Recently I was speaking with a widowed woman in her eighties. She has been through many challenging times in her life. Most recently, losing her best friend to a fatal illness, her only adult son is dealing with a drug addiction taking over his life, and she is going through all of this without the companionship and love of her late husband.
You would think a woman in this situation would be overly bitter, frustrated, or even depressed. When I was speaking with her, all I could hear was peace and joy in her voice. It was not the kind of peace that comes from enjoying a nice vacation or relaxing with a hot cup of coffee. It was a peace that circumvented circumstances – The unshakable rock in the middle of a major storm. As I listened to her, all I could think was, “how can I live with peace like this?”
The understatement of the year is, “These are turbulent times.” We all deal with challenges, but many world events are adding significant stress and fear to our lives. Whether we know it or not, we are all looking for ways to find comfort and peace. Do I find peace in a politician or policy? Will I find peace if my portfolio increases in value? Will I find peace if I get that new job or career, or getting a job at all? Will I find peace in my achievements at school, work, or in my community? Will I find peace in the comforts of life? Will I find peace in the love of my family?
The truth is all of these things are great, but at some point, they will let you down. How do we gain the type of peace that circumvents circumstances? It is not reliant on how well our life is going, our status, or our possessions. The Bible says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (New International Version, Philippians 4:4-7).
Focus on some of the keywords in this passage: rejoice, always, rejoice, gentleness, prayer, petition, thanksgiving, peace, and Christ Jesus. It is evident what the Apostle Paul was trying to get across here. The world is an anxious place, and it was even more so in those times. Think about what Paul and the early Christians were going through in this context. Many of them were being persecuted for their faith, even to the point of death. Paul himself was thrown into prison, stripped, beaten, and flogged during his first visit to Philippi (Acts 16:20-24).
Where did Paul’s peace come from? Where did that woman’s peace come from? It is not peace in circumstances, people, or things. It is a peace that transcends understanding. It is a peace that comes only from believing and trusting in Jesus Christ.
Many people think of God as a far-off being looking down at us and waiting to judge us for messing up. Jesus came down from heaven in the form of His creation to take the place of judgment. While on earth, He experienced pain, suffering, ridicule, poverty, and injustice that we cannot fathom.
Jesus loved us so much, even to the point of death. He did this willingly so we could have the chance to have a relationship with Him and experience indescribable joy and peace. All we must do is trust in Him and know He is in control.
It is ok to cry out to God and give Him all your cares. “Cast all of your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) When the world around you feels like it is spinning out of control, let Jesus be your “Solid Rock.”
Richard Foster, Life Management Advisor at Vital Guidance