In THE PEACE GOD PROMISES, aptly subtitled “Closing the Gap Between What You Experience and What You Long for,” publishing industry veteran Ann Spangler comes clean about the various strategies she has used and the dreams and hopes she has entertained in an effort to achieve the peace she reads about in the Bible. Making more money, having an ideal relationship with just the right person, taking a dream vacation, finding that perfect job, figuring out how to control difficult people and circumstances, forcing herself to calm down --- nothing worked. Though peace can still elude her, Spangler’s quest to discover God’s definition of peace and God’s means of attaining it is one that others can clearly benefit from.
Spangler embarks on her quest by taking a close look at the factors that can rob us of the peace God wants us to experience, such as negative narratives and memories from childhood that people carry with them throughout their lives, our failure to remember the truly awesome things God has done in the lives of His people throughout history and today as well, our unwillingness to genuinely forgive our enemies, and our failure to truly believe in God’s promises, follow Christ, and connect with God and other people in a meaningful, lasting way.
The author then turns to the ways in which specific spiritual practices, such as a commitment to simplicity, Sabbath rest and gratitude can contribute to discovering God’s peace in our everyday lives. One entire chapter is devoted to learning to control your tongue and the ways in which our own words can serve to create discord in our homes, our churches, and all of our relationships. “Learning to create peace with our tongues is a lifelong challenge, one that few of us will ever master,” Spangler writes. “But that shouldn’t stop us from trying.”
Likewise, Spangler writes, the fact that being a peacemaker is “perhaps the most thankless, difficult task in the world” should not stop Christians from sharing God’s peace with others, regardless of the high price that may come with such a challenge. “True peace upends the status quo,” she writes. “It threatens the equilibrium of our dysfunctional world.” In the final chapter, she offers practical, if somewhat predictable, advice on the things we can do to find God’s peace in our lives: pray (and, in particular, pray the Scriptures); read the Bible; learn to see disruptions as opportunities; live in the present; exercise; breathe deeply.
Each of the chapters is followed by a half-dozen or so questions primarily intended for group study, though some may be better suited for personal journaling and application. For the most part, the questions are thoughtful and likely to prompt serious attention and discussion in a group.
Though Spangler relies a bit too heavily on anecdotes and quotes from a small number of people, the illustrations she has chosen to use to highlight the subject matter are always appropriate and enlightening. All in all, THE PEACE GOD PROMISES provides an introduction to the transformative nature of God’s peace and the things Christians can do to see God’s promise of peace fulfilled in their lives.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on September 20, 2011