Many of us are familiar with the lyrics and backstory of the famous hymn “It is well with my soul,” and we can all relate with its content. We have all walked through seasons of peace in our lives, as well as times of billowing sorrow (hopefully not to the extent that the hymn's author experienced). When peace like a river, attendenth my way…
My husband and I met and married in our early thirties. For the most part, our first years were “peaceful river” times. We travelled, worked on communication, established “couple” friendships, and talked about our future. We knew we wanted children, and after two years of marriage, we started being more intentional about trying to make that happen!
When sorrows like sea billows roll…
Months went by, then a year. We went to a fertility clinic where we were diagnosed with "unexplained infertility," and we began fertility treatments. Shortly thereafter, we started IUI procedures. Over several years, I had one ectopic pregnancy, a failed IUI, and, probably the hardest- a pregnancy that we lost at 11 weeks. At times, the losses and disappointments came in like waves: repeated phone calls from the nurse to say "I'm sorry, the blood work came back negative," or even worse- "The numbers are inconclusive, can you come back tomorrow?" followed by the "I'm sorry" call; countless negative home pregnancy tests; and hearing a heartbeat during a sonogram but not at the following visit.
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know: it is well, it is well, with my soul.
We definitely had our moments during those years. However, even during the most difficult times we also had a sense of peace. It had absolutely nothing to do with us. In fact, we were very aware that our situation was out of our control. But we (and an amazing group of praying family and friends) repeatedly placed our desires and requests before the Lord, and we experienced His promise that: “the Peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
One definition of peace is completeness or wholeness. I love this. I think that is what God gave Jim and me. His gift of peace was a sense of completeness. We had a deep and painful longing for something that seemed to be missing in our lives, but we simultaneously had an even greater sense of completeness and wholeness in Christ. To me, that is the peace that passes understanding.
Although His peace is incomprehensible, I have still tried to dig down to understand parts of it. I think at its core, peace comes from a belief that God is sovereign (he knows all, knows best, and is in control). Regardless of my circumstances, possessions, or feelings, God is God and God is good. I trust Him, and I surrender to Him and His goodness. There is no guarantee that He will answer in the way I want—if so, why would I need to trust Him? His ways are higher than mine; His plans are better than mine. His purposes and ways make sense from a Kingdom mindset, not a mindset limited by this world. Because of that, I have realized that I won’t always understand, but I have committed to do my best to trust. And with trust comes peace (Is. 26:3).
In this case, our prayers for a child were answered (clearly, since I’m writing on the parents’ blog!). Miraculously, we became pregnant while we were on a one-month break between fertility treatments (switching from IUI to IVF)! Our daughter, Lily, was born approximately five years after we started trying.
So as parents, it is now one of our responsibilities to model peace to Lily. We have opportunities to do this through our interactions with one another, our reactions to circumstances, and our responses to Lily. We also are trying to find ways to nurture peace in her. She’s only 1 ½ so we’re just beginning this process, but here’s what we’re working on so far:
1. Being filled with the Spirit. Because peace is a fruit of the Spirit, we can’t generate it through human effort alone. Instead, as we abide in Christ we begin to experience His peace. So first and foremost I know I must focus on my relationship with the Lord.
I am often challenged by a quote I read years ago: “Be filled with the Spirit; that is, be soaked with the Spirit. Be so soaked that every thread in the fabric of your life will have received… the Spirit. Then when you are misused and squeezed to the wall, all that will ooze out of you will be the nature of Christ.” (Wigglesworth) Lord help me to “ooze” the right fruit around Lily!
2. Create a kingdom mindset. How do we see the world and our circumstances? Our children will pick up on our view! A temporal or worldly mindset leads to a lack of contentment. We are called to something different: to an eternal or spiritual mindset, which helps to produce peace (Romans 8:5-9; Romans 12:2).
3. Pray for peace. The Bible is FULL of prayers for peace. Many of the letters begin or end with statements of peace. So, we do likewise. We pray for peace for Lily. It is my deep desire that she sense her completeness and wholeness in Him. So, every night we end her bedtime routine with this prayer:
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face (favor) toward you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)
As I said, Lily’s only 1 ½ so we’re just starting the process with her. I’d love to hear any ideas you have on how you cultivate the development of peace in your little ones!
Christy Tanious is an adjunct professor at a local community college and a stay at home mom. She and her husband Jim, who is on staff at NCC, are raising their daughter Lily in Christy's native home of Northern Virginia. They attend NCC's Potomac Yard Campus.