When we are in the midst of turmoil, it is often hard to see clearly and be at rest. How do we stay in peace when there is a storm all around us? Is it even possible? The world around us gives a beautiful picture of finding rest during chaos, in the form of the incredible forces of nature, hurricanes. Hurricanes are severe tropical cyclones that usually wreak havoc and destruction in their path, with wind speeds of 74 miles (119 kilometers) per hour, or greater, and usually accompanied by rain, thunder, and lightning (1). Yet, amid the intense storm an unexpected calmness, known as ‘the eye of the storm’. Not only is the eye of the storm the calmest place, but it is also generally free of clouds, allowing for greater visibility (2). This analogy can be applied in our own lives– we can obtain peace in times of the greatest chaos, by remaining in the eye of the storm. The Early Church taught that this rest comes through understanding our soul and by the knowledge of the mind of Christ.
All through our Christian walk, we are bound to experience trials and tribulation. In fact, the testing is necessary for our perfection. In scripture, we read James exhorting the saints to be joyful in trials, because through these trials we come to maturity:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4, emphasis added).
The Early Church taught that temptations (trials) are the very thing to guard our soul from becoming weak. Second-third century church father Origen wrote:
“Temptations serve the soul as a kind of guard or protective wall. For just as meat, no matter how big and beautiful a piece, goes bad if it is not sprinkled with salt, so the soul, unless it is somehow salted by constant temptations, immediately goes soft and comes apart. This is the reason why it is written that “every sacrifice shall be seasoned with salt” (Lev 2:13). And this ultimately is the reason why Paul said: “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me” (2 Cor 12:7) (3)
Through the temptations of our soul, or the thorn in our side as Paul termed it (2 Corinthians 12:7) we are made to fight for truth and to not become lax with our salvation.
On this narrow path, we should expect trials and tribulation, yet, often in the thick of the trial we become fearful in the storm, instead of trusting the Lord and allowing it to take its course. In times of trial, we can too easily forget the Word of God, which exhorts us: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, emphasis added). And in another place, “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28, emphasis added). God assures us that He will never give us more than we can handle, and all the trials and tribulation we go through are for our good.
The greatest and most consistent storm we experience is the battle in our mind (our soul). Paul warns us to expect this battle when he states: “the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7, emphasis added). Paul explains the reason our mind is at war with the mind of Christ, is because we are still slaves to sin, he states, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” (Romans 7:14, emphasis added).
Origen confirms that the greatest battle we face, comes from within our soul:
“Within you is the battle you are to fight; the evil structure which must be torn down is within; your enemy comes from your own heart.”(4)
Our soul is our seat of emotions and passions (5). It is what causes us to think the way we think, act the way we do, talk the way we talk, etc. The wounds within our soul, our ignorance of the Truth, is what keeps us in bondage and causes the battle in the soul. For us to know the remedy for the chaos in our soul, the Truth, we must also recognize the disease. This is what it means to have knowledge of the soul. The Early Church were all in agreement that knowledge of the soul was of utmost importance. Origen explains why it is vital that we know our own soul:
But what need is there to go on mentioning the reasons why the soul should know itself, except that, should it neglect “to know itself” perfectly, it might be commanded to “go out and follow in the tracks of the flock and pasture your kids,” and to do this not beside its own tent but “beside the shepherds’ tents” (Cant 1:8), while for the soul which is ready there are prepared all sorts of opportunities for it to become proficient, according to its ability, in the “utterance of knowledge” (1 Cor 12:8)? But these things might be said by the WORD of God to the soul which is indeed set on the paths of progress but has not yet risen to the height of perfection. Because it is progressing, it is called “beautiful.” But for it to be able to come to perfection, it is necessary for it to be threatened. Because unless it comes to know itself, through the things I have mentioned, and becomes proficient in the WORD of God and the divine law, it will suffer the fate of taking in various of these opinions and of following men who have said nothing of note, nothing from the Holy Spirit. This is what it means to “follow the tracks of the flocks” and follow the teachings of those who have themselves remained sinners and can provide no remedy for sinners. Whoever follows these, yes “goats,” whoever follows the judgment of sinners, will seem, in their “pasturing,” to be passing by “the shepherds’ tents,” that is, “pasturing” on the various sects of the philosophers. Consider then more fully what a terrible reality is contained in this figure. It says: “Go out in the tracks of the flocks” (Cant 1:8); as if the soul were already inside and residing within the mysteries, but, because it is neglectful of “knowing itself” and of inquiring what it is and how it should act and what it ought to do or not do, it is told: “Go out,” as if, because of the guilt of this slothfulness, it were being cast out by the one in charge. Thus it is a terribly great danger for the soul to neglect the study of itself and its self-knowledge. (6)
Once again Origen explains that for us to come to perfection, it is necessary for us to go through temptation to bring us to an understanding of the depths of our soul. God views souls in the process of this understanding as “beautiful”. Origen explains also that knowledge of Truth, the revelation of Christ’s nature, is what brings us the inner healing and with this healing (John 8:32) we can bring the remedy to others. Origen articulates we cannot just have one without the other. If we only have knowledge of the disease but not of the remedy, we cannot come to the fullness of perfection and be able to impart that wisdom to others, so that they may be healed.
