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If you saw someone clearly stressed, snapping at their kids, aggravated with traffic, rushing through their day, rolling their eyes—you’d assume their life was on the “normal” setting, right?

Now imagine that, amidst the political dissension, the frustrations of work, and the pressures of all our relationships, you saw someone sitting on a bench somewhere, smiling and relaxed.

Which person stands out as highly unusual? The individual who’s at peace, right? You might even question this person’s sanity!

Yet this serenity and calmness is how we all can feel, even in the swirl of life’s cares and afflictions. Peace, that elusive goal we all share, can—and should—be ours.

The secret is to realize that peace is not the absence of trials. It never was. Even anciently when many failed to recognize the Messiah because they thought he would bring political peace, they got the definition wrong.

Peace has nothing to do with our circumstances. Here’s where we’ve been sold a bill of goods: A life without challenges is Satan’s counterfeit of peace.  I’m going to repeat that, and even put it in bold: A life without challenges is Satan’s counterfeit of peace.

Look at what this master of packaging has done. He has convinced us that peace is wealth and comfort, peace is amusement park fun, peace is good health, peace is everyone agreeing with us. He convinces us that peace is finally getting that car/house/degree/kids or whatever other goal he can dangle before us. Peace is looking good. Peace is being popular. Peace is being treated fairly. Peace is a vacation without snags. Peace is a marriage without bumps. Peace is all your relatives being nice. Peace is scholarships and favorite callings and chocolate pie at the end of the day. Are you laughing, yet?

Those aren’t peace. Those are fakes. It’s as if we’ve bought glimmering jewels in a dark alley, and then learned they’re all made of paste. Ease and comfort, the absence of grand worries– these are like mind-numbing drugs. They make us think we have peace, but they’re actually clever distractions.

Let me be clear: Not all those goals are bad ones. Many are good preparation for a better life. But when they become the finish line and the sole purpose of our existence they trick us, and obscure the real source of peace.

Life is not supposed to be a bouncy house.  Okay, maybe there are a few bounces in there that we didn’t expect. But smooth sailing was never the idea. When Jesus calmed the storms, it wasn’t because a grand mistake was made and the seas became rough. It was because seas are rough, life is rough, and the solution is to turn to Christ. He is the only true source of genuine—not counterfeit—peace.

Real, deep, abiding peace comes only through closeness to Christ. This is why we sometimes encounter that amazing person whose difficult life you wouldn’t trade for anything, yet who seems to sail along as if they know a higher purpose. Well, they do know a higher purpose. They’ve found the secret to peace, even amidst affliction. The secret is closeness to Christ. This is where genuine joy can be found, and nowhere else.

To others, peace may look like the absence of trials. To us, peace is the presence of God. So how can we attain the real deal? Sometimes we ignore the “Sunday School Answers,” but that doesn’t diminish their value. To get closer to Christ we have to follow his formula. And it isn’t a secret recipe; he repeated it over and over. We are to love God. We’re to exercise faith that he knows and loves us, that he hears our prayers. We should love one another, and really practice that. We must pray earnestly, forget about trite phrases, and bare our hearts to our Father in Heaven.

We must study the scriptures and listen to the prophets and to the Holy Ghost. We must repent. We must forgive, yes, even that difficult person who came to mind just now.  We must take our ordinances seriously and seek the ones we lack. We must grow our testimonies. We must immerse ourselves in cheerful service and valiantly endure our trials, right to the end.

Is it difficult?  Oh, boy—sometimes it feels impossible!  That’s why so many give up and buy Satan’s definition of peace instead. But here’s where we need to turn to God for help. And the good news is that he is always there for us. He doesn’t expect us to conquer every mountain or even every hillside by this evening. Baby steps are fine. Slow progress is fine. Intention is everything.

Years ago President Russell M. Nelson said, “Jesus suffered deeply because He loves us deeply! He wants us to repent and be converted so that He can fully heal us.

“When sore trials come upon us, it’s time to deepen our faith in God, to work hard, and to serve others. Then He will heal our broken hearts. He will bestow upon us personal peace and comfort. Those great gifts will not be destroyed, even by death.” (“Jesus Christ—the Master Healer,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, 87)

Who could wish for more than the ultimate peace which comes through Christ and which can last into the eternities? 

When you next see your life tumbling into disarray, pull back and realize that it’s the adversary who wants you to feel peace through simplicity. He’s the one telling you to wish your worries away and feel settled only when life has fallen neatly into place (which it never will, which he knows, and which pleases him).

Instead, remember the true source of peace, and allow this scripture to distill upon your heart, calm the beating, and calm the storm: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Hilton’s LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle.  All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website.  She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.