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.