Where to Find Peace in Turbulent Times

Peace is a rare virtue in our modern world. Anxiety is commonplace. With civil unrest in the Middle East, protests in various U.S. state capitals, economic turmoil, and severe weather, there is plenty to worry about.

St. Anne’s Skete on Mt. Athos - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/papadimitriou, Image #1644105

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/papadimitriou

Today, I was thinking about how important is is for those leading in these turbulent times to be at peace and convey peace. It is the one thing people need now more than ever: calm, confident leadership. But where do you get that? It’s not something you can fake.

As I was thinking about this, I remembered a trip I took in the spring of 1994. I went on a spiritual pilgrimage to Mt. Athos, an independent monastic republic just southeast of Thessaloniki, Greece. I went with four friends for three weeks. It was an amazing experience—truly one of the top five of my life.

In case you don’t know, Mt. Athos is a major spiritual center for Orthodox Christianity. It is home to some twenty monasteries on a peninsula that, though connected by land, is only accessible by boat. The earliest monasteries on the “Holy Mountain” (as it is often called) date back to the 8th century.

During our time on Mt. Athos, we visited the ancient monasteries of Xenophontos, Iviron, Philotheou, Simonopetra, Gregoriou, and Agiou Pavlou. I have numerous fond memories of my visit there, but I keep returning to one near the end of our trip.

The last monastery we visited was Agiou Pavlou, or St. Paul’s, on the southern end of the peninsula, at the base of Mt. Athos itself. Though it sits back only a mile or so from the Aegean Sea, the snow-capped peaks of the mountains rise 6,700 feet behind it.

On the second day of our visit, we decided to hike down to the Skete of St. Anne, a smaller monastic community right on the water. We spent the day with two monks, one who made church candles to support himself and another, Father Nikon, who was a world-reknown iconographer.

Father Nikon, who spoke very broken English, told us that his name was pronounced just like the famous camera company, “My name is Father Nikon,” he chuckled, “just like the camera company: ‘the first name in photography’.”

He then asked us to sit and, as is the custom everywhere on Mt. Athos, he offered us some tea and pastries. We then had a wonderful, rambling conversation about the spiritual life. He exuded wisdom and grace. His personified love, joy, and peace.

Near the end of our visit, I walked out with him on the veranda of his house. It directly overlooked the Aegean Sea, which that afternoon was smooth as glass. It was absolutely gorgeous. After several minutes of drinking in the view and knowing my trip was coming to an end, I said, “I hate to leave, Father. It is so peaceful here.”

Fr. Nikon nodded, but did not respond. Finally, after a few minutes, he said, “You know, Michael, anywhere can be this peaceful, if”—and he paused for emphasis—“you have God in your heart. But if you don’t, then even a place as beautiful as this can be hell.”

It was a sober reminder that the experience of peace does not depend on our circumstances. It is possible to experience it, even in the midst of a noisy and dangerous world. The experience of peace is not waiting for us in an idyllic setting half a world away. For Christians, peace is not a place but a Person.

As leaders it is critical, that we possess peace. In turbulent times, those we lead look to us to assess how they should respond to the vicissitudes of life. A calm and peaceful spirit communicates that we believe everything will be okay. God is in charge and will see us through.

Question: What has been your experience with leaders manifesting peace in the midst of extraordinary pressure? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://ThestumblingDad.com Rusty Roberts

    As a husband and dad I lead my family with peace and calm through all the bad turbulent times in and outside our home. At times it’s very difficult, but so necessary. My wife and kids depend on me to provide that stability. You are right that we need and desire this quality in our leaders, and I think we do so on all levels of our lives.

  • Misty

    Excellent reminder! Thanks.

  • Mark King

    Hi–I’m a former Evangelical who is now Orthodox, and I so appreciate you sharing your experience and your wife’s in visiting these Orthodox monasteries. The monastics have been such a witness in the life of the church, and they have maintained true Christian spirituality throughout the ages–thank God for them!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      It really is astonishing. I have never witnessed deeper, more godly men than on Mt. Athos.

  • http://www.gigimuses.com Gigi

    My experience of being lead by peace happened paradoxically as someone I was leading lent me peace. A Honduran woman who worked at a kitchen where I lived and worked offered me one of the most peaceful responses I have ever known. As we strategized about an outbreak of Typhoid Fever, I plopped my papers and charts down on the table. She asked if she could pray. Peace poured over us. She lead me. Someone I was leading lead me.

  • NORALINAKAMALALINA

    UNCLE WHY AH…..IWANT TO MAKE MY FACEBOOK BUT EVERYTHING I DO ALSO CANNOT TO MAKE .CANYOU MAKE SOME FACEBOOK FOR ME MY IS NORALINA KAMAL JUST CALLING ALINA ON OK.

