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Reflections on Peace: By Marisa Seril


other essays

Reforming a Broken Policy

In religion class, we were asked to write a book report on the search for meaning. I chose the inspirational book by author and pastor Rick Warren, which is entitled "The Purpose Driven Life."

All of us are searching for the meaning of life. The problem is, though, that too many of us are searching for the wrong purpose- selfish gain. At the least, I realize that it is personally my nature as a human being to live only for myself and for my own selfish desires. This is because of the fact that I am merely human, driven by my own desire for self-fulfillment. Rick Warren’s book, however, made me realize that it is not for my own fulfillment that I am here, but rather, to carry out the Will of God, my Heavenly Father, and my Divine Creator. In Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life, I am reminded that my primary purpose in life is to live- live not only for my own self-fulfillment, but for God’s Plan, which only He knows and eventually unravels for me to experience throughout my life.

Before going any further, I must address the question of God’s existence. I personally believe that although not every human being believes in God, every human being has the need for peace: peace of mind as well as physical peace. Why else would everyone be searching for their purposes in life? To attain peace, of course. Peace is brought upon as an expression of love, and I believe that every human being has the basic instinct to give and to receive love from others in order to attain peace within their selves. According to my own belief, there is not a person in this world who wouldn’t appreciate more love. Personally, I believe that God equals love, and God is my peace. So, in short, wherever there is love, there exists a reflection of God.

So, what is my purpose in life? The Purpose Driven Life taught me that my purpose, not only as a Christian but as a human being, is to spread peace. Nobody knows God’s will, but I believe that I was given this life in order to spread His peace by declaring my loyalty to Him and never denying the fact that God exists. I believe that too many of my dearest and closest friends cave in and conform to the opinions of this world. I, however, cannot help but personally believe that although I know I must have respect for others’ convictions by hearing them out, I must also remain true to my own. A lot of my closest friends tend to argue with me over the existence of a Higher Power. I’m perfectly okay with that now, because I believe that my faith is my own personal decision, of which I appreciate and acknowledge within my own personal life. I believe that there is no harm in my practicing Christianity within my own private life, since it is primarily a religion based on the foundation of peace.

So, how do I know that God actually exists? I personally know that God exists because at times when I’m sitting alone in a park and staring at the clouds, for example, I feel God speaking to me in the wind, throughout the silence, asking me to reflect and share with Him the things that are close to my heart. These things can range from the trivial to the traumatic. One of the little things I pray about all the time is school, due to the fact that sometimes, I feel as if it’s too stressful for me to keep on going. My life for the time being, as it goes for all students, is stuffed full with projects and deadlines, and sometimes, I just feel like quitting due to the excessive workload that is demanded out of me on a daily basis. During the evening, however, I am allotted time for prayer, and to reflect on the many blessings that the Creator has granted me. One of these blessings ironically also includes the fact that I was given the opportunity to go to college in the first place. This proves that sometimes, blessings come about in hidden forms, allowing us to grow through experience.

Warren’s book allowed me to grow both spiritually and socially. The Purpose Driven Life made me realize that believing in God, to me, is my duty and my purpose. Even now, I feel as though I am committing spiritual adultery against God whenever I glance in the windows of the Scientology Center on the corner of Ft. Street Mall. By the same token, whenever someone approaches me, trying to convert me into a Scientologist or another religion which goes against the belief in God, I politely turn them away, trying to stay true to the fact that I am a Christian. As a Christian, I believe that I am here on this earth, even with all of my flaws, to fulfill some sort of Divine plan, which comes from God alone. Warren writes on page 18, “You didn’t create yourself, so there is no way you can tell yourself what you were created for…you must begin with God, your Creator. You exist only because God wills that you exist.” Nobody knows God’s will, and I believe that I was given this life in order to spread His peace by declaring my loyalty to Him and never denying the fact that I am a Christian and that God is my King, both in my writing as well as my speech.

Lately, I have decided that my religion, Christianity, is the breath within my lungs as well as the very reason why I am alive, due to the fact that I was created in the first place to fulfill the plan of my Creator. On page 23, Warren quotes from the Bible: [God] saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book! (Psalm 139:16) All of my flaws, my anxiety as well as my anger, were instilled in me so that I could overcome my obstacles and humble myself in the sight of the Lord. Warren reminds us that “God left no detail to chance. He planned it all for His purpose…nothing in your life is arbitrary. It’s all for a purpose” (23). Do you recall my belief that God is peace? God planned every detail of my life, including my shortcomings, for the sake of love. Sometimes, when I get confused and become skeptical about my life trials, unconsciously asking myself why human beings have to suffer, I set aside my doubts by remembering that if I truly love someone dearly, as God loves His children, I would want to grow intimate with them by sharing intimate moments. God does this by giving trials to us so that we may grow closer to Him. In other words, life is a test of my faith toward God.

