Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rest in Peace (R.I.P.)

This week I was reading a comment someone wrote about a loved one who had died. They wrote: “R.I.P.” Rest in peace. That phrase jumped out at me and caused me to ponder what it meant. It is a traditional expression conveying the hope for eternal rest and peace to someone who has passed away. But the phrase pierced my heart in a way that let me know that God wanted to reveal something deeper to me. I remember years ago, sitting on the rocks at Lover’s Point (so named by the Methodists for lovers of Jesus) in Pacific Grove, CA. I don’t recall what I was going through at the time, but I remember looking down at the swirling water and the Lord saying to me, “You will always have to fight for peace.” I thought at the time that fighting for peace was a paradox. During the World Wars that is exactly what happened: there were world-wide conflicts as men and women fought for all people to have peace. Those were physical wars, but in our hearts we have to fight to protect the peace that God has given us through His son—the Prince of Peace. It doesn’t come easy. It is truly a constant battle with the daily struggles and strife that attack us every day.

Two of the words for rest in Scripture are menuchah meaning “resting place, place of stillness, repose…the condition of restfulness” (Strong’s #4496) and anapauo “to make to cease” as in labor (#373). Two of the words for “peace” in the Bible are shalom and eirene. Shalom means “completeness, wholeness, peace, health, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, fullness, rest, harmony, and the absence of agitation or discord” (Strong’s #7965). Eirene is a state of rest, quietness, and calmness, and absence of strife” (Strong’s #1515). According to the NSFL Bible eirene “includes harmonious relationships between God and men, men and men, nations, and families (p.1388). God is calling us to that complete state of well-being of rest and peace in Him and through Him.

I don’t know about you, but my life is busy and filled with stress—every day. Right now our family is in the middle of the two most active months of the year. Between cross country, football games, band competitions, work, the art show, school, and volunteer work, it never ends. Add to that the pressure of world-wide events, the daily heartaches of the people we minister to, and personal issues in our own lives—well, it is hard to rest, let alone have peace. But yet, that is exactly what God is calling us to do: rest in peace. We can have it by trusting Him and believing what He says in His Word: He will never leave us; He will provide; He has not given us a spirit of fear; His plans are not to harm us. As one of my colleagues wrote in a poem, we can trust “the Creator of rainbows and rain.” He is so much bigger than our problems, and we can find peace in resting in a personal relationship with Him.

 In no way is it a coincidence that the name of the recent hurricane, “Irene,” comes from the Greek word eirene (see above) and means “Messenger of Peace.” Again, a paradox. How can a storm that brought so much destruction and devastation be a messenger of peace? I don’t understand it, but I know that I know that the Lord is calling us to rest in Him with peace in our hearts regardless of what is happening, regardless of the storms, regardless of the conflict in our lives, regardless of the battles we fight every day.  He will see us through. We can trust Him. R.I.P., rest in peace, isn’t just for the dead; it is for the living, too.