We’ve just finished the holidays, with Christmas trees, parties, gifts and well-wishes for the new year.  All while wars have raged in Syria, South Sudan and other places, including, sometimes, our own homes.

When people pray for “Peace on Earth,” it brings to mind world peace- meaning an end to wars, typhoons and slavery and other big world problems.  That would, of course, be wonderful.

But I feel a greater need on Earth right now for individual peace. Peace for my friend whose husband recently passed away. Peace for another friend who is struggling to support her family as a single mother. Peace for children who have been abused. Peace in my own heart to know that the path I’m on is the right one for me and my family.

by Jayel Aheram on flickr.com

As much as I hope the war in Syria ends peacefully, I pray even more that the individual mothers who lose sons and husbands in the fighting will be able to find personal peace. And while I hope the entire area affected by the recent typhoon in the Philippines will be able to recover, I think the greater need is for individual people who lost property, children, parents or spouses to find their own inner, personal peace.

We don’t have to be trapped in a war torn country to struggle with turmoil. It can happen in suburbia, on a sunny street where everyone is well-fed and clothed. Likewise, we don’t need to be living a life of ease to find peace. It can happen in the midst of car bombs and  devastation.

Both turmoil and peace can happen anywhere.

Many things contribute to personal peace. Gratitude- recognizing and acknowledging our blessings, however small they may seem- brings a measure of peace. Living in line with our true priorities brings peace. Serving others- finding ways to bring happiness to those around us with no thought of getting anything in return- brings peace. Discovering the truth about life- understanding who we are and why we are here brings peace.

I invite you to live peacefully. Express gratitude.  Find someone to serve. Focus on your true priorities and let the other things go. And spend time discovering why you are here and who you really are.

by [Duncan] on Flickr.com

In connection with this, I’d like to share some insights I’ve been pondering about how I gained peace, and to share with you that it was nothing like I thought it would be.

Sometimes in life we follow the path we feel led to, trying to make good choices and be the best we can be, assuming that what goes around comes around and our good choices will lead to happy outcomes. Right away. Preferably this afternoon.  For me, as a Christian, this includes following the example of the Savior and loving God and others to the best of my ability.

While following this path, we are sometimes shocked that instead of leading to a field of clover and warm sunshine, it winds uphill, steadily getting steeper, alongside steep drop offs, through dark caves, over sharp stones and finally abandons us at the top of a jagged cliff where the wind is howling with absolutely no way out but over the cliff.

by epSos.de on flickr.com

And we think, “Really?  I followed You here?  Come on!  I kept the commandments. I was nice to my neighbors. I studied my scriptures. I went to church every Sunday. I paid my tithing and donated to the poor. I served people around me. What did I do wrong? Why are you punishing me?  …wait… are You even real?  Was I just imagining Your voice directing me?  Because really– it doesn’t take a God to know this is not the kind of reward I was hoping for.”

And then, as I clutch the edge of the cliff, I hear Him tell me to jump.

And I think, “You have GOT to be kidding! Jump?  Off this cliff? Do you see those rocks below? Do you hear this wind shrieking?  I don’t want to die!  This has been crazy enough already, with those dark caves and sharp stones and now this?!  I don’t think so.”

And then His voice, tiny and still inside me, whispers reminders of other times, smaller times, when He caught me. That time when I needed a house and He led me to exactly the right one. That time when I prayed for help and a friend called with an answer. The many times, over and over throughout my life when I felt lost or alone or afraid and He helped me through. He caught me every time. And even though those times were smaller, they were the same.

And I hear Him tell me again. “Jump.”

I say a prayer, peel my fingers from the jagged rocks and throw myself off the cliff into nothing.

And with His hands holding me, I fly.

I catch my breath, amazed that I am not splatted on the rocks below, shocked at the wind in my hair and the miracle that carries me safely, lovingly.  Suddenly, with the world spread out below me and an entirely different perspective, I realize the climb up that mountain wasn’t about the dark caves or sharp stones or howling wind, although all those things gave me chances to practice hearing His voice.  It wasn’t a punishment or a mistake.
It was bringing me to a place where I could learn to fly.

The greatest peace I have ever found has come from learning to trust– not myself, or harnesses, or warm fields of clover.  The greatest peace has come from learning to trust Him. Because steep cliffs, sharp rocks and dark caves mean nothing when I know that in His hands I can fly.

by suvival198 on flickr.com