By: Ginger Hughes
[Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a poet and educator, wrote a poignant poem in 1863, entitled “Christmas Bells.” I’ll be sharing excerpts from his poem.]
“I heard the bells on Christmas day,
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.”
There’s something special about Christmas that makes us search for peace all the more, isn’t there? Maybe it’s the Christmas Eve church service; perhaps it’s family gathering around the table; maybe it’s the excitement in our children’s eyes, or hearing your favorite Christmas carols. Whatever it is, this season brings with it a desire for joy and a longing for peace.
If only it were that easy. Though we long for peace, it can seem impossible to find.
Our news feeds show pictures from around the globe that mock the idea of world peace as an ideal, rather than something that could ever be obtained.
We witness such hardship and brokenness in our neighborhoods and cities, making peace even within our communities seem unattainable.
And then there’s inner peace. And I don’t know about you, but some days this one seems as elusive as the ones previously mentioned.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow knew something of this as well. In 1861, he lost his beloved wife in a tragic fire in their home. He would later write in his diary, “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.” And then another entry a few months later reads, “I make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.”
Longfellow was broken and grieving when he received more devastating news. His son, while serving the Union Army as a Cavalry officer during the Civil War, was shot down from his horse in Virginia. He would live, but the young man would be forever crippled.
“And in despair, I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men’!”
How do you go on when so much is lost? How do you find joy? How do you find peace? Because if we’re honest, hate is strong. And if we’ve lived many years at all, we are most likely familiar with despair.
Is it possible to find peace when our world feels out of control, and even our personal lives seem wrought with sorrow, anxiety, and struggle? How do we feel a deep sense of peace, at the soul level, when everything around us is loud and clamoring for our attention? Longfellow concludes,
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.’”
Perhaps, Longfellow shares with us the answer. We must hold onto the belief that God is not dead, nor does He sleep. We must believe that God is not done, and that He is good.
Isaiah 26:3 reminds us, “You [God] will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.”
Do we trust God? Do we trust that He is working to make all things beautiful? Do we trust that He loves us? Do we believe that He is good?
True peace is not found in the absence of conflict or the power of positive thinking. Inner peace is only found in the belief that God is at work bringing beauty from ashes and restoring our souls if we’ll allow it. Peace that can transcend even our most anxious days comes when we release it all to the One who is in control, the One who knows our every need, the One who made The Way because His love for us is unending.
Wishing you and yours a peace and joy-filled Christmas,
-Ginger Hughes is the wife of a pastor, a mother of two and an accountant. She is a Georgia native currently living in the foothills of North Carolina. Her passion for writing is fueled by the desire to offer encouragement, grace and a deeper understanding that we are all God’s children. Her blogging for Nurturing Faith is sponsored by a gift from First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Ga. Additional writings may be found at nomamasperfect.com