From reading The Purpose Driven Life, I have realized that religion isn’t some scam to rally people under one banner, but rather, a reason to rejoice in the fact that every human being was created by the Creator to suit a Divine purpose. I believe that I am here to declare reasons for my belief in the existence of God. Religion is definitely not a waste of time. It serves as my passionate motivation to keep clinging by blind faith to a Higher purpose. Nobody can prove that a Higher Power is constantly watching over me, guiding me through my trials, and yet, I know through blind faith that God is with me, because whenever I have the opportunity to pray to Him during my times of silent reflection, I feel His presence. It’s something of which I cannot explain on paper. It’s a vibe I feel within myself whenever I feel God speaking to me within my thoughts. Faith is blind because it is not touchable. I cannot physically touch God, and yet, I know through blind faith that He is there with me, and I know then that no one can sway me from believing in Him.

I have also decided from Warren’s book that my life’s purpose is to allow myself to literally go with the flow- to go wherever life takes me, knowing that God is directing my path for the glory of His plan. I know now that I am a pawn in God’s chess game, and I have realized that I must make sacrifices within my life to spread His word of peace. This is my sacrifice- to commit myself to the plan of a Higher Power by submitting to it, rather than denying it. Just by writing this paper, I am surrendering myself for the sake of spreading God’s word of peace.

After reading Warren’s book, I have made it my goal in life to face my trials head-on, trusting in God through blind faith to bring me out of painful situations in one piece. My purpose is to basically learn of salvation first-hand, in order to aid those who are seeking comfort. How else could I be of comfort to others in the case that I have not struggled also? My job, I now realize, is to spread peace, and I surely cannot achieve this if I don’t understand what others are going through.

One of my trials was very recent. During Valentine’s weekend, I was miserable. My throat was swollen to the size of a golf ball, and even breathing was a chore. I remained confined to my bed for three days, choking down nothing but water and penicillin. I almost fainted in the shower a couple of times, rapping on the wall, gasping for help from anyone who could hear me, to get me out of the bathroom and into my bed. I lost my voice, and am only regaining the ability to speak within the past few days. The pain was unbearable, so much so that I even begged for death. My throat felt like someone was ripping it open from the inside out. I prayed for those three days, begging God to have mercy on me and to heal me so that I could go back to school and be normal again. God not only healed me, but forced me to learn of pain first-hand.

I admit that during those three painful days, I was furious with myself for being so weak, and I was also bitter toward everyone around me due to the pain, but today, I can honestly say that God was attempting to open up my eyes, guiding me toward the great joy which can spring from the power of His healing. The reason why I had to face this trial was so that I would be able to realize my daily blessings. I took the fact that I could walk and talk for granted before I got sick, but now, I can honestly say that being sick forced me to rejoice in the very fact that I am alive.

After reading Warren’s book, I am also beginning to believe that the goal Christianity has in my life is the very reason why I am alive. Every event in my life is tuned to make me grow closer to Him. I am reminded in The Purpose Driven Life that “character is both developed and revealed by tests, and all of life is a test” (43). By going through hardship in life, such as sickness, I know that I am growing and becoming a stronger person in a spiritual sense. I realize that if I didn’t have trials within my life, I would be weak in my convictions due to the fact that I wasn’t given the opportunity to defend them. Also, if I didn’t have to go through hardship such as sickness, I wouldn’t be given the opportunity to allow myself to see life through the eyes of the suffering. If I am physically sick, for example, my physical body is given a chance to fight off the virus, allowing my immune system to strengthen. In the same way, I know that I am being tested through trials in order for my spirituality to strengthen.

So, why does God allow His children to experience hardship? Whenever I am confronted with this question, I go back to my own question: Wouldn’t I want a loved one to come running to me when he or she is in need of comfort? It would be a shame if all I did was become angry with every bad situation in my life, turning my back on the very One who wishes to comfort me during my grieving. Lovers wouldn’t love each other as sincerely as they do if there were no trials set forth between them. I believe that my purpose in life is to endure these trials, in order to grow closer to my Creator. This may sound as if the author, Rick Warren, is implying that people in general should always endure pain with an unfaltering smile on our face, acting as if we are perfect people who are saved from the pain of salvation by God. This is certainly not the case. God sets forth trials to all of His children, extending an invitation for all of us to come to Him in prayer. On page 43, Warren says, “When you understand that life is a test, you realize that nothing is insignificant in your life…everyday is an important day, and every second is a growth opportunity.” If I didn’t have any pain, I wouldn’t have been motivated to search for meaning in the first place. Trials are God’s invitation for me to seek Him for help. Everyone needs help at some point. Those who believe in God are not, and will never be, perfect. All of us are born with flaws, because all of us are human. Christianity is essentially a religion for those who are in need of a Savior. In short, it is a religion for those in need of comfort.

