The Myth of Perfect Peace

Reading Time: 4 mins

The absence of a feeling is not the absence of Christ, but as emotional, rational, and spiritual beings, we cannot say that the presence of Christ necessitates the absence of emotion.

What comes to mind when you hear the word "peace"? A mountain vista, a misty morning, or a calm sea at dawn? The scent of clean laundry, a gentle spring rain, or the soft glow of Christmas lights? It’s a deeply personal, quiet confidence that we are going to be okay. It feels like safety. Harmony. Unity. Guilt.

Wait, guilt? No, not guilt, we murmur, squinting at the screen. Who writes this stuff and how did that get past the editor? What nonsense! Peace is the opposite of guilt, isn’t it?

Have you ever felt guilt? Have you replayed one sin in your mind, confessing and re-confessing it because obviously your first confession didn’t take, since you still feel the horrible wrongness of what you did hanging over you? Have you ever felt guilty that you felt guilty, that you couldn’t feel happy when you knew you should be rejoicing in the free gift of salvation? Have you ever read Isaiah 26:3 and felt a stab of terror that maybe your mind isn’t stayed on Christ—maybe you aren’t even a true Christian—because you don’t feel that perfect peace? If you’re anything like me, you now have three strikes against you. Maybe you’ve even written peace off as a fairytale, a myth learned in Sunday School that the real world soon beats out of you.

Or perhaps you’ve experienced a peace in the very core of your being that could not be denied. Maybe you’ve been visited by an emotion that transcends description, the opposite of hunger, fear, and uncertainty, a veritable waterfall of calm that washes over you and fills you to the brim. With the poise of Galadriel and the heart of the most reckless hobbit, you can’t help but tell others about your feelings.

“What? Feelings?” the well-meaning Christian friend replies. “Peace isn’t a feeling! It’s entirely objective. Stop feeling that way and start realizing that life isn’t a bed of roses and that whatever you may be experiencing is certainly not peace.”

So you guiltily bottle up your feelings, aghast that you had the nerve to suppose that an emotion was something to welcome. Then, if you’re like me, you become emotional that you were emotional, and you decide the answer is to become an impassive Spartan and squelch any feeling that dares to invade your thoughts. Peace is a fairytale, you decide, and it’s time to grow up and stop believing in childish mythology.

Perfect peace is a myth, friends, in fact the greatest Myth there ever was or ever will be.

J.R.R Tolkien explained, “The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories… There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical [sic] men have accepted as true on its own merits… Legend and History have met and fused.” [1] C.S. Lewis acknowledged, Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.”[2]

If we read Isaiah 26:3 as law—do this and you’ll get that—we will always be crushed. If we read it in light of Scripture as a whole, we begin to recognize Christ in every Word, as a cherished mentor once taught me.[3] An abiding feeling of well-being is not what is promised in Isaiah 26 or anywhere else in Scripture. What is promised is the perfect, guiltless life of Jesus Christ credited to our account. The Father, for the sake of His Son, the Mediator, will not deploy the Angel of Death to dispense our wages of eternal separation from Him and His kingdom. The Mediator between God and man is Himself our peace, the cause of the reconciliation between Creator and fallen creature. Micah 5:5 tells us of the coming Messiah, “He shall be their peace.” Christ is both cause and effect, both the Savior Who won eternal peace for us and the Very Great Reward promised to Abraham. As Martin Luther put it in his commentary on Malachi,

Christ is not merely the Purifier but also the purifying Agent. He is not only the Blacksmith but also the Fire; not only the Cleaner but also the Soap. He does not sit indolently at the right hand of His Father… So He is elsewhere called Salvation, and not just Savior.[4]

When my mind is not stayed on the LORD, my baptism points to Christ as the one who fulfilled what I could not. This peace has its source entirely outside of our own efforts.

However, the personal feeling of peace is not in itself sinful. We do no one any favors by proclaiming stoic indifference as one of the tenets of Christianity. Human beings are not merely physical automatons. Though our feelings are neither cause nor reliable effect of the promised peace, we must remember that the Church is not Star Trek’s Commander Data, but the raw, messy, complicated bride for whom Christ chose to die. The absence of a feeling is not the absence of Christ, but as emotional, rational, and spiritual beings, we cannot say that the presence of Christ necessitates the absence of emotion. It can’t, if we take the incarnation at face value, since Jesus is both fully God and fully man. Jesus was not indifferent at Lazarus’s tomb, Gethsemane, or Calvary.

The absence of a feeling is not the absence of Christ, but as emotional, rational, and spiritual beings, we cannot say that the presence of Christ necessitates the absence of emotion.

Lewis and Tolkien offered the True Myth as an aspect of literary apologetics, a branch of defending the faith that deals with painting the true, good, and beautiful elements of a story into an arrow pointing to Christ as the fulfillment of all human longing. Tender-minded apologetics aims to touch a person's heart rather than provide hard, factual evidence, and for many people this approach resonates deeply. Christ the verifiably risen Savior is also Christ the empathic High Priest. He is not merely the answer, but my answer, an objective Fact Who quite literally chose to become subjectively personal.

Those who are moved by the transcendent elements of music, fairy-tales, and other art forms are no less deserving of hearing the reason for the hope that is within us than their more scientific, fact-oriented brothers and sisters. Brokenness, whether it is mental, physical, or spiritual, is a bridge by which we can touch others with the grace of God, a starting point from which we can begin the conversation about Jesus the God-Man Who was broken for our eternal healing.

When you experience a profound feeling of peace deep in your soul, rejoice and enjoy the gift! When comfort is nowhere to be found, walk with Christ to Gethsemane and see Him spend a sleepless night sweating blood—though His mind was perfectly stayed on the Father, emotional peace was stripped from Him that you might be reconciled to God. Whether we have the emotion or not, God is able to use our deepest pains to touch the questioning hearts of the wounded with the True Myth of perfect peace, Christ Himself.

[1] J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories,” A Tolkien Miscellany (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2002), 137, 138.

[2] C.S. Lewis, “To Arthur Greeves on the Myth of Christianity: October 18, 1931,” Letters of C.S. Lewis(San Francisco: HarperOne, 2017), 368.

[3] Rev. Dr. John Saleska, who is now face-to-face with his Lord.

[4] Luther’s Works, vol. 18, 3.2.