Understanding the depths of our soul and revelation of the nature of Christ requires Divine knowledge from the Holy Spirit. We will perish without this knowledge (Hosea 4:6). We have not, because we ask not (James 4:2). We must entreat the Lord for this divine understanding, it is not simply given to us. James exhorts the Church: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5). God is a good father, Jesus reminds us of this when speaking to His disciples He said: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).
As aforementioned, the calmest part of the storm is often referred to as the eye of the storm. The function of the eye is to see. In the Hebrew language, the word see means to “perceive” (7), and to ‘perceive’ means to have “knowledge” and “understanding” (8). Furthermore, in the Hebrew language, the root-word to ‘perceive’ means “‘the door of the eye’. The eye is the window into the man’s very being. Experience is gained through visual observation. Knowledge is achieved through these experiences” (8). So we can see here being in the eye of the storm is about understanding. The key is whose understanding and knowledge we have. A genuine desire to understand and a teachable heart, the Lord will answer (Psalm 51:7). However, we do not always receive answers immediately, most often it is a process the Lord takes us through; situations and experiences, to reveal knowledge of our soul (why we do the things we do); and revelation of His divine character to fill the wounds in our soul.
It can feel scary and overwhelming when we see the chaos within, and are yet to have the answers we seek. Still, we can remain at peace even in the journey to knowing all the answers for our soul, and even in the progression to healing, by understanding the process the Lord has us in. Just as Origen stated earlier, everything in our soul is there for our good, to bring us to perfection. Our understanding of God’s process for our soul, coupled with our trust in the Lord (because of the relationship we develop with Him), will enable us to be at rest in the eye of the storm. We must believe He will finish the good work He started (Philippians 1:6).
Early Church Father, John Chrysostom illuminates further on the matter:
“Such, after all is the way with good people: when they endure something for his sake, far from attending to the appearance of what occurs, they understand the reason behind it and thus bear everything with equanimity [composure, calmness]. Likewise, Paul, the teacher of the Gentiles, identified imprisonment, arraignment, daily peril, all those many unbearable hardships as light burdens, not because they really were so by nature but because the reason behind their happening produced such an attitude in him that he would not turn back in the face of these oncoming threats.” (9)
Chrysostom confirms that Divine knowledge is needed to endure the storms in our soul, just as Paul endured. Enduring trials and tribulation with understanding as to why our soul must go through this process is vital. Understanding brings the rest in our mind. Peace will rule when we have God’s mind, just as Paul states, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7). We will no longer judge by the circumstance in front of us, when we have the elevated understanding and divine knowledge of the Lord, just as Isaiah says:
“The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears.” (Isaiah 11:2-3)
The reason we are not at rest at times is because we lack understanding- the understanding of our soul and knowledge of the mind of Christ. The Early Church taught that understanding our soul is necessary for our perfection, but to come to this perfection we require the revelation of Christ’s nature to heal the wounds within. Through our own progress toward perfection and gaining divine wisdom, we can impart this healing to others. When we are feeling overwhelmed by the chaos, we find rest in divine understanding, and build trust in the Lord; thus, we find peace within the eye of the storm.
- “Hurricane.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hurricane.
- University of Illinois. (n.d.). The Eye: the center of the storm.
- Origen, Numbers Homily 27. [Emphasis added]
- Origen, Joshua Homily V, Ch II [Emphasis added]
- Brown Driver Briggs Dictionary: “Soul” (H5315)
- Origen, Commentary on Song of Songs. [Emphasis added]
- Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible: “See” (H7200)
- Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible: “Perceive” (H3045)
- John Chrysostom, Homily on Genesis. [Emphasis added]
All scripture references from The Holy Bible: New King James Version: NKJV. Thomas Nelson, 2010.