PEACE OF HEART MUST HAVE A SPIRITUAL BASIS
“‘Peace and quiet.’ We often associate the two words as though there were a necessary connection between them. The truth is that genuine peace – tranquillity of heart and mind – has little to do with the absence of noise. A person can be in the midst of clanking machinery or honking horns. A person can suffer inner torment in the solitude of an empty building.
A PRECIOUS POSSESSION
Peace of heart is a precious possession. It is a wonderful thing to be able to face each new day without undue fear or anxiety; to go through the day with a feeling of satisfaction in our work and our surroundings, to feel confident that whatever crisis or emergency may arise, it will in the end have a happy issue.
GOD IS IN ULTIMATE CONTROL
Such peace of heart must, of course, have a spiritual basis. It can be built only on the conviction that God is in ultimate control of the world and that the world with all its happenings is moving toward the destiny God has in mind for it. Doing our best to identify our own will with God’s, insofar as we can discern it, we know that we too, with each day’s activities, are moving toward God’s objective. We are moving in the right direction.
WE ARE MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
There are persons who, because of a personality disorder such as a severe neurosis, are presently incapable of preserving peace of heart. There are others who may be deprived temporarily of peace of heart by some sudden personal catastrophe. But for most of us it is true that, if we lack peace of heart, the fault is our own.
LIFE IS LITERALLY SHORT IN THE CUL-DE-SAC OF SIN
It is obvious that peace of heart cannot coexist with sin. Sin by definition is a rejection of God’s will. As long as a person retains any traces of religious faith, he never can convince himself, really, that he is smarter than God. Whatever pleasure or profit he may now be finding in his self-will, the sinner knows that he is on a dead-end street which can lead only to the bitter failure of a wasted life.
SOME WALK WITH RELUCTANCE
This is not to say that every virtuous person enjoys peace of heart. Some who walk with God do so with reluctance. They keep God’s commandments, they do what they must, but they nourish a (perhaps unrecognised) resentment against God. They feel that God has treated them unfairly in placing them in their present circumstances and that He asks more than He really has a right to ask.
GETTING TO THE BOTTOM OF INNER CONFLICT
An unpeaceful heart may be caused, not only by conflict with God, but also by conflict with ourselves. In this event, to re-establish peace we have to discover the source of our inner conflict. What is it that is frustrating us? What is it that we want so badly and cannot have?
SOMETHING WE CAN CHANGE?
Sometimes we shall find that the source of our discontent is a condition which, with courage and determination, we can alter. Perhaps all that is required is a change of jobs, a change of environment (school, neighbourhood or climate), the acquisition of more education or some other not-impossible goal.
MAKING THE MOST OF OUR TALENTS
Adhering to God’s will does not mean the surrender of all initiative. It is a part of our vocation to seek, by trial and error if need be, what God’s will may be for us. So long as we operate within the framework of His law, God actually encourages us to try to bend circumstances to our needs and to make the most of our talents. He will positively help us to that end with His guidance and His grace.
ENTRUSTING EVERY STEP TO GOD
To achieve peace of heart, then, there are two essential steps which we must take (beyond the conquest of sin). On the one hand we must stop feeling sorry for ourselves and take active steps to eliminate whatever it is that is frustrating us.
GOD’S WILL FOR US
On the other hand, when we find ourselves in a bind from which there simply is no escape, then we know that this IS God’s will for us, however impossible it may be to see the reason for it. We accept His will. More, we embrace His will. So doing, we find peace.
THE SECRET OF PEACE OF HEART
There is an ancient prayer which beautifully summarises the secret of peace of heart: ‘God grant me the courage to change the things I can change; the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; and the wisdom to know the difference.'”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966