You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.  (Isaiah 26:3-4)

Catherine Marshall tells the story of a king who sought the perfect painting of peace. The king offered a prize to the artist who could best capture what peace really is. Many artists attempted their best renditions of peace, and the king, in turn, looked at all their pictures carefully. After careful observation he finally narrowed down to two pictures that he thought were closest and decided to select one of them.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for towering and yet peaceful mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. Trees blew gently in the breeze with a few birds nestled in its branches. All who saw the picture thought it was a perfect picture of peace.

The other picture had mountains too, but these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which the rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But if you looked closely, behind the waterfall was a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush, a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the rush of angry water, sat a mother bird, warm and quiet in her nest.  Which picture do you think won the prize?In Scripture, God does not promise calm waters. In fact, most of our well-known Bible stories illustrate the stormy times in the lives of God’s people. So why is it we expect the peace illustrated in the first picture; one that demonstrates that we are entitled to quiet lives and a calm existence? Jesus challenged those who would follow him by saying, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).

Jesus did not come to give us easy lives on earth; instead, He wants us to awake to His promises no matter what stormy waters approach. He came as a wake up call to the nations, one that says that love is not easy, following me is not easy, but the struggle is worth it. God’s peace does not come in the form of ideal circumstances. That is the benefit of grace; it is a free gift of God’s love and provision no matter our own choices or pitfalls. It is when we put our confidence and trust in the one who guides us through the circumstances, that we truly experience God’s peace. As Isaiah 26 illustrates, perfect peace comes when we trust our LORD. For God promises a perfect peace much like the bird in the second picture experienced, safety found in the shelter, not in the absence of the storm. If we nestle ourselves into Yahweh, our God of promise and provision, we can trust the “perfect peace” he provides, no matter what storms may come our way.

As you probably already know, the king chose the second picture. “Because,” explained the king, “peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.  Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.  That is the real meaning of peace.” 
Story taken from Marshall, Catherine, “Picture of Peace.” Stories of the Heart. Comp. Alice Gray. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 1996.