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  • Writer's pictureAllison Wilcox

Life on the Margins: Shalom in Times of Anxiety and Anguish

Blessed are you who weep now,

for you will laugh.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. ~ John 14:27

Shalom is what love looks like in the flesh. The embodiment of love in the context of a broken creation, shalom is a hint at what was, what should be, and what will one day be again. Where sin disintegrates and isolates, shalom brings together and restores. Where fear and shame throw up walls and put on masks, shalom breaks down barriers and frees us from the pretense of our false selves. ~ Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Vulnerable Faith: Missional Living in the Radical Way of St. Patrick

I have to admit that these words from Jesus didn't always leave me feeling peaceful.

I come from a family that has struggled with depression and anxiety over generations. Recently I had genetic testing done that showed the markers that I indeed have for anxiety.

My heart is often troubled. And I sometimes feel afraid. It's something that comes to me in my brain chemistry as a family heritage.

For people like me to hear Jesus say "don't be afraid" or "don't worry," or "don't be troubled," it's sometimes hard to take.

It's hard sometimes to find peace or stillness in me.

It can make me want to weep sometimes.

But then I read these words again.

My peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives.

There are all kinds of ways the world tries to force peace, both externally and internally. There is medication and self-help books and stress relief practices.

Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don't.

But Jesus' peace - Jesus' "shalom," comes from a deeper well. It calls us to take down the masks that we put on ourselves. It calls us to be our true selves - just as we are made. Just as we are created.

It promises us that no matter what we are loved. Even in the darkest moments of our lives.

Even in the moments we grieve.

Even in the times we are afraid or anxious.

We are loved.

I will say that I began to feel that peace Jesus offers when I began to feel this. When I knew that I was loved no matter what.

I began to feel that peace when I no longer saw my anxiety as a badge of shame to be hidden from the world.

When I could take that this was simply a part of me.

Don't get me wrong. It is still hard. This kind of peace is still hard. And there are far too many people in this world who suffer from debilitating depression and anxiety that makes it even harder. I consider myself fortunate that that isn't the case for me.

But for those who do - maybe you, or someone you know - that love and acceptance is needed deeply. Fully. Meaningfully. And when they aren't sure they can feel it from Jesus, maybe they can feel it from Jesus' hands and feet in this world today.

Questions for thought: Do you or anyone in your family suffer from any kind of mental illness? How easy or hard is it to talk about? What are the things that make you or them feel Jesus' shalom?

Pray: Ask for God's continued unconditional love and acceptance for all who suffer from mental illness. And ask God to help you to be a bringer of Christ's peace to those who need it.

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