  • Anonymous

    As a leader many people are watching you. They watch how you react to every situation. I am learning this more and more every day. As I am struggling through a health crisis I realize that people will see how I react to that. I admit there have been days in this unfortunate circumstance where the fruit of patience hasn’t exactly shined. But, in realizing that, I was able to apologize, keep myself in prayer, and get back on track. Others saw I wasn’t perfect and were okay with that. Recently, as the health struggles continue, God’s peace is still there. For every deep breath I take instead of one in panic, I know He is there. And through that, I know others are seeing Him as well.

  • http://www.instani.com Web Designer

    Good Post Thanks for sharing..

  • http://www.susiefinkbeiner.wordpress.com Susie Finkbeiner

    In October, 2001 I went to New York City for a mission trip. Nothing, absolutely nothing, went as planned. It was frustrating, exhausting and an intensely emotional time. But our pastor at the time was calm and cool. He encouraged, joked (appropriately) and prayed. I think what made him capable of this peace was the 40 day fast he was participating in. He was somewhere toward the end of that fast. His peace came from his focus on the Holy Spirit. It was inspiring!

  • http://mymellowpages.blogspot.com/ Sonya K. Cox

    I have had to go thru some less than peaceful times to learn what peace is and to learn to be content in any situation.  I think God allows some turmoil so that we will learn to trust and seek Him and to learn that HE is in control.  I feel that in our world today, it is going to be harder and harder to find peace.  The heat is turned on HIGH and not only are we going to need to find our own peace in the turmoil but to be able to help others find their peace also.  Of course, my answer to peace is that God provides it.  He provides rest to the weary and he tells us not to be anxious.  He tells us he will place our steps so that we do not fall.  What more can bring peace than that.  So much that we care about can be at stake at times.  When the panic starts to set in, I say a prayer to be settled and not allow this fear to control me, because I know my God is greater than whatever troubles are before me.  It’s a challenge, but it can be done!

  • http://twitter.com/JohnPaulDeWalt John-Paul DeWalt

    Our previous pastor felt called of God to leave our church and go elsewhere.  As we digested the news, our elders’ first statement was “God is still God.  He is still in control.”  Though we wept over that pastor’s leaving, we were able to welcome the next man God chose for us.  Things will change but God is still in control.

  • Joel

    Leaders with God’s Peace are healthy in their scope

  • Pingback: The Practice of Stillness | Michael Hyatt

  • http://juliesunne.com/ Julie Sunne

    Beautifully written post, Michael. Now Mt. Athos is on my “to-see” places. We only need to look around to see the reality of Father Nikon’s quote. We live in the most blessed nation in the world, yet where is the peace? It’s not found in the treasures of this world, but, yes, through God’s love by faith in Jesus Christ. I’m going to hold onto Fr. Nikon’s quote as a reminder for when I begin complaining–again. :)

  • Danielle Street

    I agree. As leaders, it’s critical that we possess peace. May we all remember to pray to the One who made us and depend on Him for eternal peace! “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

  • http://www.AmyThedinga.com/ Amy Thedinga

    Michael, this is beautiful and so, so timely. The pendulum has swung toward “authenticity” and “vulnerability” in leadership – especially among the younger generations. So called pilgrim leaders if you will. And while I believe these things are vital, it is equally important to have a leader who knows God so well that they are genuinely assured that all will be well and can offer that assurance to others. It is not helpful when the leaders join in the freak out. Someone has to rise above the noise and point the way to God’s goodness. Thanks for this today!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome, Amy. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  • http://www.wallacejnichols.org Wallace J. Nichols

    #BlueMind indeed! (like the photo ; )

  • http://www.aborderlife.com/ Shannon H. Polson

    Something I will never forget is watching Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama at a Seattle event. Both have lived through trauma on the grandest scale, and what came across most effusively was their joy- and not just joy, but almost giddyness. They were like school boys. And it’s occurred to me when I consider my own faith that I should also be looking for that joy (with which Lewis noted he was surprised.), that joy is what comes from peace which is what comes from having God in our hearts. Thank you for this reminder.

  • James

    Thank you for reminding us that peace is a person and that person is Jesus.

  • Anne Slingo

    I try not to worry about anything, and pray about everything (Phillipians 4:6)

  • http://KellyLevatino.com/ Kelly Levatino

    I like your statement that peace is not a place but a Person. I wrote about “inner peace” for Christians based on Jn 14:27, “My peace I give you…” We don’t need to SEEK peace; we HAVE peace in Jesus. The Holy Spirit will help us tap into it if we want to (Jn 14:26). So cool. http://kellylevatino.com/2013/07/24/inner-peace/

  • http://www.risingabove.com John O’Leary

    Michael, I loved this piece. My personal mission statement in life and work is “because God demands it, my family deserves it and the world is starved for it.” This is how I keep my peace – remembering the higher purpose makes the small stresses in a day less weighty. Great timing too – actually – my Monday Morning Motivation blog for 5/12 is about turning Fear & Anxiety of “What If” to Joy for “What Is” – you can sign up to get it at http://www.risingabove.com/monday-morning. Would love to hear your thoughts. J