My eyes have been opened to the beauty of the Hebrew language on my recent trips to Israel. Hebrew words typically have so many layers to them, and it’s fascinating to learn more about them.
One word you hear often while visiting the Holy Land is shalom. It’s used as a greeting for both hello and goodbye. No doubt you’ve heard it before, but I wonder if you’re like me and haven’t fully understood its meaning.
Shalom means peace, which most of us have probably heard. It goes so much deeper than that, however. Shalom also means harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, and tranquility. The root meaning of shalom is "to be whole or sound." It also means "total satisfaction in life." One modern translation of the Bible, the NIV version, talks about shalom in over 70 different ways.
Wow, this is a big word!
There’s so many things we could talk about as we explore this word; but for now, let’s keep it simple and talk about peace, one of the absolute deepest needs of the human heart. We are wired to long for and desire it, along with all the other beautiful images of shalom.
As much as we desire to have peace, we can lose it so quickly in our day-to-day lives when circumstances feel out of control, when we can’t change or “fix” the people we love, when life simply doesn’t feel fair, when people hurt us, and when the world feels so unsafe. Our schedules are frantic as we race from one thing to the next. Watching the news fills our hearts with fear and anxiety. Feel free to add the stress you're currently experiencing in your life to this list!
So how do we realistically find shalom and all that this rich word encompasses – peace, wholeness, completeness, tranquility – when life is anything but peaceful around us?
First of all, we have to seek peace in the right place, in our faith. One of the most beautiful names of God is Jehovah Shalom, which means, “I am the God of peace.” When we go to our Jehovah Shalom instead of the world to find peace, we’re on the right track. Take a closer look at the picture I used in the graphic above. I think it's a beautiful visual of what Jehovah Shalom is all about, peace in the hands of our mighty God.
Jesus spoke about peace often when He walked the earth, and one of my personal favorite passages is found in the book of John:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27 (NIV)
When I have actually done what this verse says and looked to Jesus instead of the world, I have been humbled and absolutely amazed at the peace that has come over my spirit, even in the midst of extreme stress and anxiety. The thoughts racing through my mind suddenly settle down, the tightness in my chest loosens, and I feel a calm that can’t be explained.
My circumstances haven’t changed a bit, sometimes they’ve gotten even worse, yet I feel at peace. As the storm rages on, somehow I don’t feel afraid because I know God is with me. It’s those tender moments when His presence is so real that I can feel His loving arms wrapped around me, His perfect peace.
It has been said that “Peace in the Jewish sense is the symphony of life made meaningful through a right relationship with God.” I love that! And that’s what I have found to be true, peace is only possible when I’m in the right relationship with God, when I'm resting in His loving hands.
I’m sure every one of you reading this has some sort of stress in your life. Truth is, this side of heaven, we simply can’t avoid it. As Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
Trouble is guaranteed. Peace is optional.
We have to choose to draw close to Him and be in right relationship with Him in order to receive the peace our hearts long for and were designed to receive. If we want to be whole and sound, to experience total satisfaction in life, our only option is to be deeply connected to the source of true and lasting peace, Jesus.
Maybe for you that means surrender. Maybe it means trust. Maybe it means worship and praise. Maybe it means more time in His Word.
Maybe it simply means turning your gaze from the world to your Jehovah Shalom.
Whatever it is for you, I want to encourage you, my friend, peace is truly possible, no matter what you’re going through. God is in control, and He’s waiting for you to take a deep breath, draw close to Him, and choose shalom!