be open to others by receiving and giving care and support as the body of Christ. We have one another and we need one another as expressions of God’s shalom.