Resting in peace

Is it possible to experience sustained peace in this world, or is peace reserved exclusively for the dead? The dictionary has a few synonyms for peace such as restfulness, calmness, bliss, contentment and so on. We may understand these words conceptually, but how many of us experience them continually in our lives? If you’re wondering what peace looks like, watch little children. Happy children play and sleep with reckless abandon, devoid of anxiety, worry or fear. Some of us watch them with a tinge of jealousy as they’re completely unperturbed with the vagaries of life, wistfully longing for days when we were unencumbered by what Jesus calls the cares of this world [Matthew 13:22].

Every so often, some of us hit a sweet spot where we’ve managed to suppress or even conquer those cares that rob us of peace. But, it never seems to last. This kind of peace is by design fleeting because it’s circumstance-dependent. So, if your investments are doing well, your job is secure, the economy is good, your family is thriving and everyone is healthy, people like you, you seemingly have a measure of control over your present and future, etc., then you’re at peace. But if the things you care about are out of kilter, so are you. Notice that very few of these situations, if any, lie within our control. Yet, so many of us spend most of our waking moments trying to control these situations, despite Scripture warning that unless God is involved in our toil, we labour in vain [Psalm 127:1-2].

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, offers another kind of peace [John 14:27]. You cannot work for His peace; you can only receive it as a gift. Paul calls that peace “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding”. It guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus [Philippians 4:7]. It’s a peace you can experience even on death row as was the case with Paul because it’s tied to Jesus, not our circumstances. This Jesus is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe [Hebrews 1:2-3]. He’s sat in heaven above every power and authority in the universe [Ephesians 1:21], in complete control of all things [see Revelation 4 and 5]. If that Jesus loved me enough to become a man and die a shameful death to redeem me from the consequences of my sins, then why will He not take care of all that concerns me, irrespective of my circumstances [Romans 8:24-39]?

That sounds nice and comforting, but there’s no advantage to this knowledge if I don’t believe and act on it. This is where many of us fall short. Our actions reveal that we don’t take God at His word. We essentially deem Scripture to be good, but irrelevant to everyday living. Consequently, we don’t act on the faith we profess, especially when our circumstances contradict Scripture. Yet, in God’s kingdom, what we believe about God matters. In fact, we’re made right with God on account of what we believe. It’s how we obtain righteousness [Romans 3:22]. Moreover, when we take God at His word, we make Him responsible for the outcomes. Such an attitude subdues many of the things that cause us anxiety, worry and fear.

There’s a confidence, a peace that surpasses all understanding, that comes when we surrender our problems over to Jesus, having done all He’s asked of us. When that’s our reality, our actions will be dictated by God’s word, not self-preservation. Additionally, our anxious and fearful dispositions will be replaced by joy. Many won’t understand how you can experience peace and joy even when your circumstances are dire. Just as many would have raised their eyebrows when Paul, an innocent man facing the death penalty wrote: “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice” [Philippians 4:6-7]. However, Paul spoke and acted on the understanding that the kingdom of God manifests when there’s righteousness, peace and joy [Romans 14:17]. If we want to experience that kingdom as Paul did, we must follow his example.

It’s also worth noting that God’s peace brings rest. One of the consequences of ignoring God’s word is restlessness [Hebrews 3:7-12]. How many of us wake up early and go to sleep late, eating the bread of anxious toil [Psalm 127:2]? How many of us toss and turn in bed unable to sleep peacefully because our minds can’t find rest? This wasn’t meant to be the experience of those who professes faith in Jesus. Whenever we find ourselves restless, it’s an indication that something isn’t right. At that point, the question is will we have the courage to take God at His word so that His kingdom can break into our situations [John 16:33]?

Jesus says to us: give Me all your burdens, and in return, I will give you rest. Take My yoke, that is, My way of life, learn from Me and you will find rest. For My way of life is easy and My burden is light [Matthew 11:28-30]. So, we all have a choice to make: pursue the world’s peace which is fleeting but also comes without rest because we must work for it, or accept the peace of God on offer through faith by acting on God at His word in all situations. Which of these choices do your actions reflect?

The sad irony is that Jesus wants to freely give us the very things we anxiously pursue [Matthew 6:25-33]. Yet, so many of us are miserable and stressed because of trying to obtain them our way. Jesus’ earthly life was a practical template for resting in peace despite the challenges of everyday life because His Father was always in control. I want His experience. Thus far, I’ve noticed that the more I adopt His approach – absolute confidence in His Father, the better I sleep at night, and the more peace I experience, regardless of my circumstances.

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