Saturday, January 2, 2021

Peace Like a River

“God can't give us peace and happiness apart from Himself
because there is no such thing.”

C.S. Lewis

I’ve nearly cringed every time I wished someone "Happy New Year" this December—right up through today, today being January 2nd, 2021. I'm not hopeful that 2021 will be better than 2020. I’m not alone in expecting 2021 to be a year full of chaotic disruptions and sore trials. And so, instead of an overly brave "Happy New Year!" I began wishing most a “Robust Sense of Adventure” as we approached and crossed the threshold into 2021.

An adventure. Yes, that’s what life ought to be. When we look back on this life from the next, won’t we all view our life on earth as an adventure? The real trick, however, is to find joy, contentment and Peace during the adventure—here and now—especially when the journey becomes mind-numbing drudgery or dangerous peril.

Most of us are conditioned to avoid trouble, unpleasantness, conflict, and anything difficult. The course of least resistance ever beckons. Earl Nightingale once said, “Most people tiptoe their way through life, hoping they make it safely to death.” Nowadays he might have revised that insight to “Most people tiptoe through life—half-hidden behind masks and distanced at least six feet from the rest of humanity—hoping they make it safely to [a Covid-free] death [and while hoping never to experience conflict with governmental agencies or commercial establishments].”

Whatever happened to “risk taking is an important part of success” and “Give me liberty or give me death”? Living by fear is not the way to successful accomplishment. Nor is it a recipe for obtaining real peace.

By peace, let’s not think of political peace—which could be defined as undisturbed prosperity. Think of America in the late 1950s. No, let’s think of a Peace as a deep rooted contentment and sense that all is well with one’s soul. That one is in complete harmony with all God and with all that is good in God’s vast universe, that our “universe is unfolding as it should” in the words of poet Max Ehrmann.

Such Divine Peace comes with a price:

“O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments—then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” ~Isaiah 48:18

I scoured the Internet for some modern poetry or music that describes the kind of Peace Isaiah wrote of. I’m grateful to report: that I found it! Eureka! (You can surely get the same feeling by listening to any top rendition of Handel’s Messiah…(“He is meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your soul” or “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” or “I know that my Redeemer liverth”)…or some other sacred music, but this particular musical work has the just the right words as well as the perfect vibe to illustrate the idea of Divine Peace and how to obtain it. This piece of music is called “Peace Like a River So Gently is Flowing”. It’s written by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and the version I am referring to is produced by Darlene Skyles. I’ll post the words to this wonderful Bluegrass gospel number in the footnotes to this article. [Here’s a link to that performance: ]

Recklessness is something we probably have to repent of. But honest recklessness is still far better than timid retreat or utter non-trying. Certainly, we’ll need to repent of any slothfulness.

Safely tiptoeing hardly brings even a temporary contentment. How could it ever deliver deep, abiding peace? American pioneers who crossed the vast plains and mountains in the mid-1800s—whether on the Mormon Trail or the Oregon Trail—knew before they embarked that they should expect a death rate of about 5% along the way. They were thankful to be able to take the risk. Of the 980 who left Florence, Nebraska (now Omaha) in late 1856, some 210 died along the way. They all suffered extreme cold and near starvation. Some were the victims of severe frostbite. Some lost fingers or toes; some lost hands or feet.

On survivor, Francis Webster, while responding to criticism of the leadership of the Willie-Martin company decades after the event said, “Was I sorry that I chose to come by hand cart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful I was privileged to come in the Martin Hand Cart Company.” [See Van Cott, Generations of Websters, 61-62 as referenced at Here’s a link: ]

Minda & I recently reread Irina Ratushinskaya’s marvelous book, Grey is the Color of Hope. A political prisoner in a Soviet camp for four years starting in September 1983, Irina Ratushinskaya recounts severe abuse at the hands of a corrupt government. The suffering that she and her several cohorts, most of whom were human rights activists, endured was horrific. Irina, on the other hand, was a physics professor who wrote poetry on the side—poetry that often contained references to God. She was consequently found guilty of “anti-Soviet propaganda in poetic form”. Like Francis Weber of the Martin Handcart Company, Irina Ratushinskaya testified of the miraculous spiritual and even physical sustenance she and her fellow political prisoners experienced under truly torturous circumstances. 

In October 1986 Irina return home to her husband, having kept her vow that she would eventually emerge from prison in fulfillment of her vow and constant watchword “Back to freedom with a clear conscience.” Like Webster, she came to know God in her extremities and testified of the peace He provides especially during the direst and darkest hours. In one chapter she tells how during the very worst days of her imprisonment she was forced to sleep on a filthy, rotted floor of a freezing, mouse-infested punishment cell for days on end. Mice would literally crawl inside her clothes in an effort to share her warmth. She stated that though she rarely was able to sleep for more than 15 minutes at a time, she nonetheless experienced the brightest, most vivid, mostly beautiful and heavenly dreams of her life. During those dreams she was literally at the gates of Heaven.

In contrast to Earl Nightingale’s curious quote, writer Hunter S. Thompson said, ““Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” ― Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967

Well, for valiant souls it may not always be exactly, “Wow! What a Ride!” But perhaps, “What a Trek!”, “What an Adventure”, “What a marvelous Ordeal”, or maybe something more akin to “Father, it is finished; I have accomplished the work Thou gavest me.”

If we genuinely strive to know God (our Father) and His Son (our Savior) and to be like them, then living safely may be the most dangerous thing we can do. Perhaps the great irony or paradox in our lives is that in bravely, and even awkwardly or recklessly facing our  fears and courageously enduring our extremities we can thereby obtain Peace—but only as we look to God and strive to conform to His will, and gain his companionship..

A Robust Sense of Adventure is a good thing. With God at our side, however, no matter how wild the ride, or how perilous and painful the adventure, we certainly will have constant peace—Peace like a river.

#      #     #

~by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and produced by Darlene Skyles

Peace like a river
Flows through my soul
I've been forgiven
Cleansed and made whole

Peace like a river so gently is flowing
How sweet to my soul is this marvelous peace.
Sweeter and sweeter each day it is growing
Like gardens of glory it never shall cease.
Filled with the Spirit I’m so happy and glad
Jesus has given, sweetly has given,
Wonderful, wonderful peace.

Peace gently flowing
Sweet and divine
Gives me assurance
Jesus is mine.

Peace like a river so gently is flowing,
How sweet to my soul is this marvelous peace,
Sweeter and sweeter each day it is growing,
Like gardens of glory it never shall cease.
Filled with the Spirit I’m so  happy and glad.
Jesus has given, sweetly has given, wonderful peace.

Glory forever to Jesus my Saviour, for wonderful, marvelous, heavenly peace,
Peace overflowing, much sweeter is growing, what wonderful, wonderful peace.

#     #     #

Orem, Utah—2 January 2021—©2021 Daniel Kemper Lubben


NOTE: On December 26, 2020, my friend, Jonathan, helped me set up this website. What a terrific birthday present. Thank you, Jonathan. You're a true friend.

~Dan Lubben

No comments:

Post a Comment

When Will Churches Be Empowered to Stop Tyranny?  When Will Churches Be Empowered to Stop Tyranny? The simple answers is this: when they are...