3 Ways Peace Jesus Gives Differs from Peace the World Gives

Peace

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.

John 14:27

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.”


    Who overcomes?


    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.

  3. 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.

 

The Puzzling Pursuit of Perseverance

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

I was boiling with anger. I felt paralyzed, helpless against the ever-changing tide of circumstance and self. I tried to keep my body language open. The usual practice of hugging my arms tightly around the blessed pillow (which doubles as a barricade for my heart) too often suppressed the unruly tornado swirling inside me.

“Ok, I can’t believe I’m asking this, but . . . how do I lose my conscience?” I asked awkwardly. I laughed, and my therapist chuckled. “I know that’s terrible . . . I mean, who asks their counselor that?” I added, my tone shifting quickly into incredulous despair.

“No . . . no, its not terrible at all. It just shows me how much you’re in pain. I can hear it,” she responded gently.

Apparently God has graced me with a remarkably strong conscience and a resolve to pursue truth no matter what it costs me.

I get angry about that a lot.

I observe the cultural stream of self-actualization and self-fulfillment with wonder and longing. I see the happiness of my friends who give more authority to the phrase be yourself than I am comfortable giving. In contrast, I step into self-sacrifice over and over again, to be met with disappointment (let me be clear – I do “go my own way” a lot, but there’s a boundary that I just can’t seem to cross that some people seem to be able to do a little easier).

What’s the point? To hell with suffering for Christ… I want to live!

In my darkest moments, that is my anthem.

Still, I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit’s unrelenting pursuit of my heart. Somehow, deep down I know that perseverance in pursuing what I know to be ultimately good and true is nurturing a maturity in me that will far supersede the temporary happiness of going through life the way I feel will make me happy. I have even been able to experience glimpses of this truth in my life now.

If it was just about maturity and growing into Christlikeness, I don’t think I would be able to resist rebelling. But its not just that. Through my suffering and my shaky trust in God’s goodness, I am being made complete.

Complete.

What a gloriously attractive word! If I were to marry a word, “complete” would be the one for me.

There is so much that is incomplete in this world. Whatever perspective you look from, the 107 billion¹ puzzle pieces (and counting²) of humanity scatter the earth in chaos. God the great puzzler sees everything that has been, is now, will be, and could have been. Keeping all this in mind, He is in process of shaping each of us to contribute to the whole picture in the most beautiful way we can. Some of us are side pieces, bordering the edges of this fraying world. Others burst in with color and focus in the center.

Each one He has made and chosen are essential.

Imagine for a moment scrolling through Amazon and seeing an advertisement.

700-billion-piece puzzle (2)

Intrigued, you click the ad, but all it reveals is a short description:

Box not included.

Such is the way of humanity.

We buy the puzzle and try to create meaning of a 107 billion piece puzzle with no box.

Only God has the picture on the box, but in His great mercy He allows us the freedom to choose… will we try to fit ourselves in our own way into a massive puzzle which we can only begin to imagine…or will we trust that the God who made us also created the box we came in and will fit us in such a way that we will be rendered eternally complete?

Perseverance must finish its work.

And what is that work?

It is the work of allowing God in His sovereignty to shape us into the puzzle pieces that will reveal us as the glorious, complex, integrated, communal, creative, complete human beings that we are.

It is the work of realizing that in the waiting for Him to finish the puzzle, God knows how we best fit better than we do.

And when that last piece is lovingly placed, we will experience that wondrous eternity where we will truly “lack no good thing.”

But for now, by the grace of a suffering Savior, I’ll try to continue on in the puzzling pursuit of perseverance.

¹the estimated number of people who have ever lived

²remember that show 19 (20? 21?) Kids and Counting? If you thought that was a nightmare, imagine having 107 billion kids! Its all about perspective, right?

 

God’s Economy, My Good

good.jpg

“It seems like you have this concept of God’s economy  . . . that if He gives a good gift . . . a job, a relationship, good health . . . to someone, then He must be taking away something good from someone else. But that’s not the way God works. He is the Giver of good gifts.”

God is the Giver of good gifts. 

God’s economy is goodness, not evil; flourishing, not suffering.

This was my turning point.

For over a year, I had been accusing God for His unfair, even cruel ruling in my life. I wanted something that didn’t seem wrong or unreasonable to ask for, and all I had learned in the past year was that if I followed the path I desired, I would not be following God’s will.

When my turning point materialized in the form of the wise words of my counselor, I was slowly emerging out of my dark night of the soul which sneered in the face of God and said: if I can’t have this, you clearly hate me, and I don’t want You anymore. The festering pool of misery where I’d been standing had risen up to my neck. I had only one choice . . . to try to swim out of my misery in a way that made complete sense to me and that would seem to give me the most happiness . . . or to let the waters rush over my head and see if God really was who He says He is . . . did He really care about this part of my life?

For once, I decided to place my bets on the goodness of God instead of my own wisdom.

I soon realized that God only needs one tiny act of surrender to reveal His goodness. It took me ten years of hiding and one year of intense grief and suffering to surrender my deepest desire and step out in faith that God is not only with me; He is also for me and for my good.

Let me just take a moment here to pause and say that the Enemy is crafty . . . I had to take a break from writing this blog post and go for a walk because I could feel panic and doubt set in . . . whispers of, ‘do you really believe God is good?’ ‘do you really believe He is not holding out on you?’ ‘you’re still struggling and grieving. If God is good why aren’t you completely happy and at peace all the time?’ I’m calling the Enemy out on His lies today. I do believe God is good. And when I don’t believe it, I will choose to try to believe it anyway. My happiness is not a prerequisite to God’s goodness.

The moment I let go of the design I’d drawn up for my life, God dropped me directly into the blueprint I thought I resented. I found myself flustered, bewildered at how quickly God showed me His plans are not arbitrary or cruel. That in fact, He had been on the edge of His seat, waiting for me to give Him a tiny space to show just how good of a Gift-Giver He is.

All these truths I “knew” were suddenly beginning to inexplicably and unexpectedly be experienced.

  • And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
  • For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • How much more will our Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)
  • Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)
  • Taste and see that the Lord is goodblessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)

This is not the prosperity gospel.

Am I happier than I have been in a while? Yes. But happiness is not the point. My struggles have not disappeared. My grief has not been absolved. Life will never be fair and life is often not good. I am not guaranteed ownership of any of the good gifts that God provides. There is no formula to receive God’s goodness. God gives whenever and however He wants to give.

But the memory of this particular gift, however long it lasts, given to me at the pinnacle of my surrender, will help me to lay down my will again, knowing that whatever God asks me to sacrifice, however painful the process, and even if I never see the fruit of my surrender . . . is truly for my good.

~~~

God calls us to risk the stories we want because it’s the only way we’ll live in the story we need – His. – Ben Riggs

There are many things I will never understand on this earth. There are many days I will think that my ways are better than God’s ways. Every day is a new opportunity to surrender. But what a relief it is to surrender into the arms of a God who is sitting on the edge of His throne, eagerly anticipating my participation in His story, in the economy of His goodness, with my ultimate gift the Creator of goodness Himself.