Finding Peace in the Presence of Pain
by Dick Innes
Kathy Omsby, 21, a university student and record-setting distance runner, lies paralyzed in the hospital as family and friends react in stunned disbelief to her attempted suicide.
Kathy’s whole life had been a series of successes. She had always been a straight-A student. In her final year of high school she graduated top of her class of 600 with an unprecedented 99 percent average, and was actually honored by the mayor of her town.
“You get a Kathy Ormsby once in a lifetime,” said Ralph Robertson, her high school principal.
The year Kathy attempted to take her life, in the women’s collegiate championship, she was favored to win after setting her collegiate record earlier in the year. After dropping out at the 6500 meter mark she jogged forlornly from the stadium, and according to police, kept on for two more blocks until she came to the city’s main bridge and there threw herself over the side.
Sadly, multiple spinal fractures will prevent any possibility of Kathy ever walking again.
In Oxford, England, Olivia Channon, 22, daughter of a British cabinet minister and a child of privilege, had just finished her final exams at the end of her course at Oxford University when she joined other students and friends for a night of celebration. But Olivia mixed heroin with her drinking. At 2:30 a.m. she lay down to sleep. Five hours later she was found dead.
Second only to car accidents,
suicide is the most common killer
of young people in the West.
In a quiet suburban home in Sydney, there sits on the mantelpiece a shrine decorated with trophies for public speaking won by a very promising young man. But the seemingly very confident Jeff who won these awards is no longer around to enjoy them. He took his life and left behind a broken-hearted family.
Second only to car accidents, many of which are caused by alcohol and drugs, suicide is the most common killer of young people in the West.
On the TV program, “Too Young to Die,” one Australian young person said that she had tried to commit suicide several times. When asked why she did it, Meagan said, “At the time I was looking for something through drugs and couldn’t find it—which was sort of ultimate peace.”
People will do almost anything to find peace and will self-destruct if they can’t. Thousands kill themselves every year and millions more waste away and die before their time because they can’t find peace with each other.
Peace isn’t found in technology. We have learned how to put man on the moon, but not how to live together in peace. Neither is it found in affluence. Olivia Channon of Oxford had everything that position and money could buy, but also turned to drugs.
Success of itself doesn’t bring lasting peace either. Len Bias, a college basketball star, was another extremely promising young American athlete. At the height of his college career he died of heart failure—caused by cocaine intoxication. And he, along with Kathy Ormsby and Jeff, are only three of many outwardly successful people who apparently have never discovered the secret of inner peace.
How then can we find peace?
First. Peace is found in having something worthwhile to live for. Peace is a matter of the heart and success, athletic prowess, academic and technological achievement, popularity, and affluence—the things that our culture puts so much emphasis on—do not, as an end in themselves, meet the needs of the heart. Peace comes from using abilities to help achieve higher goals that in some way benefit other people.
Second. Peace is found in acceptance. Most are familiar with the prayer, “May God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” A very wise prayer, for as long as we fight against circumstances we cannot change, we cannot find peace. Once we accept these circumstances, we not only find peace but can turn them into opportunities for growth and stepping stones towards success.
Third, peace is found in self-acceptance and a healthy self-image. Inner peace begins with a right relationship with ourselves which begins with a healthy self-image, which is formed primarily in childhood. As none of us had a perfect upbringing, none of us has a perfect self-image. We can, however, strengthen our self-concept by building on our successes and not our failures, keeping in mind that there is only one real failure—and that is not to get up one more time than we’ve been knocked down.*
Fourth, we need a right relationship with others. To love and be loved is vital for finding inner peace. Thus it is important to resolve any and all impaired relationships, including those from our formative years. As long as we nurse resentments and fail to forgive those whom we feel have hurt us, we cannot find true inner peace. And if we bury these feelings, we eventually pay for it through impaired relationships and likely physical sickness.
We also need a few trusted friends with whom we can share our struggles and deepest feelings. One reason some people take their lives is because they bottle up super-charged negative emotions and then act them out destructively—which we all do if we fail to talk them out creatively.
Finally, most important of all, we need a right relationship with God. More than anything else, people need to find peace with God. As Augustine, the famed theologian, said, “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” For help click on the “Know God” or on the “Find Peace With God” on the button link below.
Tragically, our sin has caused us to sever peace with God. However, we need to realize that because God loved us, he sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to save us from our sin and eternal death. By confessing our sins to Christ and responding to his invitation to receive him into our heart as personal Lord and Savior, we make our peace with God.
After receiving Christ, through prayer and practice learn to trust your life to God every day.
Furthermore, as God’s Word, the Bible, says, guard your thoughts diligently, keep them positive, and “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).