Peace That Transcends Understanding

“Anxiety is born out of having something to lose.” – Jeff NicholsI took my wife to the film Take Shelter recently to see how its writer, Jeff Nichols, unpacks his and our society’s angst through a parable of a family at the brink.The film follows the journey of a working class family haunted by the fathers’ dreams that could be a result of mental illness or a premonition of something catastrophic about to come.“I wrote Take Shelter,” says Nichols, “because I believed there was a feeling out in the world that was palpable. It was an anxiety that was very real in my life, and I had the notion it was very real in the lives of other Americans as well as other people around the world. This film was a way for me to talk about that fear and that anxiety.”It is very real. It comes up over Thanksgiving dinner with in-laws, at Starbucks with friends, on your walk with neighbors. Your coworkers feel it. So do your children.Take Shelter has a remarkable 94% rating on Rottentomatoes.com, so something is resonating. Nichols says on the film’s website that he had “a nagging feeling that the world at large was heading for harder times. This free-floating anxiety was part economic, part just growing up, but it mainly came from the fact that I finally had things in my life that I didn't want to lose.”Unemployment, instability in the world, lack of upward mobility, bank foreclosures. Is it all coming to a head? How should we respond?One possible response is reflected in the recent installment Patriots of the video game shooter franchise Rainbow 6 by Tom Clancy. Patriots is not a Cold War redux or latest iteration of Muslim extremism, but explores the possibility of a movement of “True Patriots” who take matters into their own hands.“Americans are angry, and why shouldn’t they be?” opens a review of the game.“In response to the gradual erosion of our beloved nation, resentful citizens of all kinds of political backgrounds are rising up …. America’s volatile political climate serves as the jumping-off point … placing the players in the roles of the elite tactical unit, the homegrown terrorists and the civilians caught in the crossfire.”But is taking up arms the right response to our anxiety and frustration? In Phillipians 4 Paul encourages us to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”And in Matthew 6, Jesus reminds us “not to be anxious and worry about our lives” but rather “seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.” Seek Shalom. Seek peace and wholeness.

Seek Shalom. Seek peace and wholeness.

In Patriots, the rebellion is not for Shalom, which we know will not be ushered in by our doing much less through violence. (To be fair to the game producers, they are “making a game … to provoke discussion and deeper thought” not promoting violence.)The good news is that we are promised peace. But that peace exists in a paradox. On one hand our response to the challenges and uncertainties of our times ought to be prayer and the pursuit of God’s Kingdom. Yet, God ultimately ushers in this Kingdom of peace forcing us into a sort of beautiful hopeful helplessness. It is very much in this tension that faith and trust is strengthened. And in that strengthening, "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)