We sometimes think the way we gain peace is by getting more. More money. More security. More achievements. More people knowing about us.
And so we attempt to achieve peace by working more, earning more, knowing more, doing more.
John Calvin suggests this approach to obtaining peace is wrong-headed. Instead, a peaceful life begins with giving yourselves and possessions and desires and ambitions to God and trusting completely in his blessing.
“To begin with, then, in seeking either the convenience or the tranquility of the present life, Scripture calls us to resign ourselves and all our possessions to the Lord’s will, and to yield to him the desires of our hearts to be tamed and subjugated.”
Instead of thinking I will achieve the life I want by getting something outside of me, I will instead find peace when I trust all that I have and all that I want to God’s wisdom about what is best for me. We have to make a deliberate and daily decision to do this, because we are wanting beings, and our desires are constantly running this way and that. In particular, Calvin continues,
“To covet wealth and honors, to strive for authority, to make for magnificence and pomp, our lust is mad, our desire boundless. On the other hand, wonderful is our fear, wonderful our hatred, of poverty, lowly birth, and humble condition! And we are spurred to rid ourselves of them by every means. Hence we can see how uneasy in mind all those persons are who order their lives according to their own plan. We can see how artfully they strive – to the point of weariness – to obtain the goal of their ambition or greed, while, on the other hand, avoiding poverty or lowly condition.”
If left to ourselves, we run as fast as we can from humbling situations towards positions of importance. We naturally strive for achieving a better position for ourselves, but unfortunately this pursuit often distracts us from really enjoying and using the life God’s given us.
How do we avoid getting stuck in this trap?
Especially, when everything and everyone around us is encouraging us to engage in this pointless pursuit.
John Calvin continues,
“In order not to be caught in such snares, godly men must hold to this path. First of all, let them neither desire nor hope for, nor contemplate any other way of prospering than by the Lord’s blessing. Upon this, then, let them safely and confidently throw themselves and rest. For however beautifully the flesh may seem to provide for itself, while it either strives by its own effort for honors and riches or relies upon its diligence, or is aided by the favor of men, yet it is certain that all these things are nothing, nor will we benefit at all, by skill or by labor, except in so far as the Lord prospers them both. On the contrary, however, his blessing alone finds a way, even through all hindrances, to bring all things to a happy and favorable outcome for us.”
If I want peace, instead of worrying so much about how I can get more, I need to work hard at resting in God’s loving concern for me and trusting that He will provide for me exactly what I need when I want it.
Relying on the Lord’s blessing alone like this is not only right, it is wise. If we get everything we want by our own strength, we won’t be able to enjoy it. It will be a cursed prosperity.
“Again, though we might be enabled to obtain some glory and riches for ourselves by following our own plans and trusting in our own efforts, if the curse of God rests on us, we will not really taste even the least particle of lasting happiness from it. (A worldly prosperity may be attained in forgetfulness of God, but it is accursed.) Without God’s blessing, we shall obtain nothing but what turns to our misfortune. For we ought by no means to desire what makes men more miserable. Therefore, suppose we believe that every means towards a prosperous and desirable outcome rests upon the blessing of God alone, and that, when this is absent, all sorts of misery and calamity dog us. It remains for us not greedily to strive after riches and honors, whether relying upon our own skills, our intelligence, or our own diligence, or depending upon the favor of men, or having confidence in vainly imagined fortune – but for us always to look to the Lord so that by his guidance we may be led to whatever lot he has provided for us. Thus it will first come to pass that we shall not dash out to seize upon riches and usurp honors through wickedness and by evil plans, or greed, to the injury of our neighbors, but pursue only those enterprises which do not lead us away from innocence.”