It seems my family is always in a state of major transition, piling more layers on top of a life never short on hustle. Each day is filled with details and deadlines and the demands of three small children.

I don’t have to go far to find solutions promising to calm the chaos that rules my life.

The World’s Prescription for Peace

#1: Simplify
Essentialism, minimalism, and simplicity are tools offering to bring peace first to our exterior circumstances, then our interior worlds. If we clear away the excess, we can focus on what matters.

#2: Achieve
Our culture prizes productivity. Systems promise to help us achieve more, or at least better. Cultivate discipline and good habits, they say—peace is found in that feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.

#3: Get away
We spend our days pouring out on behalf of others, plagued with guilt over asking for anything for ourselves. The solution, then, is to get away. Take some time for yourself. Experience the peace of silence and solitude, luxury and relaxation.

#4: Get fit
We seek peace in the comfort of food and lose it in our struggles with weight. We’re lethargic and lazy, nutrient-deficient and unmotivated. So peace is offered in the form of health and fitness. Eating plans, workout systems, supplements, and challenge groups—these all provide ways to gain focus, energy, and confidence. If you look good and feel good, you’ll have peace.

Solutions Aimed at the Heart

In his common grace, God has created our bodies and ordered the world in a certain way; we’d be fools to disregard the practical wisdom found in these solutions. On some level, they can achieve what they promise: As I simplify my house, I don't have to maintain so much stuff, freeing time and energy for more important things (namely, people). As I cultivate discipline and better habits, I’m better able to steward my time. As I ask for space to rest, I can be refreshed and have more to offer those whom God has called me to serve. And as I strive toward physical health, my body can become a useful tool in faithfully serving the Lord in my various callings.

But on their own, each of these can only offer an illusion of control and a false peace that’s ultimately fleeting.

When the biblical authors talk about peace, they’re far less concerned with our circumstances than our hearts. Consider Paul’s words: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” and, “the God of peace will be with you” (Phil 4:7, 9). He doesn’t mean peace in the external sense without hardship, uncertainty, or strife. We see many reasons for a tangible lack of peace—Paul’s in prison for preaching the gospel (1:13) and enduring conflict and suffering his readers will likely experience as well (1:29, 4:2). Instead, he points to true peace aimed at our hearts and minds.

But how do we get there?

Remember Who God Is

The opposite of peace isn’t chaotic circumstances; Paul contrasts it with anxiety. Our outer chaos becomes inner chaos when we worry. So rather than offering strategies for bringing order around us, Paul’s solution is to pray and think on things that are true (Phil 4:6-7).

Prayer is the pathway to peace because it reminds us who God is: He’s the sovereign God of the universe, and also a loving and wise father. “Consider the ravens,” Jesus said, “they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” (Lk 12:24)

And when we bring our chaos to this glorious God, we’re also reminded who we are—dependent, limited, needy. We realize our worry is indicative of our pride—we think we know best how to conjure peace.

But we can’t create peace out of chaos; we’re subject to the God who can (Mk 4:35-41). This fact humbles us before him. It brings us face-to-face with our human limitations and our foolish attempts to achieve peace apart from him.

Remember What God Has Done

As we remember who God is and who we are before him, we’re struck anew by the marvelous truth of the gospel: We’re poor and needy, yet the Lord takes thought for us (Ps 40:17). He invites us to come confidently to his throne of grace because Jesus, our faithful high priest, has provided the way for us (Heb 4:14-16). Adopted as his beloved children, we can cast every anxiety upon him because he cares for us (Rom 8:15-16, 1 Pet 5:6-7).

This lifts our eyes to the bigger reality of what’s happening in our search for peace. Why are we striving to achieve peace? What are we working so hard to prove? What will happen if we’re organized enough, productive enough, rested enough, healthy enough? Will we finally prove to God we’re good enough?

Will we prove we don’t really need him?

Our only hope for peace is found at the cross. There, we find peace with God through Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1). When we believe the gospel, we can stop trying to be “okay.” Hidden in Christ, we can know peace in the midst of our chaos—the kind of peace that guards our hearts and minds (Col 3:3, Phil 4:7).

Remembering God has dealt bountifully with us in Christ, and, in him, all things hold together (Ps 116:7, Col 1:17), we can rest from our striving and believe the gospel. The God who has given us Jesus will be faithful to give us everything we need (Rom 8:32).

Hope in Eternal Peace

We long for peace because we need justification, but also because the world isn’t as it should be. We’re created for peace, groaning alongside creation, eagerly awaiting shalom—the eternal peace of the new heavens and earth (Rom 8:18-25, Is 11:6-9, Rev 21:1-7). We cast our daily anxieties upon him, believing he cares for us. But as we do, we also pray: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20).

Kendra Dahl is a writer and photographer living in the San Diego area. She and her husband have three children.