The Antidote to Anxiety: How to Experience Peace

“The most basic of all human desires is to find meaning to life,” writes Lisa Murray in her book, Peace for a Lifetime: Embracing a Life of Hope, Wholeness & Harmony Through Emotional Abundance. “Anxiety is the tension that arises from that battle for meaning.” 

Drawing on her experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in spiritual, emotional, and relational healing, Murray shows us that we can only experience peace – within ourselves and with others – when we first experience peace with God.

Echoing the words of Thomas Merton – who said that “we are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God” – she writes:

Peace with God is the foundation, the cornerstone of our entire journey toward Emotional Abundance” – a term she defines as “the ability to feel our emotions, to reason through our emotions, to understand our emotions, and to effectively manage our emotions so we can appropriately respond to the people and circumstances around us.”

With heartfelt compassion for the brokenness we endure and wounds we carry, Murray shows us that it’s possible to become emotionally, spiritually, and physically whole.

“There is so much hope. We can heal. We can learn. We can grow,” she writes. “In John 10:10 (NKJV) Jesus shares, I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it abundantly. Why should we settle for less than complete healing and emotional abundance when that’s precisely what He desires for us?”

Our search for meaning is as old as time itself:

“Have you ever wondered, ‘Who am I?’ or asked yourself, ‘What is my purpose in life?’ Why are we here and what, if anything, provides meaning to our existence on this planet? Is this all for nothing? Is there more? These questions are not only valid, but they are also an active part of our journeys toward finding peace with God and peace within ourselves. There is within us all a quiet war, an epic battle for the answers to these very questions.”

And at some point, we must enter into the battle:

“These questions don’t request an invitation. They don’t sit politely by the side. They loom overhead in the routine and mundane tasks of the day. They step ever so softly over the stillness of our souls. We might not be aware of anything at all, except that somewhere what began as a tiny tremor grows into a seismic quake. We can feel the pounding in our ears and the reverberations in our chests, counting cadence, steadily louder and clearer.

There comes a time when we can no longer tune out these battle drums. We must choose, we must fight to claim this territory once and for all, or surrender ourselves altogether.”

Our anxiety can actually point us to the remedy:

“In all of the places we look to find meaning, at every level of our journeys we will find anxiety. Anxiety isn’t meant to be avoided at all cost. Anxiety, or unpeace as I like to say, can be God’s flashing light on the roadway of our journey, directing us toward Himself and toward the peace for which we so desperately long.”

Indeed, it is only God Himself who can fill the hole inside each one of us:

“Henri Nouwen, one of my favorite authors, describes an abyss as ‘a deep hole in [our] being.’ We can run, but we can’t get around this hole. We can try to fill the abyss with many things, but the hollowness of this bottomless pit is too painful and overwhelming. The truth is nothing will fill this abyss except that which was meant to fill this gaping hole in our lives. That which will fill the abyss has always been and forever will be the person of Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, dwelling within us. This abyss is a God-shaped hole that drives all of us on our journey to find peace in our lives.”

And yet, so many of us try to fill this hole with other things…

“We search for peace in all the wrong places. We look for peace in our careers, personal finances, relationships, and belongings. Things that were not designed to give us peace, and over which we have no control, become our emotional gods. We ask them to do for us what God alone can do. When they can’t fix us, fill us, calm us, or complete us, we are left feeling helpless, out of control, afraid.”

Our quick fixes, relationships, jobs, etc. can never fill that God-shaped hole inside of us:

“I cannot pour enough alcohol into the depths of this God-shaped hole to numb the pain of the emptiness in which I am helplessly lost. I cannot run fast enough to get my adrenaline fix of sex, gambling, or thrill-seeking to escape the numbness of this stale existence called life. I can’t glue together the cracks in my soul through compulsive relationships, spending, or eating to provide at least a few moments where I can breathe.

The glue will eventually begin to pull apart, and the cracks will become even deeper and wider than they were before. Nor can I simply intellectualize my way out of this closet, trying to pretend in my self-proclaimed sophistication this hole does not exist any more than the God I cannot look at nor believe in exists.”

Could it be that we sometimes keep ourselves trapped in a prison of our own making?

“We spend half of our time numbing ourselves and running from the pain, and the other half of our time using every rationale to pretend the pain doesn’t exist. Ironically, we appear to fear the light that would save us far more than we fear the darkness of the abyss that threatens to consume us. As a result, we prevent ourselves from passionately committing to anyone or anything outside of this prison cell of our own making.”

