(Inspired by true events.)
Peace has been loosely defined these days. It could be the ability to sleep soundly at night, the calm before a storm, relief after a surge of trials, momentary cease fire between combatants, or earthly success. For Sophie, peace is something else.
Sophie grew up in a dysfunctional family. She lost her mother at a tender age of six. She loved her mother. She was the epitome of love for her. She would cuddle little Sophie every night even though she was often physically drained from all the activities at work. Sophie’s mother was a teacher. She excelled in her craft and would have been the next headmistress in the school where she taught. But the universe had other plans. At a young age, Sophie was left to fend for herself. Her father was of little help in her emotional downward spiral as he quickly became the doting lover of Sophie’s stepmother.
Without a parent to attend to school meetings and red-letter days, Sophie slowly but surely became the brunt of jokes of her classmates. She was bullied, emotionally and psychologically harassed. Unbeknownst to her, she gradually morphed into a disturbed teenager who yearned for acceptance in a world that shunned her. She became an outcast at school, a stranger in her own home. She could not bear to glance at herself in the mirror because she was her own enemy. Her everyday life lacked any tinge of peace. Whenever she stayed home, she wondered how the sweet home she grew up in has been reduced into a desolate and bleak house that gobbled bickering for breakfast. She felt like Cinderella, minus the kind part. She could never pass for being kind. Every day she met the world with anger and so much hatred because she knew the world hated her, so she hated it back. She was angry. Her heart was filled with discord. Even so, she wanted the world to believe that she did not care at all.
In college, Sophie resolved to make things different. She was tired of getting bullied. The sidelines were not for her, she thought. She wanted to be in the spotlight this time. But more than that, she yearned to be accepted by anyone who would willingly take her as she was. She joined countless school organizations and immersed in extra-curricular activities that she seldom stayed home. She loathed home. She wanted to be anywhere else but home. She finally had a group of friends who shared her interests and who understood her. She started going into late-night drinking sprees and out-of-town escapades under the guise of a “school requirement.” She found it amusing how gullible her father and stepmother were when they believed her. For a time, Sophie felt elated.
Having made herself available to the marketplace, Sophie had herself a boyfriend. He became her closest confidant. In her ups and downs, he was there. He was her biggest fan, and she adored everything about him. They were crazy in love with each other. Sophie was sure this could be what she was looking for—the answer to her melancholic life. That’s what Disney fairy tales promise after all. She grimaced at the thought of still believing in fairy tales. She thought she knew better. Unsurprisingly, she threw all her hesitations out the window and made bad decisions that sounded good in the spur of a moment. But she didn’t care. In boyfie’s arms, Sophie felt somewhat secure.
After college graduation, Sophie took to her word and left town to live independently—free from the admonitions and taunts of her family. She worked during the night and slept during the day. She bought whatever her eyes fancied, went to different places with friends, and stacked up on luxurious things that she wanted but never needed. She was finally free to do whatever, whenever. She squandered her hard-earned money just to experience fleeting happiness. Unfortunately, when the shopping and sightseeing were over and she was left alone by herself, sadness reared its ugly head again. That void in her heart that she thought had long been patched shut had been growing bigger and bigger without her realizing. Mundane “wordfights” started to become the norm between her and her boyfriend, her so-called friends couldn’t care less, and her family seemed to have remembered her only when they needed monetary assistance. For the nth time, Sophie found herself in limbo again, groping helplessly in the dark. The pitch-black night seemed to have monstrously eclipsed the thin sliver of light that was Sophie’s only source of hope.
Years went by and the happy-go-lucky Sophie eventually faded into the background. She was, by now, itching to put an end to her miserable life. However, her attempt at killing herself, well, she screwed that up too.
One day, a friend invited her to a spiritual retreat. She could’ve refused outright and acted indifferent about it, as she has ingenuously mastered all her life. But of all days, that day she felt so weak in body and spirit that she lowered her guard down and threw in the towel.
The three-day retreat helped clear her mind and leave her worries for a time. On the last day of her short excursion, the speaker asked all participants to write all their struggles and worries and surrender them all to the Lord. Sophie wondered what he meant by “surrender.” Nevertheless, she obliged and scrawled a list of all her heartaches ever since she had a mind of her own. What a long list it was! In her retrospection, a strange mix of emotions coursed through her. Her list only made her feel worse. She felt so unloved and unappreciated. What she thought was an event that would lift her spirit only dragged her to the gaping pit.
Just as the resolve to up and leave formed in her mind, Sophie heard a familiar name. She inadvertently stopped in her tracks as though she had hit an invisible wall. Sophie has known Jesus since she was a child, but she never really had a personal relationship with him. He was just a name that people utter when saying grace before a meal. The speaker said that Jesus loves all people, including Sophie. That Jesus demonstrated this unconditional love by dying on the cross for the sins of all people, including Sophie’s. That Jesus did this so that men can be reconciled to God and have life to the full. That though Jesus died to pay for the sins of humanity, He remained victorious because He conquered the grave on the third day and is alive today.
It took a huge chunk of Sophie’s strength to take all this unfamiliar information in. Suddenly, her heart of stone started to soften. Scenes from the movie Passion of the Christ flashed in her mind, and she wondered why. This movie did not even make it to her favorites list. For the first time in a really long time, the proud rebel that was Sophie fell to her knees with tears uncontrollably streaming down her cheeks. She tried her hardest to force the tears back to their ducts, but it was no use. She could no longer keep her pent-up emotions inside. But she was not one to yield so easily. She started to rationalize. Whichever way she looked at it though, she could not begin to comprehend how someone would willingly die for her despite all the evil things she had done in the past. She just did not deserve that love.
On that grueling, fateful day, Sophie’s last line of defense was conquered. She relinquished control over her life and gave Jesus the wheel. She finally understood what “surrender” meant. Invisible chains that have been binding her for a long time broke loose. She felt like a bird that has just been set free, ready to soar on eagle’s wings.
While Sophie found peace, she knew that her life would never be immune to troubles and disappointments. After sunny days would eventually come rainy days, storms even. But what she found and what she had become because of it would undoubtedly usher a new shade of perspective. The anchor that she had tightly attached to her possessions and earthly relationships began to loosen and drop into the depths of the ocean. She coined a term for this new feeling:peaceful anxiety. She felt as if her life was turning upside down, but she still thought God was in control. She learned to keep still and let God fight her battles. She yielded her plans to God because she now knew that His plans for her are so much greater than she could ever imagine. Ultimately, the anxiety in Sophie’s heart has been replaced by peace that she has never experienced before. Sophie finally found the missing piece of the puzzle that she had been searching for all her life. It is through this eye-opening discovery that she arrived at a conclusion: Genuine peace is not of this world. It can only be found in the One who created it.
6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:6-7