27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Many times throughout my life, I have wondered how people of different faiths (or people who claim to have no faith at all) can seem to be living in such peace when their life comes crashing down all around them. If Christ is the true source of peace, why are there times when I feel devastatingly anxious and in the very same circumstance, someone who does not believe in God is able to move forward in confidence?
Biological influences aside, I’ve often assumed there must be some major flaw in my faith. Obviously, I am not trusting God enough, because the Gospel is not propelling me towards peace in the instant I experience pain or grief.
I no longer believe this is true. Believing in Jesus does not mean you will automatically have a leg up on feeling at peace in adverse circumstances.
Then what IS the difference between peace that Jesus gives and peace that the world gives? Here are three ways I think they differ.
- The world’s peace is temporal, Jesus’ peace is eternal.
I don’t know anyone who would disagree with the statement that we live in a culture of immediate gratification. It is what feeds our addictions, greed, complacency, lust and more. The world’s offer of peace says that if you are a single person and you’re lonely and you want to feel wanted, go hookup with someone, watch porn, masturbate, or realize your own self-sufficiency to cope. Jesus’ offer of peace says to that same person, run to Jesus and to the body of Christ for comfort instead.
If I’m honest, the first option sounds a whole lot better because it gives immediate satisfaction to my desires and brings a temporary peace. But the truth is, the second option will give me more of a long-term sense of well-being. The world’s peace is wonderful at masking symptoms. Its the most amazing painkiller. Jesus’ peace, on the other hand, offers surgery for the deeper issues of the heart. Its less pleasurable, but more effective. And at the end of this age, the peace of Jesus will be forever sustained. The peace of the world will show its true worth and be blown away like dust.
- The world’s peace relies on the power of self, Jesus’ peace relies on Jesus.What is the world’s best response to suffering? Suffering happens to everyone. Make the most of it by taking care of yourself and thinking positively. Jesus’ answer is quite a contrast. The focus shifts from self to God. “In this world, you will have trouble,” He says honestly. “but take heart” –why?!?–“for I have overcome the world.”
Not circumstances nor positive self-talk. Not even gratitude or praise or trust in God (though these things can be immensely helpful in providing proper perspective and can certainly bring comfort and give glory to God)! The peace Jesus gives is based solely on Himself. This means that, if you are a follower of Christ, you have peace whether you feel like you have it or not. You have peace even on your most terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (Alexander, anyone?) because it is not dependent on your effort. If nothing else in life is well, it can still be said, “it is well with my soul.” When everything falls apart, the world does not have that reassurance.
- The world’s peace strives to find purpose in suffering, Jesus’ peace is a free gift in the midst of suffering.
“At least you can let this tragedy motivate you to help others in similar situations.” You hear this sentiment from Christians and non-Christians alike. So, what’s the difference? If we are not destroyed by it, all of us tend to clamor to find meaning in suffering. This is a noble desire that speaks of the wonder and resiliency of the human spirit. The difference, however, is how one finds meaning in suffering. The world shoulders all the responsibility of forging meaning on human effort. What a terrible burden!
In contrast, Paul says, “all things work out for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” We certainly have a responsibility to act (we are called according to His purpose), but we are not alone. We are in partnership with the God of the universe and with the body of Christ, where the power of God also dwells. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” There is a strength behind Jesus’ peace that, even when no meaning can be found in a particular pain, has the capacity to stand firm in the knowledge that God is surely working for my good behind-the-scenes of life.
I distinctly remember seeing this image during my wrestling with a dilemma that pitted my trust in God’s goodness against the pursuit of one of my deepest desires. Sentiments like the above picture gave me hope along the way, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized that these hopes were misplaced and simply untrue.
I have never been one to opt in to the falsity of the prosperity gospel, but in my desperate heart, my theology was building upon a similar concept that if I just sacrifice enough, maybe God will give me something resembling what I want.
Well, after sacrificing pursuing one of my deepest longings and losing two significant relationships in the past two years, I think I’ve learned something: God does not barter with humanity. Trusting God and sacrificing for Him does not get you a bigger teddy bear.
Still, God’s promises remain.
And thus, my second lesson in grace.
The first lesson was:
God bought me at a high price, and therefore I owe a great debt to grace. There is nothing He cannot reasonably ask of me.
Now, this truth:
God never guarantees a substitute for my sacrifices, but His grace will always provide abundantly more than I can ask or imagine ACCORDING TO HIS PROMISES.
3 By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
2 Peter 1:3-4
I cannot add on to the promises of God a fulfilling career, a guarantee of marriage, or a stable emotional life — as much as I would like all of those things and more to be true.
Still, there are many promises and truths I can cling to that will never let me down . . . here are just a few of my favorites . . . truths I plan to meditate on in the coming months:
- God will never leave me (Hebrews 13:5-6)
- God knows me better than I even know myself (Psalm 139)
- I have a High Priest who sympathizes with my weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15)
- God weeps with me (John 11:35)
- Nothing can separate me from the love of God – not even myself (Romans 8:38-39)
- All things – even the worst things this life can bring me – will work together for my good in the end (Romans 8:28)
- God will provide ways out of temptation, and the ability to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13)
- God loves me and desires me with an intensity and persistence of passion that no human could ever give (Isaiah 54:5, Ezekiel 16:8, Song 4:9, Hosea 2:19-20)
- God is not ashamed of me (John 8:11)
- God not only loves me. He LIKES me. He delights in me (Zephaniah 3:17)
- God will always come for me, even when I resent and reject him (Matthew 18:12-13, Matthew 15:20)
- I have an eternal home where all my unmet longings will be met and far surpassed in perfect relationship with God and with my brothers and sisters in Christ (John 14:24, John 14:2-3, Revelation 21:3-5)