Freedom comes from directly confronting our anxiety – not running from it:

“We will experience authentic peace and freedom, we will develop EA [Emotional Abundance], only when we muster the courage to walk right up to the edge of our anxiety, our abyss, and face our emotion straight on.

We will have to decide whether to turn around and go back or to take that step out into the unknown and trust that God, who created the journey, has already prepared the solution. The ground will only rise beneath us after we have taken the first step. We must take the first step.”

Running from our anxiety keeps us locked in a vicious cycle:

“Many people unwittingly seek freedom by spending their entire lives running. They feel they could solve their problems, and would find the happiness they seek if they were somewhere other than where they are – a different job, a different relationship, or even a different state. When we run, we don’t solve the problem; we are simply exchanging one unfreedom for another, one unpeace for another, again and again.”

Meaning reveals itself as we encounter God in our abyss:

“We will find the answers to our questions, we will fill the gaping hole inside of us only as we become anchored to something larger than ourselves, only as we Encounter God in our abyss. Somehow the meaning in life emerges as we surrender ourselves to the ‘adventure of becoming who we are not yet.’”

In other words, instead of going horizontal, we have to go vertical:  

“Instead of getting our identity horizontally from our job, our spouse, our house, or anything else, we are designed to get our identity, our values, our beliefs, and our purpose vertically through a relationship with God. How freeing to recognize that we were created by Him simply to be in a relationship with Him and to get our passion from fulfilling our purpose precisely through Him.”


“As an adult, what I need is not a mantra, nor a theme song, to pep me up for a few moments. What I need first and foremost is a relationship, an intimate encounter with the God of the Universe, who is so intimately acquainted with me that He numbered the hairs on my head.”

And we must build a firm foundation in Him:

“When we as individuals do not take the time to Fortify our foundations, when we are no longer anchored in our faith to something larger than ourselves, we do not have strong identities. We crave a strong identity and desperately search for one, but we look for identity in our iPhones and PlayStations, our jobs and cars, even the places we eat, shop, and exercise. When we get the latest-greatest brand or gadget, we wonder why the high we get doesn’t last, why that new thing is never enough, why we are constantly in search of the next big thing?”

As much as we struggle against it, the truth remains:

“The truth is we were never meant to be filled by anything other than our Heavenly Father. We were never meant to get our sense of self from anything other than God Himself. Perhaps He knew that we, like boats without an anchor, have a tendency to drift away. Throughout the Bible, we are referred to, directly or indirectly, as sheep. And sheep, by their nature, tend to wander. Sheep need a shepherd. Boats need an anchor. We need a Savior. (Isaiah 53:6; Psalm 23:1).”

So, consider entertaining these questions:

“What would happen if we stopped running from place to place and relationship to relationship? How would we feel if we took all of our pain, all of our unpeace, and turned them inward, holding our wounds in the innermost place inside of us where we can sit safely with God and allow Him to heal our deepest broken places?”

Indeed, it’s in solitude that we can begin to experience healing:

“If we want to know true peace, if we want the foundation of our lives to be FREE from the cracks and clutter, we must acknowledge and willingly face the wound we want to heal, and Embrace Solitude as the place where our healing can begin. Until we make that commitment, we will unwittingly carry our wound with us, contaminating every relationship in our lives, even our relationship with God.”

Lest we forget, God is in the business of healing:

“…we only have one Healer and he is Jesus Christ. He is the One to whom we should run with our pain, our fear, our loneliness, and our desperation. He stands waiting in that place of solitude to heal us, to free us, and to strengthen us.”

And God is waiting for us to enter into His peace:

“Solitude is the place where we can hear His voice speak of His great love for us. Solitude is the place where we become centered, rooted, and strong. We are indeed calm and safe. There is no need to be anyone other than who we are or be anywhere other than where we are.

This is, as Brennan Manning describes, ‘A new way of being with myself, a new way of being in the world…calm, unafraid, no anxiety about what’s going to happen next…loved and valued…’ In solitude, we begin to plant roots of acceptance and healing. In solitude, we discover the greatest gift of all gifts – peace with God.”

how to experience the peace of God

Peace for a Lifetime is a wonderful read full of profound insights into the complexities of the human condition.

With tenderness, compassion and wisdom, Lisa Murray equips readers with practical tools for experiencing peace with God, peace with oneself, and peace with others.

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