Peace in the Mi(d)st

Janis Buelow   -  

Life has always been a constant struggle for a lot of us. In fact, it’s easy to feel like we have tunnel vision – where life just constantly feels like it’s knocking our door, with no rest in sight. This has become such a constant cycle that we easy look at the person next to us and have one of two thoughts. It’s either, “oh look, they have it worse than I do,” or “oh look, I have it worse than them.”

The constant leveling of humanity – meaning, we often find ourselves “on a different path,” as they say, than the people around us – has put us in an unintentional competition with every single other human around us.

And I don’t know about you, but whenever I was in sports and participated in competitions, I was always exhausted afterwards.

What does this look like? Well, for one, our demand for success in the United States has only increased since 2020. As a comparison, to look at the top billionaires in the country, Elon Musk in one year alone has increased his wages by a staggering $99.1 billion dollars. Jeffery Bezos in the same period also increased wages by almost $50 billion. To give you a true comparison, let me remind you that Musk started at the top in 2019 with only $50 billion dollars – and I say only because in less than 4 years, the man has now made $250 billion. Bezos in 2019 was at $112 billion, and while his numbers have fluctuated more, he has also increased his stable net worth to $150 billion (Bloomberg Billionaire Index, 2023).

But why do these numbers matter to us – those who work in “normal” careers? Well, looking at labor statistics from the 2022 Future Form Pulse findings, there is over a 42% of workplace burnout in the country, which has increased by 2% from 2021. Burnout, to summarize, is the feeling of overwhelm regarding workload and the pressure from your company to perform. The Future Form cites lack of flexibility in where people work and when people work as the top two reasons behind these burnout statistics.

If in one year we have an increase of burnout numbers and in four we have seen two of the top-earning individuals in the country increase wages, we can start to see a correlation of the US workforce – an increase in work output leads to a decrease in emotional regulation and balance between home and work life.

How does this relate to us spiritually? We’ve already discussed that outside of the workforce, the constant pressure to compete is consistent in our lives. Social media has not helped this factor, with so much of our lives online that we are seeing the mindset of even friendships turning into a large competition – and especially within our children. That type of inauthentic relational building contributes to a warped sense of community. And our community should always be rooted in Christ.

What is community? Community has a dictionary definition. However, have we considered the philosophical implications behind community? At a conference I went to a few months back, we could sort of define community as “…community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ…we belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ” (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 21). The church professionals in the room noted that apart from Christ, we can’t truly “know” each other – because He defines the best of who we can be. He knows and knit our inmost being (Psalm 139:13-16).

There’s a true tension between the “Divine” community and the “Human” community, and where we fall short is the constant competition. The forgetting that God is the one doing the saving – knitting the community – teaching the loving. What holds us together in true community is the identity we have as children of God – no matter what makes us different, what creates our thought processes, or even how we treat one another (Together Again Conference, 2023).

There is peace in the mist of competition, in the midst of human community. And that peace is found solely in Christ Jesus and His saving message of everlasting peace and love – the identity of our divine community. We are a fellowship of sinners, and in the midst of burnout, the constant asking of our workplaces, the push to compete against one another in so many areas, God creates a place for you to truly sit, rest, and truly be enveloped in the love of His arms within His community of believers.

How can we practice this ourselves? I find that some things which people try to use as a way to push competition – things like certain connotations of different words or the physical response we have – are actually peaceful when looked at in a different scope. I struggled a lot with social mannerisms for most of my child, teen, and young adult years. I found that how my brain worked was not how other people did, and I chalked it up to the competitive label of “I’m not good enough” – something many people around me accidentally validated as well. However, as I started out my professional career and took notice of my brain not seeing the world as other people did, I sought out research and anecdotes from different people in my life, utilizing the peace of God to help me stumble upon what I needed to. I found the courage to speak up about my struggles, and I found solace in a label other people would have tried to use as a competitive response. Instead, that label has been so freeing to know that I am good enough through my identity in Christ alone, and I am able to do things – I just may think or do them in a different manner than other people.

Seeking joy – true peace in the mi(d)st – is the one and easiest way we can combat the burnout of competition. It’s how we can truly understand the lyric of “when peace like a river…” (It Is Well With My Soul, Bliss, 1871). 

“Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.”

– Psalm 42:7