What are you longing for at this time? While peace may not top your list, I’m certain that it’s somewhere on everyone’s list. Peace encompasses many of the things that we feel a lack of today; everything from relational peace to civil peace to spiritual peace. Maybe you have a longing for one or all three of these.
In times of both personal and civic turmoil, peace can seem to be elusive. And while this can “feel” true, it is important for us to see that the feeling is false. Why? Because real peace is always available to everyone, especially for those who are suffering. Our felt lack of peace is due to our looking to the wrong source to find peace.
If having relational peace is the source of our personal peace, then as long as things are going well in my relationships with family, co-workers and neighbors then life is good. But, when a breakdown comes in one of these relationships, my peace will vanish like the morning mist.
Likewise, should societal peace be the source of my peace, then as long as the economy is doing well, my job is secure and there is no civil unrest, I will likely be happy and content. But should something like the COVID-19 pandemic or the social injustices we face today occur, my peace will be vulnerable to fear.
However, when my peace is rooted in God and His promises, then I will have a sure and certain peace that will withstand any circumstance that life should bring. I can have peace when the diagnosis of cancer is given to my loved one. I will know peace when I am laid off in the midst of a pandemic. I will even have peace when my community is in turmoil. How? By knowing the peace promised to us in Christ is greater than my fears.
Jesus puts the promise this way, “I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) Jesus has just told his followers of his imminent departure. To calm their fears, he says that when he leaves “the Father will send in His name the Holy Spirit” who will be with them always. Often, the reason for our fear and trouble is that we feel alone, forgotten. The promise Jesus gives his followers is that they (and we through faith) will never be alone but that the Lord is with us always.
This is not a “head in the sand” type peace, but a real, active peace. God calls us to actively pursue peace with others, as Paul says in Romans, to “live in peace with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” (12:16-18)
Resting in God’s promises gives us more than courage, it gives us hope and peace regardless of what is happening around us. Hope that is greater than broken relationships and peace that overpowers civil unrest. Having this hope and peace allows us to respond in love to all because of Christ’s love within us.
Furthermore, Paul told the Philippians, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
When we lash out in anger, when we are consumed by fear, we have forgotten or not known the peace that is promised to those who follow Christ. Rather than worrying, we are to turn our concerns over to Christ who loves us. Paul testifies that it begins with giving God thanks for all that He’s done, especially for the eternal hope that is ours in Christ.
Maybe you like others will say, “That’s too easy!” However, if having peace is dependent on me, on my effort, then I cannot find everlasting peace. What’s the alternative? We are to turn to God in prayer and rest in the promises He gives. Then, not only will we have peace, but we’re able to pursue peace with everyone; even with those opposed to us and peace.
Eldon Peterson is pastor of the Cache Valley Bible Fellowship. His column appears on the Faith page. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.