Why is there war? Why does peace usually come after a war? Couldn't peace exist without war? Are these two concepts inextricably linked?
"My joy and my peace. I will never have real happiness if I have not peace. And what is peace? Peace is something closely related to war. Peace is a consequence of victory. Peace demands of me a continual struggle. Without a struggle I will never have peace." -St. Josemaria Escriva from The Way, (308)
War has very much been a part of every culture from antiquity to the present. Millions of people have given their lives for their cultures, religions, and countries. But I am not speaking about conventional war. I'm speaking about the most important war that we will ever undertake; the war against ourselves.
This type of warfare might not make news headlines, but every person (regardless of faith) has to engage in it, in order to survive in this world. We must fight this war everyday of our lives. St. Francis de Sales speaks about this,
"...this life is a continual war, and there isn't anybody who can say; I was never attacked. Rest is reserved for heaven, where the palm branch of victory awaits us. On earth we should always fight as though we are between fear and hope. But we must do so, knowing that hope will always be the stronger, bearing in mind the power of the One who comes to our aid."
Suffering (war) is a necessary part of the human existence. Without it, we can never experience the true depths of life, Adversity(war) humbles us. It gives us perspective that will lead to wisdom. It also gives us the ability to empathize with the struggles of others.
In modern western society the tendency is to avoid all war, pain, and struggle. We have created creature comforts that make our lives easier, and medicines that have increased the quality of life. On the flip side we have created destructive drugs, horror movies, and video games etc. that have anesthetized reality. Yet interestingly, man is still left broken and fearful to engage in any opposition.
In life, victory usually comes only after many setbacks. A person can lose many battles, but still win the war. One of my heroes is Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln suffered many setbacks and horrible tragedies throughout his entire life. He suffered from profound depression so consuming that he often thought about suicide. However, through these painful, often torturous experiences Lincoln was able to develop a deeper, all encompassing understanding of the plight of others. This led to his unique ability to unify a country racked by a devastating civil war. Stephen Mansfield author of Lincoln's Battle with God writes about this eloquently:
"He( Lincoln) did not yield, though not ultimately. As important he mined the valleys of depression for what riches he could find. He emerged to see life differently from other men, to understand and feel as though he were looking in from the outside of human existence. For that is what depression is-a way of seeing and feeling life as through from another tormented world."
God, who knows the big picture; the beginning, the middle, and the end can use seemingly awful experiences to bring about a victory. The road map to victory and finding peace is to submit ourselves to the will of God. That's a tall order I realize. But we do this because we believe that if we surrender our will, God, our loving father will help us win the war. He will give us the tools to develop mental toughness, grit, and perseverance.
My wife and I recently met with a health and wellness coach from our church. She was so inspiring. I said to her "This appears to bring you a lot of peace, and she replied emphatically... " Yes. I have a VERY peaceful life! but.... I strive for it. I work at it. It's a daily battle." I was so struck by the fact that she said she had a "very peaceful life" It made me long for that.
Yes, we must fight everyday, but calmly, not frenetically, and not in fear. It is the calm warrior who usually wins. Our reward? Peace. Beautiful deep lasting peace.