One day, life is good. The sun is shining. The early Spring birds are singing. Your job is going great. Your family is getting along. Your husband (or wife) made you breakfast in bed. Your youngest told you he loved you for the first time last night.
Then suddenly, something happens in our world that all-too-quickly yanks the peace right out of our hearts. That something-that-happens is beyond your control. That something-that-happens starts ripping little pieces away of your wonderful life.
Before long, your carefree heart starts to beat a little faster. Your worry-free tummy starts to curl up in knots. Your clear thinking is jumbled and confused and messed up…filling up with the what-now’s, what-if’s, I-can’t’s and oh-no’s.
What do we do when the something-that-happens messes us up so much that we find our internal world turning upside down? We find that the fear that is taking over is so thick that we could cut it with a knife?
Well, nothing that happens…let me repeat that…NOTHING THAT HAPPENS…is a surprise to God. He didn’t wake up a week or so ago and exclaim, “Oh, dang! I didn’t see that coming!” Yes, He did.
Jesus even told us in John 16:33, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”
If Jesus told us that he wants us to be deeply at peace, then that means IT IS POSSIBLE to be deeply at peace. So many times, when going through tough stuff, I find myself doubting that I can ever be at peace. But Jesus says I can. And I trust Him.
Do you know what was going on when Jesus told His disciples that they could be “deeply at peace”? At that very minute, Judas was meeting with Jesus’ enemies to plot His arrest. Jesus Himself KNEW that in only a matter of hours, he was going to be betrayed, arrested, forsaken, rejected, mocked, humiliated, tortured and crucified. Why would He tell His disciples to be at peace when He knew that their world was about to be turned completely upside down?
Because He was at peace about it…and He wanted those He loved to be at peace about it, also.
Notice that Jesus didn’t promise peace; He offered it. We don’t just get peace automatically because we know Him or follow Him or obey Him…we get it when we seek it and accept it.
What Jesus did promise was difficulties. Peace is offered; trouble is promised. There’s no avoiding it. This is earth, not heaven. Jesus was attempting to comfort His disciples…not by telling them they were victorious, but by talking about His own victory. And His victory could be theirs…and ours. Knowing that Jesus has already claimed victory is the foundation for our peace. Because we know that Jesus is in control, we can be in control.
There are lots of somethings-that-happen that can completely mess us up, but let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the virus that has gripped the world by the throat and threatens to take everybody down with it. I’m not going to talk about it in any specific ways…except to urge you to be very picky in who you listen to (experts and non-experts alike). Stay off the internet if you must!! But this latest scare has caused a whole lot of fear and panic and disruption and hysteria in our families and our communities. We are finding it very hard to find and experience any peace whatsoever.
When you are looking for a peace that dispels fear and anger and doomsday thinking, the only place you can go to is God’s Word.
365 times in the Bible, we are told to “fear not!” 365! That means every single day of the year, we can choose to “fear not”. And do you know why the Bible tells us not to fear? Because we get a-feared! It’s only natural! On the other hand, the supernatural thing is to seek the peace that replaces fear and doubt.
The most important thing to remember is…God is right there with you. He sees you. He knows exactly how you’re feeling. Every single emotion you’re experiencing, God knows about it. And He wants you to give those feelings and emotions to Him…let Him handle them. He does a lot better job at it than we do, anyway!
One way to give all of that back to God is to write them all down on a piece of paper. Talk out loud to God and say, “God, here they are. Every emotion I’m having during this tough time. I’m kinda scared and nervous. But I know none of this was a surprise to you. And the way I’m feeling isn’t a surprise to you, either. So please take these emotions and hold them for me. And in exchange, give me the peace that you offer for free.”
You’ll probably have to do that every day. It’s rarely a one-and-done thing. We humans are very prone to giving God control…and then taking it back before we go to bed (then it keeps us up all night, tossing and turning, because we can’t let it go.)
So I wanted to give you some Scriptures on peace that I encourage you to write on index cards or post-it notes or on your bathroom mirror…and look at them, read them, over and over, every single day! Memorize the ones that speak to you most personally. It’s not a magic formula…it’s called using God’s words to change us from the inside out…no matter what the news tells us!
“…let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.”
1 Peter 5:7
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need [what you’re feeling], and thank him for all he has done.”
“…experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
“I am leaving you 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.”
“Don’t let your hearts be trouble. Trust in God, and trust also in me.
“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”
“If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”
“…the Holy Spirit produces…peace…”
Let me add that, besides these verses, one of the most powerful things you can do to derail fear and invite peace is simply to practice love. “Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love takes away fear” is a powerful verse (1 John 4:18).
When we are giving ourselves away for the purpose of serving others in love, forgetting about ourselves for a while, there’s a lot less time to think about the things that can cause fear. We live in a very self-centered, self-focused age. This crisis is literally forcing us to depend on each other.
If you’re not vulnerable to this virus and are able to help, I encourage you to find people that need help…and help them. And if you ARE vulnerable to the virus, please stay put…and let others help you. There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
Don’t forget that, as the church, we are commanded to love one another…and sometimes loving one another means going to the store and picking up necessities for someone else who cannot.
I hope that these verses and these words can bring you some comfort and encouragement, but I also hope its spurs you to action. This is the time for believers to shine…not for our own glory, but for God’s glory alone.
(Now, go wash your hands!)