Elusive Peace?

Sometimes peace in our human hearts can seem elusive. We can so easily be knocked off balance, experiencing discouragement and distress in our inner being.

The psalmist expresses this in Psalms 42 and 43. These are two psalms which in many Hebrew manuscripts form one psalm, and when you read them together you can see why. Separated by number, but not by obvious thematic connection and narrative flow.

You can read them by clicking on the links here: Psalm 42 & Psalm 43

Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. Augustine

Although inner peace and quietness characterise the Christian life, many things can knock us off balance. These times should be expected, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up when they come.

Peace in the Bible refers to the complete wholeness and wellbeing of body, mind, and soul. It’s about security, lack of conflict, and being in harmony with God, ourselves, and others.

If you’re feeling out of balance right now, the words of the Psalmist and the poet may help:

Peace of the tranquil heart,
Fall upon me;
Gift of the Father
My sentinel be:
Guard Thou my heart
In the presence of ill,
Hold me – encompass me –
I would be still.

See: Be still, and know (Will J Brand)

The Windhover (Hopkins)

To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Psalm 23 (A Psalm of David)

clouds daylight forest grass

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 23 from the King James Version (1611) of the Bible. For a more modern and accurate translation from the New International Version (1978) click here. See also: 10/05/20 Sunday Reflections.

I am the Great Sun (Charles Causley)

From a Normandy crucifix of 1632

I am the great sun, but you do not see me,
I am your husband, but you turn away.
I am the captive, but you do not free me,
I am the captain but you will not obey.
I am the truth, but you will not believe me,
I am the city where you will not stay.
I am your wife, your child, but you will leave me,
I am that God to whom you will not pray.
I am your counsel, but you will not hear me,
I am your lover whom you will betray.
I am the victor, but you do not cheer me,
I am the holy dove whom you will slay.
I am your life, but if you will not name me,
Seal up your soul with tears, and never blame me.

Charles Causley (24 August 1917 – 4 November 2003) was a Cornish poet, schoolmaster and writer. His work is noted for its simplicity and directness and for its associations with folklore, especially when linked to his native Cornwall.

Sonnet of the Moon (Charles Best)

Look how the pale queen of the silent night
Doth cause the ocean to attend upon her,
And he, as long as she is in his sight,
With her full tide is ready her to honour.
But when the silver wagon of the moon
Is mounted up so high he cannot follow,
The sea calls home his crystal waves to moan,
And with low ebb doth manifest his sorrow.
So you that are the sovereign of my heart
Have all my joys attending on your will;
My joys low ebbing when you do depart,
When you return their tide my heart doth fill.
So as you come and as you do depart,
Joys ebb and flow within my tender heart.

Charles Best (1570-1627)

The Clod and the Pebble (Blake)

“Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.”

So sung a little Clod of Clay
Trodden with the cattle’s feet,
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:

“Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.”

William Blake (1757-1827)

Proportion (Ben Jonson)

It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make man better be;
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere:
A lily of a day
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night;
It was the plant and flower of light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures, life may perfect be.

Ben Jonson (1572-1637)

She Walks in Beauty (Lord Byron)

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Lord Byron (1788-1824)