Warren’s book made me realize that whenever I am forced to endure pain and suffering, such as the three days in which I was forced to be confined to my room, I am being tested of my faith and loyalty to the Creator. During these times of affliction, God is asking me, will I pray to Him for comfort and grow closer to Him by faith, as spoken of on page 43 by Warren, or will I grow angry and impatient, instead looking only within myself and things of this world for answers? The peaceful resolution, of course, comes only by growing closer to God. Anger breeds more anger, but from love, on the other hand, springs peace. In other words, when I submit to faith in the existence of God, I am handing myself over to peace.

Another goal I have set forth for myself after reading The Purpose Driven Life is to remember the fact that I cannot put my absolute trust in the things of this world, due to the fact that human nature is naturally flawed. Warren points out that “for thousands of years, brilliant philosophers have discussed and speculated about the meaning of life. Philosophy is an important subject and has its uses, but when it comes to determining the purpose of life, even the wisest philosophers are just guessing” (19). There are no complete answers among human beings alone. The only thing we can do to find our true purpose in life is to keep living, keep learning, and stay on guard for Divine inspiration to fall into our hands. Someday, when we faze out all of the fast-paced drama in the world, or when we’re on the bus, gazing out the dirty window at the rolling hills, or when we’re at the beach, being lulled to sleep by the waves, Divine inspiration will re-awaken our souls. Someday, when we least expect it, we will find our meaning.

I suggest this book to anyone who is searching for meaning with an open mind. If someone personally disagrees with the existence of God, however, then I wouldn’t suggest them to read this book due to the fact that in The Purpose Driven Life, God is honored in such a way that people are viewed as His children as well as His servants, due to personal convictions that He is our Divine Creator. On the other hand, if there is anyone who is searching for peace within their spiritual selves by seeking a Higher Power, or if someone is in extreme doubt about their purpose in life, then The Purpose Driven Life is truly a valuable resource. It’s easy to be a skeptic, but it’s a lot more productive to lend an ear to peace.

The Purpose Driven Life takes its ideas primarily from the Bible, formulating its message around psalms from the Old Testament. I’ve read the New Testament before, and Warren’s book bases its philosophy off of Biblical ideas that stress the practice of morality as a means toward attaining peace. This can be seen in Psalm 46:

1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. 7 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah 8 Come and see the works of the LORD , the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields [2] with fire. 10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." 11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

To clarify, “selah” means to meditate, and tells us to rejoice in the Lord. The Purpose Driven Life stresses that we should take time out to meditate and to acknowledge that “the LORD Almighty is with us” throughout all of our trials. As Psalm 46 reads, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble…we will not fear.” In the same way, Rick Warren reminds us that God pertains to everyday situations because He is actively involved in our daily tasks. On page 43, Warren writes that God “even watches the simplest actions such as when you open a door for others, when you pick up a piece of trash, or when you’re polite toward a clerk or waitress.” Every moment of my life is significant, and every moment of our lives should be dedicated to the spreading of peace, as stressed throughout Warren’s book. From just reading Psalm 46 alone, we see that God “makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.” This declares that God is peace, and therefore, His children should be advocates of peace.

Not surprisingly, we can see from Psalm 46 alone that Rick Warren’s book is much like the Bible, due to the fact that the Bible serves as the foundation for the book in the first place. Reading the Bible is much more powerful than reading Warren’s book, however, due to the fact that Warren stresses submission to God without adequately explaining the reason why submission is necessary for those who believe. In Genesis, for example, God’s creation of the earth and the creatures in it are outlined in order for readers to better understand the reasons for worshiping God as our Divine Creator. In short, background information on the Bible is needed in order to understand Rick Warren’s convictions on serving God. The Bible, therefore, is the foundation on which Rick Warren’s book is structured. In order to understand Rick Warren’s book completely, a high familiarity of the Bible is necessary.

By reading such books as The Purpose Driven Life, I am re-awakened with the fact that my belief in God serves as my passionate motivation to keep clinging by blind faith to a Higher purpose. I personally know that God is with me, guiding me through my trials, despite the fact that many may not agree with me. It is my own personal choice, because I feel His presence within my soul. My life is no longer meaningless, now that I know that I am alive in order to rejoice in His blessings. God is my peace, and God is my purpose. I will not discredit this fact for the sake of any other human being.

Works Cited: Warren, Rick. "The Purpose Driven Life." Zondervan Publishers, copyright 2002.